What graduate degree is best for your career goals?
The time and money that graduate school requires can make earning a graduate degree a challenging endeavor. So, it is vital to determine your career goals and choose the graduate degree program — graduate certificate, master's, or Ph.D. — that will actually help you achieve them.
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 12 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 or launch a new one, to meet licensing requirements, or just to learn about a 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 be viewed as the first step toward earning a master's degree.
Master's degree programs
Master's degree programs provide a comprehensive education in a particular field. Frequently, specific professions in fields such as health care, 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. So, graduate degree programs at the master's level include both professional and academic degrees.
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.
Graduate degree programs that result in a Ph.D. or other doctoral degree typically require 4 to 8 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 this graduate school degree to pursue a career as a professor or researcher at a college or university, a research institution, or a government agency. You might also want to acquire a doctoral degree to remain marketable in a highly competitive industry or 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.
Therefore, understanding your reasons for considering a graduate degree program will help you determine the best one for you, which can save precious time and hard-earned money.