What is a graduate Degree

For individuals considering graduate school, it is of utmost importance that you clearly understand what makes up an advanced degree program. In the course of the guide, we’ll be discussing all you need to know about grad school – most times the question “What is grad school” pops up for undergraduates. This guide will take you through the different types of graduate programs, the cost, the time commitment required as well as enrollment conditions. The guide also contains some graduate degree facts and what students should prepare for and expect at this level of advanced study.

What is a Graduate Program?

A graduate program includes master’s degrees, doctorate degrees, and PhDs. It provides an advanced level of understanding of different fields, as well as demonstrates commitments to lifelong learning that the majority of employers value. Those who choose to enroll in graduate school, in most cases, do so with determination, focus, and bearing career-oriented goals in mind, which all prepare the person for a considerably different type of learning environment as compared to the one experienced during undergraduate career.

Quick Facts About Graduate Degrees

  • A research carried out in 2018, 69 percent of student go to complete their undergraduate degree immediately after they are done with high school and after gaining their high school diploma – only 1/3 of those end up going for Graduate Degree program
  • Females attend Graduate school more than males. Out of the population of grad degree holders in the US, 57 percent of them are female.
  • On the average, graduate school tuition and fee goes for about $16,000 yearly – with some programs lasting for 2 years
  • For people between the ages of 25 to 34, individuals with bachelor’s degrees earn a median wage of $49,900, while those with more advanced degrees earn a median of $59,100.

Types of Graduate Degrees

Students who have decided to enroll as graduate students in any graduate school should determine if they are going for a professional degree and an academic degree, and which is right for them.

Graduate degrees emphasize more on hands-on learning – in most cases, the program requires students to develop an in-depth understanding of the subject area, as well as complete a thesis or capstone project to demonstrate their knowledge. Graduate programs are advisable for individuals in specific fields of studies; for instance those in the Medical, education, and law fields, etc.

You can as well pursue any of the following graduate degrees: Master’s degree or Doctorate. The Master’s degree can be completed in about two years. The Doctorate program, on the other hand, requires four years or more in most cases. It comes with a lot of challenging requirements like researching, writing, and presenting dissertations. 

Let’s discuss the following Graduate Degree Types in detail.

Master’s Graduate Degree

A Master’s degree is a graduate degree that has been designed to signify the mastery of a particular professional practice or field of study. Typically, a master’s degree takes from one to four years to complete; however, it can take more than that in some cases. 

Benefits of master’s degree

Amongst other reasons to obtain a master’s degree, below are some of the reasons to get a master’s degree:

  • A master’s degree helps in gaining advanced knowledge in your chosen field of study. It also helps build on an individual’s current abilities, gain new skills, or even transition to an entirely new field.
  • A master’s degree is also an easy way to advance in one’s career. Research shows that a lot of organizations consider candidates with Master’s degree qualifications than those with only a bachelor’s degree program.
  • Earning a master’s degree can also increase your income significantly. On average, employees with Master’s degrees earn more than those without.

Who is it for?

A lot of people have different reasons for deciding to further their education after their bachelor’s degree. A person who has completed a bachelor’s degree is qualified to take on the master’s degree program. However, here are some set of people for who the master’s degree is for:

  • People With Great Subject Knowledge

During your bachelor’s degree, you tend to gain a passionate interest in your field of study, in the bid to know more, and gain more knowledge in the subject should go for a master’s degree program. Either you need to pursue in-depth research on the subject, or you wish to become an academic of that particular field and teach it to others, you can get them during your master’s degree years.

  • People Looking for Career Development

To acquire further knowledge that will help you in pursuing your career or advancing in your current career or even changing a career choice, a master’s degree is needed. All you need to do is make sure that you confirm with employers or professional bodies to make sure the course you chose is recognized even before you apply. Lawyers, doctors, teachers, librarians, and physicists may all require postgraduate qualifications.

  • People Looking to Improve Their Employability Chances

A master’s degree can help in the improvement of one’s knowledge, professional, and personal skill and even boost your employability status. It enables you to stand out from first-degree graduates and impress employers. A master’s degree qualification can also help you secure funding for your Ph.D. study.

Characteristics of a Master’s Degree Holder

  • Master’s Graduates are diverse and possess more wide-ranging abilities and strengths.
  • Master’s Degree graduates possess in-depth and advanced knowledge as well as an understanding of their profession and Subject, and also informed by current practice, graduate degree scholarship, and research.
  • Graduates or Masters are likely to be characterized further by their ability to independently study in the Subject, as well as to make use of a variety of research methods and techniques that apply to scholarship in the Subject.
  • Graduates of the master’s programs also possess the experience and skill required for some profession or area of practice.

The Requirements to Get Admitted for Master’s Degree

To apply for any master’s degree, the person needs to have completed a bachelor’s degree program and have attained a CGPA of 3.0. Some schools also require taking some entrance examinations like the GMAT and GRE. The requirements to get into graduate schools varies between schools which range from no required courses to highly specific or technical courses that must be completed before you can start the master’s degree program.

On the other hand, some master’s degree program requires a certain bachelor’s degree or courses to be completed before a person can apply for them.

Eligibility for Completion

While every institution and programs have slight differences, below are some of the similar graduation requirements:

  • A minimum of 3.0 GPA

In contrast to undergraduate programs, a master’s degree program requires a higher GPA to be completed. Every course taken during the master’s degree program needs to be taken with seriousness to avoid falling short of the GPA requirement.

  • Fulfillment of All Course Requirements

You must have completed all the credit hours, which are typically between 30-60 credit hours for most master’s degree programs, and also take part in all the required courses.

  • Completion of a Capstone Project

The majority of master’s degree programs require a project or seminar completion as the conclusions of your degree program. These projects might vary from professional-oriented projects to solve real-life problems, to research papers. Typically, a capstone project needs to be completed before graduation as part of a one-semester course.

  • Pay All Require Tuition and Fee

This is common in most cases. People think that completing all the education requirements without paying all the required fees gives you a pass. Make sure you plan and have your funds ready to graduate.

Examples of Masters Degree Program

There are lots of Master’s degree programs; however, the following are the most common types of Master’s degrees in the U.S.:

  • Master of Science (M.S.) – is a type of Master’s degree program that typically goes in line with advanced study in fields that are mostly related to mathematics and science. Courses studied in this program require extensive research, lab work, and end with a thesis or capstone project, as well.
  • Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) – is a Master’s degree program that is recognized internationally and designed to develop the required skill for careers in business and management. However, the MBA value is not limited to people looking to get a career in business. An MBA can also be useful for individuals pursuing a career in the private and public sectors. Some schools require that MBA candidates should have internship experience at a company. In most cases, these internship experiences lead to permanent job positions in those organizations after the program.
  • Master of Arts (M.A.) – is a Master’s degree program that correlates with humanities-based courses such as language, teaching, communications, etc. Classes in these graduate programs are mainly discussion-based and might require fieldwork, a thesis, or a capstone project before graduation.

What is a Doctorate Degree?

The Doctorate Degree is the most advanced degree that can be earned, which symbolizes that you have mastered a specific profession, field, or area of study.

The Doctorate degree requires a significant level of articulation and research. Those who earn this degree must have carried out thorough research on a specific subject or topic, conducted research and analysis on that topic, and then provide new interpretations based on the analysis made or provide a solution into the field.

The doctorate occupies top-tier professional positions for consulting and education career considerations. Their advancement in their current profession gives them an edge to stay relevant in their field. In most cases, completing a doctorate degree implies achieving a lifelong personal goal for such an individual.

What Is It for? 

Based on the career trends we are experiencing today, a doctorate is worth every penny spent.

Research shows that people with a doctoral degree earn 63% on average more than people with just a bachelor’s degree. Some of the most remunerative and prestigious professions such as lawyers and doctors require a doctoral degree.

A doctorate is also a sure bet if you’re naturally attracted to academic Opportunities to increase your knowledge in a specific field. A doctorate also helps people who want to satisfy their insatiable appetite for learning and research on a certain field of study that you find interest in.

The wide-ranging benefits of having a doctoral degree exceed both practical and personal applications. This is true regardless of you pursuing a research-based or practice-based degree. Doctoral degree holders have the expertise and critical reasoning skills that are vital in high-level problem-solving and decision-making circumstances.

Who Is It for?

A doctoral degree is both challenging and financially draining. Depending on the subject matter, the course lasts for up to 3 to 4 years – with a lot of students dropping either due to failure or financial stability. Not everyone can achieve a doctoral degree.

People with the following needs should go for a doctoral degree:

  • People Seeking to Contribute Towards Their Chosen Field

A lot of students who pursue a doctorate do so due to their love and passion for a specific subject and wish to use their research time to make discoveries within that field. 

  • People With Long-term Career Goals

Students with long-term career goals can also go for doctoral degree programs. For individuals looking to pursue a career in academics, a doctor’s degree is an essential qualification – it allows them to continue with their research and also to teach students in universities.

  • People Looking to Improve Their Knowledge

Some people are born with curious minds, and for these people, a Doctoral degree will seem like a natural next step. Unlike the degrees before the doctorate, the program is less structured, which gives students room to research topics that are of interest to them.

Characteristics of a Doctoral Degree Holder

A doctorate degree holder should be able to:

  • Support, collaborate with, and also lead colleagues, with the help of teaching, communication, and networking skill, in order to influence practice and policy in diverse environments.
  • Appreciate the need to engage in research with impact and also to communicate the research to a diverse audience which includes the public
  • Build relationships with students, senior colleagues, peers, and stakeholders with sensitivity to equality, cultural issues, and diversity.

The Requirement to Get Admitted in Doctoral Degree

To apply for a Doctorate degree program, there are certain entry requirements to be met before the application process.

In most cases, a doctorate degree applicant will be required to show good undergraduate level performance – in most cases at least a second class upper honors degree (2.1). This also needs to be in a relevant discipline for the Ph.D. study.

You also need a master’s degree, in a relevant subject to be eligible for the Doctorate application. You also need to show great performance at this level, with a Merit or Distinction grade.

Eligibility for Completion

To get a doctorate degree, students are expected to complete: Coursework requirements, Research requirements, examination requirements, oral defense, and financial requirements.

Examples of Doctoral Degree Program

  • Master of Philosophy (MPhil) – is although not a Ph.D., still provides excellent research qualifications.
  • Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) – is a doctorate specifically for professionals in the Business & Management field.
  • Doctor of Education (EdD)is a professional doctoral degree reserved for experienced teachers and other education specialists.

What Does a Graduate Degree Do for Your Career?

Individuals that have achieved graduate degrees experience a “leapfrog” effect. A leapfrog effect is used to denote a situation where a person starts his or her career with higher jobs, without having to go through the introductory jobs in their field.

Research shows that of the 16 million people in the US, only 8% have a graduate degree, which in most cases results in a competitive advantage in a pool of candidates.

The positive impact of a graduate degree on a person’s career is huge. It stands an individual out from the crowd and also has a positive impact on the earning of such a person as compared to those without a graduate degree.

Graduate Vs Undergraduate Vs Postgraduate Degrees

Undergraduate Degree

After finishing high school, most students get an undergraduate degree. An undergraduate degree can also be referred to as a bachelor’s degree or as an associate degree—and undergraduate degree obtained from a university or a college whichever is used.

Graduate Degree

Any degree above a bachelor’s degree is a graduate degree. This kind of degree includes a Doctoral degree or master’s degree. A master’s degree can take around 1.5 to 2 years to complete while a Doctoral degree can take about 3 to 5 years.

Post-graduate Degree

Most students get confused when they hear “Postgraduate degree.” A postgraduate degree is a term that can be used interchangeably with a graduate degree. As a graduate degree, the postgraduate degree is any higher degree after the undergraduate degree.


Ready to take the leap? Consider advancing your career with a graduate degree from any school of your choice.

The choice of a grad school program is one of the most important decisions of your career. Having a clear idea as to what every program entails will make it easier for you to pick a program that is right for you.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Do you have to go to campus to earn a graduate degree?

You mustn’t go to campus to get a graduate degree, there are other ways to study for a graduate degree without going to campus. Off-campus or distance learning – this is a perfect option if you’re trying to get a qualification and work, take care of families, and handle other commitments. Going to campus can be difficult, online learning is your best bet.

What does a graduate-level mean?

A graduate-level is the same as a graduate degree. It can also be called a graduate-level degree program. They can be used interchangeably. It’s any degree higher than a bachelor’s degree.

How many years is a graduate degree?

A full-time master’s degree is usually 1.5-2 years long. While a full-time Doctoral degree takes 3 – 5 years.

Is a master’s degree a graduate degree?

A master’s degree is the first level of graduate study. It is an advanced academic degree that takes place at the postgraduate level.

What is an advanced degree?

An advanced degree is a degree gotten after a bachelor’s degree, it is a university degree higher than a bachelor’s. E.g. a master’s or doctor’s degree.

How many credits do you need to graduate college with a bachelor’s degree?

To complete a bachelor’s degree, a student is required to complete up to 120 credits which are around 40 courses.

Helen Vlasova
Helen is the co-founder of admissionsly.com, a career guidance website for students and young professionals. She has a degree in English from the University of Michigan. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, reading, and traveling.

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