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Choosing the Right Graduate Degree

By Peterson's Staff updated on Friday, November 22, 2013

What Graduate Degree is Best for Your Career Goals?

The time and money that graduate school requires can make earning an advanced degree a challenging endeavor. So, it is vital to determine your career goals and choose the right graduate degree program that will help you to achieve them. The three main types of graduate degrees are graduate certificates, master's degrees, and doctoral degrees.

Graduate Certificates

Graduate degrees are not the only items a graduate degree program can furnish. If you don't want to quit your job or commit to full-time study to obtain a graduate degree, a graduate certificate may be just the option for you.

You can receive a graduate certificate after successfully completing an integrated course of study in a specific field. Graduate certificate programs are generally 6 to 18 months in duration and consist of 3 to 12 courses.

If you have a bachelor's degree, you can earn graduate certificates to advance your career, meet licensing requirements to launch a new career, or learn about a new field that is of interest to you.

Because many colleges and universities allow students to apply credits earned in graduate certificate programs toward graduate degrees, it can also be the first step toward earning a master's degree.

Master's Degree Programs

Providing a comprehensive education, master's degree programs include both professional and academic degrees. Frequently, specific professions in fields such as healthcare, information technology, or business require that you obtain a master's degree for entry-level positions. A master's degree in other fields, such as education, may boost your salary or give you better job prospects. 

They typically require at least 2 years of full-time study and 30 credit hours, as well as a thesis (sizable research paper), comprehensive exam, or "capstone" project that involves applying classroom learning to a real-world issue.

Doctoral Programs

Graduate degree programs that result in a Ph.D., Ed.D., or D.B.A typically require 3 to 6 years of extensive coursework and research in a discipline that culminates with the writing of a dissertation (extensive research paper).

You might need to earn a doctorate in order to pursue a career as a professor or researcher at a college or university, a research institution, or a government agency. A doctoral degree can also help you to remain marketable in a highly competitive industry, as well as obtain a managerial position.

Graduate Degrees Can Serve Many Purposes

Whether you want to advance your career, conduct important research, or meet certain professional requirements, studying for a graduate school degree can be a challenging, yet fulfilling, experience. However, it is important to set goals and consider all of your options before selecting a program in order to save precious time and hard-earned money.

About the Author

Peterson's has more than 40 years of experience in higher education, and the expert staff members here are all ready to leverage their considerable knowledge and experience to help you succeed on your educational journey. We have the information, the know-how, and the tools -- now all we need is you!

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