Do Graduate School Rankings Matter?

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When you’re applying for the next step of your higher education, you might possibly be looking at the list of graduate schools. However, things can get really confusing in the matter of seconds. Part of the confusion stems from looking at the rankings of graduate schools. But do these rankings actually matter?

Well, we will explore the importance of ranking in graduate school. We will examine the influence of rankings on student decision-making, including choosing a school, program selection, and career prospects. Read on to uncover everything about graduate school rankings and their importance.

Graduate School Rankings: What are They?Graduate School Rankings: What are They?

Graduate school rankings are important to consider when evaluating different programs, but they should not be the sole factor in your decision-making process. To properly understand what graduate school rankings are and where they step from, we should further dive into the variety of factors that influence ranking:

  • Program outcomes: Rankings often consider the average length of time to complete the degree, the rate of student employment after graduation, and the average salaries of new graduates. For instance, if students from a particular program are not finding jobs or receiving relatively low-paying jobs in their field, it might reflect on the quality of education and training received.
  • Faculty quality: This is a more subjective measure and can be based on the research done by faculty members and student-faculty ratios. High-quality research and lower student-faculty ratios indicate better personal interaction and opportunities for mentorship, which are crucial for graduate studies.
  • Prestige: The reputation of a graduate program can play a significant role, especially in specific fields. Prestige is often assessed by the opinions of peers and employers in the field. For instance, a degree from a highly prestigious school can be impressive, but it’s also essential that the program is well-regarded in your specific field of study.
  • Acceptance rates and scores: Rankings also consider acceptance rates as a measure of selectivity, which is influenced by program size. More crucial factors include standardized test scores and undergraduate GPAs of accepted students. These are important as they indicate the academic quality and dedication of the student body.

Do Graduate School Rankings Matter?

Do Graduate School Rankings Matter?

So, do graduate school rankings matter? This question is a nuanced one and depends on various factors. This includes your career goals, the field of study, and personal circumstances. We further break it down and provide the different aspects you should consider:

  • Academia and research: In academic and research-oriented fields, the prestige and ranking of a graduate school can be significant. Higher-ranked schools often have more resources, well-known faculty, and strong research programs. Combining all of these often leads to better salaries and opportunities upon graduation.
  • Professional fields: For fields like law, business, or medicine, the ranking of a school can influence job prospects, especially for high-profile or competitive roles. Top-ranked schools often have stronger alum networks and are more recognized by employers.
  • Quality of education and resources: While higher rankings often correlate with better resources and faculty, it is not always the case that the quality of education is significantly better than at lower-ranked schools. Sometimes, smaller or less renowned schools offer more personalized attention and innovation.
  • Financial considerations: Typically, the cost of attending a top-ranked graduate program can be significantly higher. Considering the debt you might incur and the salary you can expect after graduation, weighing the potential return on investment is essential.
  • Personal fit and well-being: The culture, location, size, and values of a graduate program are also influential. A lower-ranked school that is a better personal fit can lead to a more positive and productive educational experience than a higher-ranked school where you feel out of place.
  • Global vs. local relevance: For international students or those planning to work globally, the international reputation of a school might matter more. However, local reputation and connections could be more critical if you plan to work in a specific region or industry.

To sum up, while graduate school rankings can be a valuable indicator of a school’s reputation and opportunities, they are just one part of the story. It is also essential to look beyond rankings and consider the overall fit, including the specific program, faculty, resources, culture, and how well the school aligns with your personal and professional goals.

What Factors Determine Grad School Ranking?

What Factors Determine Grad School Ranking?

While many argue that it is time to ignore graduate school rankings, a combination of several factors still determines graduate school rankings. The best graduate schools may prioritize these factors differently, but generally, the following are considered critical points of consideration. These aspects are extracted from data from the College Scorecard and the National Center for Education Statistics:

  • Post-graduation wages: This looks at the average early-career salaries of graduate students after completing their degrees, comparing these figures across schools and programs.
  • Educational resources & success: Metrics include the average time to graduate, the student-to-faculty ratio, average faculty salary (adjusted for the cost of living), and faculty diversity. This also assesses education-related expenditures and the focus on specific degree programs.
  • Post-graduation debt: Rankings also consider the debt load of graduate students, comparing it across different schools and programs. This includes looking at the student loan default rate and progress in loan repayment after graduation.
  • Program demand: Program demand measures the popularity of a degree program at a school, including the number of graduates and the percentage of students accepting admission offers.
  • Online options: During recent years, with the increasing demand for online education, this factor evaluates the availability and quality of online learning options in graduate programs.
  • GPAs, standardized tests, & acceptance rates: These factors indicate a program’s selectivity and academic quality. Higher GPAs, test scores, and lower acceptance rates often correlate with higher rankings.
  • Outcomes of the program: This includes graduation rates, employment rates after graduation, and starting salaries for graduates, which reflect the program’s effectiveness. So, do grades in graduate school matter? They often play a crucial role in determining the rank of the school.
  • Academic reputation: This aspect involves judgments by administrators at peer institutions and high school guidance counselors about the quality of the education.
  • Retention rate: The percentage of students who remain enrolled after their first year and those who graduate within a specific timeframe play a significant role in the ranking of the graduate school.

9 Factors to Consider When Choosing a Graduate School

9 Factors to Consider When Choosing a Graduate School

Does university matter for Masters? Similar to how graduate schools pay attention to the prestige of your undergraduate school, employees often look at your graduate school’s ranking as well. However, several important factors must be considered to ensure you select a program that aligns with your personal and professional goals. Here are some things to take into account:

Your Motivation and Goals

Reflect on your personal and professional reasons for pursuing a graduate degree. Then, consider how the degree will advance your career, the specific skills you need to master, and how much time you can devote to your studies.

Program Qualifications and Requirements

Research the admissions qualifications and graduation requirements of the programs you’re interested in. This may include entrance exams or prerequisite courses.

Qualify of Faculty and Instructors

Evaluate the expertise and academic accomplishments of the faculty. Learning from top-notch faculty can significantly impact your education and future opportunities.

Resources for Support

Look into available resources such as internship and research opportunities, academic support, career services, and networking outlets.

Location and Cost of Living

If you cannot relocate, check if the program offers online degrees. Also, consider the cost of living in the area if you plan to attend in person.

Tuition and Financial Aid Options

Understand the total cost of the program and explore financial aid, grants, loans, scholarships, and possible tuition reimbursement from your employer. Remember that graduate school is often expensive, with a Master’s degree around $65,134.


Ensure that the school and program you choose are accredited. Accreditation is crucial for the value of your degree in the job market.

Facilities and Resources

Think about the availability of physical resources like libraries, labs, and other facilities. They can be critical for your success in your graduate program.

Academic Performance and Experience

Before deciding on your graduate program, assess how your undergraduate record and professional expertise align with your program’s expectations. Many programs take a holistic approach to admissions, considering more than just academic performance. Hence, evaluate whether your successes and achievements align with your chosen program.

Wrapping Things Up: Do Graduate School Rankings Matter?

In summary, while graduate school rankings provide a helpful overview of a program’s reputation, they represent just one of many factors prospective students should consider. These rankings, reflecting aspects like program outcomes and prestige, offer insights into the potential benefits and opportunities a graduate program may provide.

It is essential to remember that these rankings do not capture the whole picture. Personal goals, career aspirations, and financial considerations are equally important in deciding where to pursue higher education. Ultimately, the best choice for a graduate program aligns closely with your professional objectives and personal circumstances.

Because you read this post, you may also like to read our other articles below:

> What is a Good GPA for Graduate School?

> Is Graduate School More Expensive Than Undergrad?

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Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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