A grad school career goals statement is often part of applying for graduate school programs. Students wondering can push their application ahead with a great career goals statement. Many students state their future career ambitions without elaborating on their answers, and their career goals statement falls short. In this blog, our reveal why you need a career goals statement, what to include, what to leave out, and a step-by-step process to help you craft your own.
When applying to any graduate school program, the application process will more than likely include a career goals statement. These are sometimes called a grad school personal statement, statement of purpose or . Not every school admissions application will ask you to write a career goals statement, but a variation of the career goals statement or personal statement is requested when applying for MBA programs. It’s a good idea to write a career goals statement anyway, because writing down your career ambitions can be a powerful personal tool as well. Putting your career goals in writing can help you to visualize the steps you’ll need to take to reach your goal, measure your progress and keep you accountable in pursuing your stated professional goals. Admissions committees ask for career goals statements to get an in-depth look at your personal and professional history, and what career aspirations you have. Committees are looking for key information in your career goals statement, including: what long and short-term career goals you have, how the program you’re applying to will help you achieve them and what you’ve already accomplished in your field. Bottom line, they want to know if you’re the type of student and working professional they want to add to their graduate program. Reading for success can help inspire you as you draft your own career goals statement. Or, you can consider seeking extra help from a , who can teach you how to improve your statement writing skills, among other skills.
A well-written grad school career goals statement can help push your application to the top.
The important information you need to include in your career goals statement, regardless of what grad school program you’re applying to, is your short and long-term career goals, why you’re applying to study at the graduate level, how the chosen program will help you achieve your goals, and what you’ve already accomplished in your chosen professional field. All of this information will give your grad school admissions committee a detailed look at who you are, what you want to do in your career and why you’ve chosen a specific program to achieve it. The details you include with this information should convince the committee that you are worthy of a spot in a competitive graduate school program. Your career goals statement is also your chance to prove to the admissions board that you have not only a goal, but the drive and commitment to realize it.
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Your grad school career goals statement should include the key information admissions committees want to know about you, as well as the qualities and format of a well-written personal statement. We’ll expand on these more below.
Short and long-term career goals
While you may have a primary reason for applying to a graduate school program, the admissions committee will want the details of your short and long-term career goals. Your short-term career goals would be what you want to accomplish in the months after graduation, or maybe even while you are studying. Are you looking to change career paths? Switch industries? Maybe your goal is to specialize your professional skillset, and your undergraduate degree is in too general a field of study. Regardless of your reasons, tell the admissions team what you want to accomplish following your graduation in the short-term, as well as the long-term goals you have for your career. If you want to enter a new professional field, what position do you want to reach in the long-term? What professional goals do you want to accomplish? What companies will you be looking to apply to?
Be as specific as you possibly can about your goals. Don’t just say you want to be a manager—write about why you want to be a manager in your professional field.
A good rule of thumb is to include SMART goals in your statement. SMART is an acronym which means specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. Basically, be as specific about your goals as you can be, make them relevant and realistic to your field of study or work and your experience, and state when exactly you want to achieve them. Short term career goals might include earning a promotion you’ve had your eye on at your company, or getting a position at a particular company or in a specific field of interest to you after graduation. Long term career goals might be more vague, such as reaching a certain salary bracket or they may be ultra-specific, like starting your own business venture in your chosen field by 2025.
Why you want to study at the graduate level
There are many reasons to study at the graduate level. Maybe you’re seeking to expand your professional skills or you’re looking at applying to a high-level position that requires a graduate degree. You might want to take more courses in a specific field of interest in your industry. Or you’re looking at an MBA, so you can hone your skills in management and business operations. In short, you need a better reason for applying than just earning another degree. Share the primary reason you’re applying for a rigorous graduate program, and why you feel further schooling will benefit you.
Why you chose this graduate school program
Schools want to know the reason why you chose their program in particular. Point to the courses, school values or specialties that drew you to the program. If the school of your choice is known for its excellent MBA program, for example, mention this. If a school values innovative thinking like you, elaborate on this point. Pick a school that you feel fits you best, and research the curriculum of the program you hope to attend. If you can’t give an answer as to why you chose a program, it’s less likely that you’ll be chosen to attend. Examine the specific reasons why you’re applying. Did you take a business class as an undergrad that sparked an interest in the technology industry? Was there a professor or professional experience that inspired you to start your own business? As an intern, did you discover a love for the work done by your current company? These details will give the admissions board a clear picture of your motivations.
How this program will help you achieve your goals
Related to the above answer, admissions boards will ask why you chose their graduate program and how it will help you achieve your career goals in the short and long-term. Highlight your earlier points here, strengthening them by connecting your goals to your reasons for applying. If you’re applying to a graduate program because a second degree will give you the skills and experience to move up in your chosen career, write about how the school’s focus on management and leadership will help mold you into a business leader. Or how the program’s internship opportunities will open doors for you in a new industry you’re hoping to break into. It’s best to be as specific as possible, and point to the main benefits the graduate school program will have on your career prospects and future goals.
Consider also what you can contribute to the school’s graduate program. Research the graduate school’s recent work or accolades and draw a connection between the work and your own recent accomplishments. If the school publishes heavily in scientific journals or pursues cutting-edge research in technology, highlight any articles you’ve had published, or mention any positions you’ve held in advancing technology industries.
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When writing your grad school career goals statement, it’s important not only that the content be full of personal details, but that the structure and format be strong, too. Once you’re able to answer the career goals statement prompt and include all the above information, you want to structure it in the short essay format, make sure your writing is clear, detailed, and confident. You’ll also add in an intriguing personal narrative, which helps improve the ‘flow’ and carry your readers through your writing seamlessly. You can read for inspiration, but the admissions committee wants to hear about you, personally and professionally. They’re expecting a well-structured, well-written document that gives them an insightful look into a prospective future student: you.
These elements are the bones of your career goals statement, while your detailed content—your actual answers—is the meat.
Short essay format
For short essay format, you’ll need a clear introduction, body paragraphs and a conclusion. Typically, these statements are one page long, and no more than two pages long. Some programs will specify a word count or ask for a statement of no more than a few sentences. Whatever the length, it’s important to include as much detailed information as you can.
For the introduction, grab your readers’ attention from the get-go with an intriguing topic sentence. For a career goals statement, this can be a challenge, so start with your answer to the question: what are your future career goals?
In your body paragraphs, expand on your goals. State how you will achieve them, and why you’ve chosen to study at the graduate level at your chosen school. Finally, state your timeline. Share when exactly you want to achieve your short and long-term goals. For example, your short-term goals might be 3-6 months. Your long-term goals might be 5, 10 or even 20 years from now. There is no hard rule about what is short-term and long-term, but be explicit in what these mean to you and your career goals.
In your conclusion, dive into how your chosen program will help you achieve your stated goals, and deliver your closing arguments for why you should be selected to attend the program.
Clarity and detail
Details will be the elements the admissions committee will remember best. They help set your career goals statement apart from the thousands of others they will receive each year. Details help make your statement more unique. But clear writing and well-structured sentences will make your details shine. So don’t forget the most important final step: proofreading. Read and re-read your statement to ensure it is clear, concise and free of errors. Reading aloud helps to be able to hear if your narrative flows smoothly and with clarity.
Use a confident tone of voice when writing your career goals statement. Don’t say you’d like to apply to hopefully be a manager. Say you will be a manager. You will be a leader. Write like your future career goals are a foregone conclusion if you obtain your graduate’s degree. If you are accepted—and you will be, as you are a perfect candidate—you will achieve your goals exactly as you’ve outlined in your career goals statement.
Your grad school career goals statement is a detailed rundown of your professional ambitions, but it is also a look at you, personally. Tie your statement together with a compelling personal narrative to make it stand out, get noticed and connect your personal motivations to your professional goals. You want the reader to see the connection between your personal experiences and professional ambitions. So, if your goal is to enter a new professional field, share a personal anecdote about the passion you have for your field: when did it start? Where did your interest come from? If your aim is to improve your managerial skills, write about your personal or professional experiences where you demonstrated the qualities of a good leader or went above and beyond for your team.
When writing an effective grad school career goals statement, it can help to follow a step-by-step process, especially if writing is not your strength.
Start with brainstorming your ideas. Write them down or make a list. Outline your answers to the questions admissions committees want to know. Ask yourself questions about your career aspirations and why you’ve chosen to apply to a graduate program. Once you have the answers to these questions, write them down and keep them handy as a reference for yourself.
Next, research the schools and graduate programs you’ll be applying for, based on your interests, eligibility and personal needs. Have a look at the programs they offer and what kind of coursework they offer. Does the coursework fit with your stated career goals? What skills will you gain from them that will help you achieve your goals? Jot down some of your answers to include in your career goals statement.
Once you have your notes complete, draft the outline of your answers and structure them into the short essay format. Decide what you will include in your introduction, your body paragraphs and your conclusion. Using your outline as a guide, type out your first draft, checking your notes to make sure you’ve included all the details you need.
If you can, ask for feedback from another set of eyes or ask someone to review your first draft. Read it aloud a few times to see how it sounds, if it flows well and if all the information you need is included. Once you have your feedback, from yourself and others, revise and create your second draft. Repeat the revision process if you need and be sure to proofread your work. Ask a friend to proofread your statement as well to ensure your essay is free of errors and is as polished as it can be.
Below are two samples of graduate school career goals statements to help guide you in crafting your own.
My future career goals are entrepreneurial in nature, as I want to combine my passion for cycling with my interest in business administration. I chose to further my studies at the graduate level because of my goal to pursue my own start-up venture. My aim is to start my own company providing affordable, durable carbon fibre mountain bikes to cycling enthusiasts. As a cycling enthusiast myself, I understand the benefits a carbon fibre bicycle can bring, and I want to make it a more attainable and affordable option for cyclists like me. To be a successful business owner, I know it is imperative that I develop my management and organizational skills at the graduate level.
[University] is well-known for its superb MBA program, and I decided to apply for this program because I believe it will instill in me the necessary skills to succeed in a highly competitive business realm. [University’s] focus on developing forward-thinking, innovative leaders who excel in their chosen fields appeals greatly to me. I consider myself a creative, innovative thinker, and I know my business requires individuals who can look to the future of cycling and provide solutions now.
My short-term goals include starting this business venture soon after graduation. Having this degree will check the box of having a business leader with well-developed skills and the tools and resources to launch this business idea. My long-term goal is to provide cyclists like myself with durable, affordable carbon fibre mountain bikes and to reinvigorate interest in the sport in my region. Developing and providing carbon fibre bicycles to mountain cyclists will make the sport more accessible to more people. Carbon fibre bicycles are more adaptable, lightweight, and maneuverable on rough terrain, and they are extremely hardy and durable, so they will last riders for years to come. Making them as affordable as possible will also ensure they are accessible to as many different people as possible. Interest in the sport has waned in my area, but there is a small group of dedicated and passionate fans, and one of my goals is to utilize this group and my growing business to reignite passion for this challenging and adventurous sport. The advancements in technology in recent years will help propel me towards this goal, but a business degree at the graduate level will provide me with the crucial professional skills and experience needed to succeed.
My professional experience working in a cycling shop will also complement my goals and my future as an entrepreneurial business leader. For the past 5 years, I’ve worked as a manager at Cranky Cycling, a retail bicycle and repair shop in my area. As a manager, I’ve been introduced to the operational side of the business and have earned plenty of customer service experience. As manager, I’ve been responsible not only for employee management, scheduling, customer order and financial statements, I’ve been able to get to know every aspect of the business operations. From the repair side of things, I’ve been responsible for overseeing all repairs and advising customers on the ins and outs of bicycle care and maintenance. I also keep up to date on the latest developments in the cycling world, and often implement the knowledge I gain in the day-to-day running of the business.
I know these are small aspects of being a business owner, but I believe my extensive experience and expertise in the field are an excellent foundation for my future career goals. The key missing piece will be furthering my education and complementing this foundation with the professional skill development I will need in the future.
Since my undergraduate studies, I have developed a passion for environmental sciences, and sustainable energy policy-making especially. At [University] I studied environmental sciences with a minor in political science and government policy. A graduate degree in environmental sciences will provide me with the background, knowledge and essential skillset I need to succeed in my career in sustainable energy management. While my undergraduate degree in environmental sciences has given me a solid foundation to work from, I am eager to expand my learning in fields such as environmental technology and government policy. A background in these subjects is necessary for me to achieve my goal of working at a high level in my chosen company [Company].
[Company] provides sustainable solar energy systems to its customers, and frequently collaborates with municipal and regional government bodies, private corporations and organizations to provide alternative energy needs. [Company] is also at the forefront of exploring emerging technology in solar energy and is a huge advocate for the possibilities of what can be achieved using solar energy. The company’s values and goals align well with my own, as I believe the future of energy in our region lies in utilizing solar power and its emerging technology. I think if more of our local companies were able to make the switch to solar more efficiently, they would choose to do so. Part of [Company’s] mission is to make the switch to solar more comfortable, affordable and easy.
After graduation, it is my goal to be hired at this company for a full-time, permanent position. I have previously interned at this company for one year and have gained a good understanding of company operations. As an intern, I helped educate on the benefits of solar power, how our company helps organizations to make the switch and municipal bylaws and policies about installing and using solar power in the region. My hope is to grow with this company long-term, achieving a higher-ranking position within its corporate structure and eventually being promoted to VP of operations. I believe here I would be able to make the most impact and be a positive advocate for the adoption of renewable solar energy systems in my community.
With a graduate degree in environmental sciences from [University], I know I will be able to achieve a higher position at my chosen company, and be armed with the experience and professional skillset I need to truly transform my community. With the knowledge I will gain from this degree, and the passion and experience I will contribute, I can share my vision of a solar-powered future with my community and fellow businesses.
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While writing a career goals statement may be a challenge, a good one can greatly increase your chances of admission to your chosen grad school program. Reading grad school career goals statement samples, asking for someone to review your statement and proofreading will all help you in creating a great statement for your grad school application. You might also look for extra help from a when crafting your career goals statement.
1. What is a grad school career goals statement?
A grad school career goals statement is a document that tells a grad school admissions committee what your short and long-term career goals are, why you are applying to the program and how the program will help you achieve your career goals.
2. How long should a grad school career goals statement be?
A grad school career goals statement is usually one page long, but no more than two pages.
3. What do I need to include in a career goals statement?
A good grad school career goals statement includes your detailed short and long-term goals, your reason for studying at the graduate level, why you’ve chosen a specific grad school program, and how this program will contribute to you achieving your goals.
4. Why do grad schools ask for a career goals statement?
Graduate schools want to learn more about who you are and what you want to achieve in your career. More importantly, they want to know how the program will contribute to you achieving your goals. This information will help them determine if you are a good fit for their program.
5. What is a good career goals statement?
A good grad school career goals statement will outline your career ambitions, your motivations for applying to grad school and convince the admissions committee that you are an ideal candidate for your chosen program.
6. What shouldn’t be included in a career goals statement?
Don’t use the same career goals statement for every program you apply to, don’t use cliches or information that isn’t relevant to your career goals and your purpose in applying for grad school, and don’t submit a draft you haven’t proofread.
7. Is a statement of purpose the same as a career goals statement?
Yes. A career goals statement is sometimes called a statement of purpose, personal statement or statement of intent, as the general purpose of all these are the same.
8. What is a SMART career goal?
SMART is an acronym which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. Your career goals should follow these criteria. Describe your goals in your statement as specifically as possible, make sure they are relevant, measurable and achievable in your chosen field of work, and state when exactly you want to achieve these goals by.