Two graduate students speak with a professor

Your top questions about graduate school, answered

August 30, 2021
Author: Jenn McGarrigle

Is going to grad school worth it?

So, you’ve got an undergraduate degree and you’re thinking about your next steps. Among these next steps might be the question of whether or not to pursue grad school. And while the answer to this question ultimately depends on you and your career and life goals, we’ve gathered info from the leaders of some of VIU’s graduate programs, financial aid experts and recruitment to answer your top questions about graduate school.

What kinds of jobs can I get with a master’s degree?

Dr. Rachel Moll, Associate Dean, Education programs: Most people who take our Education graduate programs move from their teaching roles into leadership roles such as vice principals, student support teachers, or curriculum specialist roles. Some use the program to refine their teaching practice through research into the most current and effective teaching strategies.

Dr. Pam Shaw, Director, Master of Community Planning program: Students who graduate from the Master of Community Planning program find employment in wide range of positions requiring an accredited planning degree, including working for local governments and Indigenous communities in areas including development, long-range, strategic, economic, environmental, recreation and transportation planning. Graduates also find employment with provincial governments, not-for-profit agencies, and private consulting firms engaging in every aspect of professional planning. 

Dr. Stacie Chappell, Associate Dean, Graduate Programs in the Faculty of ManagementGraduate business students find employment in a wide range of industries including finance, professional firms, consumer goods and information technology, just to name a few.

  • A Master of Business Administration provides you with the analytical tools to contribute strategically to any organization and enables faster career progression. 
  • Alum of our Graduate Certificate in Business program are managing small businesses or leading teams in large organizations. 
  • A Graduate Diploma in Project Management provides you with the technical skills to take on positions that require coordination and management in many industries from construction, to education, to retail and beyond.

What are the main differences between undergraduate and graduate programs?

Rachel Moll, Education: In a graduate program, you are expected to contribute original ideas and work independently or collaboratively to contribute to your field. Most students combine their learnings from coursework and their work experience to address an issue that has emerged from their practice and context.

Pam Shaw, Community Planning: Graduate programs offer students the opportunity to engage in a thesis or major project. These are intensive and complex documents that allow students to develop a deep and extensive level of knowledge on their selected topic. Graduate students can also structure their courses and assignments to focus much more on their own interests than they can at an undergraduate level. 

Stacie Chappell, Management: First, because the people in the room bring a greater depth and breadth of work experience, and are all pursuing a similar educational goal, you will find immense learning occurs within your learning group. Second, the emphasis is on application of the concepts and exploring the tension between theory and practice – which is only possible when participants bring work experience.

What makes your program at VIU unique?

Rachel Moll, Education: Our Education graduate programs stand out due to opportunities to examine the tensions between theory and practice. Unique elements of our programs include the opportunity to engage in thesis or project work that enhances professional practice. Diploma students can ladder into a master’s program, and 90% of our students complete the program due to our supportive instructors and the learning communities that we build within our cohorts.

Pam Shaw, Master of Community Planning: Our program includes a wide range of experiential and applied opportunities that connect students to communities, planning professionals and the wider community. Students are encouraged to get involved in the local planning scene through professional organizations, events and activities, then ladder their experiences into employment opportunities. MCP students are also partnered with a Mentor who is a professional planner in the mid-Island area who serves as a resource, sounding board and planning ally. 

Stacie Chappell, Management: The MBA curriculum is designed to allow students to learn about organizational life and management challenges in the way they occur – not through functional silos. MBA students receive three semesters of career coaching and learn to pitch a project to a company for their final degree requirements: an internship and an applied business project. The GDPM culminates in an applied project where students work with an organization to apply the learning they have gained.

What funding is available to help pay for grad school?

Angela Meneghetti, VIU’s Financial Aid Access Specialist, suggests starting with the “Graduate Studies” category on the External Awards and Funding page or the Grad School Funding page on VIU’s Scholarship, Research and Creative Activity website. She also suggests reviewing the Government Student Loans and Grants page, and filling out your VIU Scholarship, Award and Bursary profile, which automatically puts you in the running for any internal VIU scholarships that apply to your situation/program. Finally, there’s also the option of taking a campus job to help with costs. For more info, you can email the Financial Aid & Awards Office at financialaidinfo@viu.ca.

What can I do to stand out as an applicant?

Recruitment Officer Rob Barcelos says most graduate programs at VIU require that students meet a minimum grade average over the last two years of post-secondary schooling, along with some work and/or volunteer experience within the field or a similarly related field. Beyond this, staff will review your letter of intent. This is where they learn a bit more about your passion for the field of study, what areas of research you might be interested in and why you specifically chose VIU to pursue graduate studies. For more detailed information about letters of intent, please visit the admission requirements for the graduate program of interest. Have more questions? Connect with a recruiter via email (connect@viu.ca) or by phone (250.740.6672).

VIU Graduate Programs Expo

Join us on September 15 for Vancouver Island University’s first-ever online Graduate Program Expo. Connect with faculty in all the graduate programs offered at VIU, learn about scholarship opportunities and gain an understanding of the application process.

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