What Is a Graduate Degree? [2024 Guide]

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

Graduate Degree

Grad programs can help prepare you for real-world situations that you may encounter in higher level positions within a company.

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What is a Graduate Degree?

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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 often 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 may 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

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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 can help; set you apart from other candidates who only have their bachelor’s degrees or associate’s degrees.

Master of Arts Degree

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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.

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As such, interpersonal skills and a lot of empathy for others can be helpful in these fields. Being diplomatic and articulate can be beneficial as well.

Master of Fine Arts

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

Creativity, ambitiousness, and being an out-of the box thinker can help you do well in these degree programs.

Master of Science Degree

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

Excellent interpersonal skills and being able to solve problems quickly and effectively can help you succeed in this field.

Master of Professional Studies

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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.

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Having a good head for details and diplomatic flair can help you succeed in this field. Being logical, empathetic, pragmatic can be beneficial as well.

Doctoral Degree

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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

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

Being fair-minded and able to address and answer problems skillfully and with solutions that benefit everyone can help you successfully work in education.

Juris Doctor

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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.

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Being pragmatic and very thick-skinned can be beneficial for working in the legal field. Lawyers are often under tremendous amounts of pressure, so being able to handle stress well can be helpful as well.

Doctor of Medicine

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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 likely 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 may work in the private, governmental, or public sectors. Being compassionate, empathetic, and able to handle stress well is beneficial in the field of medicine.

Graduate Degree Requirements

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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

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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.

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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 may 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.

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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 tend to find it 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 may have to put in a lot more work, you may also have an advantage over other students who didn’t pursue higher education.

What Does Graduate Degree Mean?

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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.

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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?

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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?

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Generally speaking, earning a graduate degree typically takes two years, 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 may stretch out the length of time to suit your lifestyle and other commitments.

Some colleges may 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?

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There are four types of degrees.

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

Master’s degrees and doctorates are known as graduate degrees and usually 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?

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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 to apply to.

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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

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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 may look more 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 may be 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!

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Jordan Meeks
Jordan is pursuing a Ph.D. in Public Policy and earned her Master of Business Administration in Strategic Management and her Bachelor's in Business Administration. Jordan's research focuses on adults returning to college and online degree programs.