commencement 2016, graduate degree

Graduate Degree Types

by Sarah Wilkinson, Class of ’17

When you’re deciding which type of graduate degree you want, you have to first know what each different graduate degree is, and what it will allow you do. There are two main types of graduate degrees: Master’s and Doctorate degrees.

Master’s Programs have two types:

  1. Academic track focusing on classical research and scholarship culminating with a thesis.
  2. Practical track which is a professional training program that commonly incorporates practical, experiential components into the curricula and prepares students to practice in particular professions (i.e., law, education, social work).

A Master’s Degree will generally take two years to complete, and provide limited financial aid. Often students working toward this graduate degree work part-time and attend classes either part or full-time.

Doctorate Programs:

  • Designed to create scholars capable of independent research that will add new and significant knowledge in their fields.
  • First year or two is generally spent on coursework followed by “field” or “qualifying” exams.
  • Once the qualifying exam is passed, you will be permitted to move on to independent research in form of a doctoral dissertation.
  • Financial aid available in form of teaching or research assistantships.
  • Talking with professionals in the field, faculty, and current students enrolled in the program in which you are interested is the best way to learn about the different types of degrees offered and their advantage and disadvantages.

Finding the Graduate Degree Program for you:

  • Visit Peterson’s Education Center to identify universities that offer programs in your area of interest.
  • Ask several faculty members in the discipline about programs they would recommend.
  • Ask professionals in the field you hope to enter where they did their graduate work, what degrees they hold, and what programs/ institutions they would recommend.
  • Contact professional associations, using the Encyclopedia of Associations, to determine which programs they approve.
  • Read related professional journals to determine where leaders in your field of interest are teaching/engaging in research.
  • Send for graduate catalogs or review home pages for institutions that interest you; analyze and compare the programs you are considering.
  • Visit the graduate department and interview faculty and enrolled students. Determine whether students are satisfied with the quality of instruction, advising and with the library and research facilities.
  • Keep a file/journal of all materials you’ve accumulated and conversations you’ve had to determine which graduate schools and programs best fit your needs . . . then apply.

Combining Work And your Graduate Degree:

Some employers will help you pay for all or some of your degree while you continue to work for them. Some companies combine the tuition assistance benefit with a “frontpay” option that allows direct billing from college to the corporation, eliminating the need for out-of-pocket expenses. Other companies allow employees to apply for upfront advances on 50% of tuition costs. Usually classes have to be taken during evening or weekends to qualify for assistance. Taking classes during your free time may not be ideal, but it’s an option, and a good one especially considering you’re not the one paying all or some of the tuition.

Source: Career Collaborative

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