Graduate Programs

Is graduate or professional school right for me?

In some disciplines, getting a graduate or professional degree is necessary to find a career. But before you decide to pursue advanced education, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What career do I want to pursue?
  • How much effort am I willing to put into achieving higher education?
  • How much time do I have to dedicate to my studies?

Be sure you are aware of all your options, what certain graduate programs require, and if you’re prepared to support yourself financially, emotionally, and mentally.

What do I want to pursue in graduate school?

Most people expand on their bachelor’s degree by applying to the same-name programs, or something very similar. These are students who want to immerse themselves deeper into their fields and specialize in a specific discipline.

However, that’s not necessary. Although it’s important to keep in mind that every graduate field has its own requirements, many students take graduate school as the opportunity to change their career paths or fields of study.

Graduate certificate

Graduate certificates are the least time-intensive options for advanced education. They provide you with a higher education qualification at the same level as a bachelor’s degree but are more limited in scope—they’re usually designed to provide supplemental education for a professional position.

A graduate certificate can be usually completed in an academic year, or sometimes even in one semester.

Benefits to getting a graduate certificate:

  • Enables you to quickly gain specific professional credentials to advance your career
  • Builds on skills earned as part of your undergraduate degree
  • Provides new skill sets to modify or change careers
  • Serve as a gateway to a master’s degree program

Master’s degree

A master’s is an academic degree granted to individuals who demonstrate a mastery or high-order overview of a specific field of study.

You can usually complete a master’s program in one to three years. This degree is career-oriented and has a wide range of professional and academic applications.

Benefits to getting a master’s degree:

  • Sets you apart from those with only bachelor’s degrees
  • Allows specialization within a field
  • Works as a method to change career paths
  • Requires less time and money than a Ph.D.


A Ph.D. is a research-based, individualized path of study, often leading to careers in academia and advanced research.

It usually takes three to five years to complete a Ph.D. program, but when you graduate, you’ll have vast knowledge on the subject you studied and you’ll be qualified for high positions in lab research, academic, or analysis-based studies.

Benefits to getting a Ph.D.:

  • Provides access to academic and research tenure positions at universities
  • Fulfills requirements for professor positions and is helpful in a competitive job market
  • Requires original research that contributes new information to the field
  • Allows you to make a meaningful contribution to your field of study

Professional degree

Professional degrees are specialized programs required to be licensed in a specific profession that often includes a clinical component or internship, such as medicine or law.

These programs provide specialized study and experience needed for licensure and practice in an occupation and can usually be completed in two to four years.

Benefits to getting a professional degree:

  • Provides training necessary to practice in a professional setting
  • Prepares you for licensure as an advanced practice provider