What is a Graduate Degree? [2020 Guide]

Home » What is a Graduate Degree? [2020 Guide]

We often get asked: What is a Graduate degree? Graduate degrees allow you access into higher-paying and more prestigious jobs, often enabling you to advance in your field.

Graduate Degree

Grad programs excel in preparing you for real-world situations that you may encounter in higher level positions within a company.

What is a Graduate Degree?

graduate students studying together in a library

A graduate degree is an advanced degree and includes master’s degrees and doctoral degrees. When you pursue a graduate degree, you are demonstrating a commitment to advanced learning, a skill that is highly valued by employees.

There are several types of graduate studies that you can choose from when pursuing higher education.

Some jobs require you to have a doctoral degree, while you can get others with only a master’s level degree. In this guide, we explore the type of degrees you can obtain so you can see what grad program is best suited for you.

Master’s Degrees

master's degree students studying in classroom

Master’s degrees are the most common of all graduate degrees, and you can get them in a number of different concentrations. Many types of professions, like teaching, require you to have at least a master’s degree.

There are many other types of occupations where a master’s degree will set you apart from other candidates who only have their bachelor’s degrees or associate’s degrees.

Master of Arts Degree

marketing team sharing their ideas during a meeting

Master of Arts degrees are generally concerned with humanities-based disciplines such as language arts, teaching, or marketing. Graduate students who get these types of degrees usually go on to work in fields where they are tasked with communicating with others.

As such, it’s crucial to have excellent interpersonal skills and a lot of empathy for others. The best candidates are diplomatic and articulate.

Master of Fine Arts

graphic designer working in her office

A graduate student who loves graphic design, theater or film could find themselves working towards a Master of Fine Arts degree. This degree will set you up for a career in an artistic profession, or even working as a curator for a museum. Students must have an undergraduate degree in a related profession and a love for all things artistic.

Those who do best with this degree are both creative and ambitious, and it helps to be an out-of-the-box thinker.

Master of Science Degree

scientists working in the laboratory

If you gravitate towards science and math, this degree might be optimal for you. Getting your graduate degree in science will open up job opportunities in several different fields, including in research, working in laboratories, and even teaching. You can work in either the public or private sector as well.

To excel in this field, you will need to have excellent interpersonal skills and be able to solve problems quickly and effectively.

Master of Professional Studies

analytics manager working on the computer

Professional studies generally deal with the concentrations that require real-world experience and learning. Unlike many other master’s degrees, these types of degrees aren’t abstract or academic. Many people who get this type of degree find themselves working in public or private capacities in the field of analytics or security.

To excel, you should have a good head for details and diplomatic flair. The best candidates are both logical and empathetic and can be pragmatic.

Doctoral Degree

doctoral degree students studying in class

Many graduate schools offer doctoral degrees. This highest degree really represents the apex of graduate learning and is for those students that are focused on academic achievement and aspire to excellence in their chosen careers.

Although there are plenty of types of doctoral degrees that you can get, these are a few of the most popular ones.

Doctor of Education

university professor teaching college students

If you want to teach at a prestigious school, you should have your Doctor of Education degree. Many universities will not allow you to set foot in a classroom without one, and you will be able to go far in your career and even obtain tenure if you have this coveted degree.

Those who work in education need to be fair-minded and able to address and answer problems skillfully and with solutions that benefit everyone.

Juris Doctor

lawyer reading law books in library

If you want to practice law, you will likely need to become a Juris Doctor. This high degree equips students with the skills that they need to succeed in the courtroom, as well as a legal background. Although you can technically practice law with a master’s degree in certain places, it does not hurt to have your doctoral degree.

If you want to work in the legal field, you should be pragmatic and very thick-skinned. Lawyers are often under tremendous amounts of pressure, so you will need to handle stress well.

Doctor of Medicine

medical doctors in a meeting

In most, if not all cases, you need your doctoral degree to be able to practice medicine. The Doctor of Medicine degree is further whittled down to your particular specialty, and you will need to undergo all sorts of practical exams in order to be awarded this degree. Those who work in medicine can do so in a variety of different fashions and locations.

They can work in the private, governmental, or public sectors. Doctors need to be compassionate, empathetic and be able to handle stress well.

Graduate Degree Requirements

graduate degree student studying in a library

All schools are different, but there are some standard requirements that you will most likely need to produce in order to be accepted to graduate school.

  • You will need an undergraduate degree in a relevant field of study.
  • Most schools will require letters of recommendation.
  • Many grad programs will want to see your transcripts and some might require a certain GPA to be considered.
  • You will need to fully fill out an admissions form to be considered for the school.

Always check with your particular school to see if there are any requirements that they desire. If you have any doubts, give them a call.

Differences Between Undergraduate and Graduate programs

graduate degree students happily talking together

The main difference between undergraduate and graduate degrees are that graduate programs are often extensions of undergraduate programs. In order to be able to be accepted into a graduate program, you need an undergraduate degree in a relevant concentration.

Graduate programs are also often far more intense than undergraduate programs. Students are expected to have a specific base of knowledge when they enter, and full participation is required.

For certain graduate degrees, students will need to do plenty of extra-curricular work and internships in order to graduate. Graduate degrees are often much more time-consuming.

Since they are higher-level concentrations, many graduate degrees are much more specialized than undergraduate degrees. You will not get a base of knowledge or an overview of subject matter with these degrees. It is fully expected that you understand the basics of your subject material before enrolling.

graduate degree students studying together at a cafe

You will often find many more serious students in any given graduate degree class, and there will usually be plenty more networking opportunities available to you through the school and your classmates.

Many students find graduate degree work to be much more challenging than undergraduate work, but they also find it to be rewarding as well.

If you are serious about advancing in your field and want to work in a capacity where higher education is valued, you need to consider getting a graduate degree. Although you will have to put in a lot more work, you will have an advantage over other students who didn’t pursue higher education.

What Does Graduate Degree Mean?

graduate degree students studying in the classroom

Graduate degrees are higher levels of education that usually drill down on specific concentrations. They are seen primarily as extensions of your undergraduate degree and are needed for jobs in certain types of professions. There are two types of graduate degrees; master’s degrees and doctoral degrees.

In addition to getting your graduate degree, you might need to take tests or certifications to work in the field of your choice. Each profession is different, but this is something that you might want to take into consideration when choosing a major.

Is a Bachelor’s a Graduate Degree?

Bachelor's degree students studying on campus grounds

Bachelor’s degrees are typically known as undergraduate degrees, and they do not qualify as graduate degrees. Bachelor’s degrees fall in the same category as associate’s degrees. These degrees typically take two to four years, which answers another common question of how long is an undergraduate degree.

You do need a bachelor’s degree if you are pursuing your master’s degree. In some cases, you will need to have a specific grade point average in order to qualify for your master’s degree, so getting your bachelor’s degree is very important if you want to go on in higher education.

How Many Years Is a Graduate Degree?

graduate degree students studying together

Generally speaking, it will take you two years to get your graduate degree, although some people finish it in less time and some people take longer. If you are getting your master’s degree or doctoral degree online, you can stretch out the length of time to suit your lifestyle and other commitments.

Some colleges even allow you to take four years to complete your graduate degree. Since many graduate programs are time-intensive and require a lot of extra-curricular work, they can be stressful.

What Are the 4 Types of Degrees?

Master's Degree student studying on her tablet in class

There are four types of degrees.

The two undergraduate degrees are associate’s degrees and bachelor’s degrees. Associate’s degrees can be obtained in two years, generally, and bachelor’s degrees can be completed in four years.

Master’s degrees and doctorates are known as graduate degrees and generally take two years or more to complete.

Some students complete their degrees in less time, and occasionally it will take longer to finish up your degree. It depends largely on your lifestyle and other commitments.

How Much Does a Master’s Degree Cost?

master's degree students in a classroom

Tuition varies widely and your master’s degree may cost quite a bit less or more, depending on the university.

As long as you get your degree from a reputable, accredited school, you should be fine. Check online to see what your options look like before committing to any school, and remember that there are plenty of financial aid programs available.

You might qualify for local, regional or federal student loans. Some schools even offer scholarships right through their universities themselves. You need to pay back loans, but you do not need to pay back grants or scholarships in most cases.

Getting Your Graduate Degree Online

master's degree student studying at home

These days it is easier than ever to get your graduate degree online, and plenty of students are going back to school to get better-paying jobs in their chosen fields. If you want to work in medicine, or as a lawyer, you need to have a graduate degree.

Even jobs that don’t specifically require graduate degrees will look favorably upon candidates that have additional schooling.

So many schools offer flexible class schedules and allow you to attend from the comfort of your own home, so if you have been considering going back to school, now is the time. You can squeeze it into your schedule and do something great for your future. You never know until you take the first step on the road to higher education. Apply today!

Sarah Walker
WRITTEN BY
Sarah Walker