What is Graduate School? - Best Value Schools

    What is Graduate School?

    February 1, 2021 | Staff Writers

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    The National Center for Education Statistics projected that over 3.1 million students joined graduate schools by fall 2020, and this number will only increase. More and more students are considering furthering their education, and the market demand for employees with such academic qualifications is increasing day in day out.

    Graduate school is an academic program for students with an undergraduate degree, meaning these are students who want to pursue an advanced professional or academic degree. Going to a graduate school is a personal choice if not a matter of interest. It is not a basic requirement, but some situations may force someone to go this route, and they vary from one case to another.

    If you are wondering if you should go to a graduate school, it depends on what you want. For instance, if you want to pursue a career with strict attachments of an advanced degree, the only thing to do is go to a graduate school. A graduate school will also be suitable if you weigh factors such as time commitment, career goals, and financial position. That is to say, even without any evident offer in hand regarding a job, attending a graduate school is an investment, which will benefit you in the future.

    On the benefits of attending a graduate school, well, a student who obtains a graduate degree gains in many ways. The one with perhaps the most benefit is the potential increased salary. Let’s be honest, no one wants to spend all those years in school without securing a good salary at the end of it. Someone with a graduate school degree will likely earn significantly more than someone with a lower academic degree. It’s just understood that the higher you learn, the more you earn.

    A graduate school degree is also the perfect vessel for career advancement. If you have ambitious career goals, getting additional knowledge and skills from a graduate program will help you reach them. A graduate school degree exposes you to more employment opportunities. The truth is that today most industries are looking for employees with higher education levels. Since graduate school also allows you to network with other professionals, like the professors, the chances of making job connections are high.

    Types of Graduate Degrees

    If you are looking for the right path towards a successful and rewarding career, attaining either a bachelor’s or an associate degree is the ultimate answer. But apart from getting a job, a bachelor’s degree is useful in many more ways. For instance, if you are willing to spend a few more years in the academic field, you may want to consider a higher degree from a graduate school. Typically, advancing your study beyond the bachelor’s level means more school, which may go for two or even more years. 

    The path to getting a graduate degree is long, if not tiresome. However, that should never discourage anyone because the whole process prepares one to zero-in on one specific field for expert certification later on. Many people ask if graduate degrees are worth it, and the truth is that they are. That is despite the costly price tags, stressful and lengthy-time commitments they come with. Nonetheless, if you are considering a graduate school, it is an excellent idea to take your time and understand what it entails.

    An undergraduate degree is an advanced sect of education specializing in a field of study. Students pursue these degrees after obtaining a bachelor’s degree from just any school. Apart from advancing one’s knowledge in a given field, one thing about these programs is laying the foundation for high-paying careers in different industries. 

    Plus, these kinds of degree programs are the highest formal education level and will reward you with broad academic knowledge or research track. In detail, here are the most common types of graduate degrees.

    Master’s Degree

    Master’s degrees are the most common forms of graduate study. And they are available in various academic and professional graduate-level areas for students to choose from. Ideally, students who enroll in a master’s degree must have at the time graduated from an undergraduate degree program and have a good GRE score. One reason why master’s degrees are getting popular is the increased level of competition in the marketplace. This is concerning the need for additional skills and education as entry requirements for well-paying jobs.

    Master’s degree programs are available for anyone who holds a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. Also, students with associate degree credentials may pursue a master’s degree. Some programs even take you from your bachelor’s directly into your master’s program. So, whether it is an online bachelor’s degree from a university or not, an individual with the required GRE score is eligible to pursue this education level. Some of the most common fields that you can get a master’s degree from include:

    • Master of Arts Degree (MA): An MA is the type of academic master’s degree that touches majorly on humanities-based subjects like social sciences, communication, languages, and teaching. Crucial to note is that the classes in these programs are often discussion-based and only at some point require a thesis, fieldwork, or a capstone project before graduation.
    • Masters of Science Degree (MS): MS is the type of degree touching on advanced study in mathematics and science. Courses in these programs include an extensive mixture of thesis and lab work. Some of the most common MS programs are project management, cybersecurity, and many more.
    • Master of Fine Arts (MFA): For artists in music, theater, film, and graphic design, an MFA is the graduate degree to pursue. Apart from the credentials they receive to teach at the graduate level, these graduates receive a practical and abstract art study in the different majors.

    Professional Doctorate

    A student who goes this route gets the credentials focusing on advanced practice of knowledge and skills, meaning that a professional doctorate, as its name indicates, is more professionally-oriented. Unlike other graduate programs, these degrees have a clear focus on applying knowledge to various industries to solve new and emerging problems. Some of the common areas these programs focus on include.

    • Juris Doctor (JD): This degree offers students expansive knowledge and practical law skills in the United States of America.
    • Doctor of Education (EdD): Although often confused with a Ph.D. in education, this type of program is for professionals who want to implement changes within their organizations of interest. Generally, the program prepares students to become leaders in various capacities in the community.
    • Doctor of Medicine (MD): This is the graduate degree for students who want a career in advanced medicine or surgery.

    Doctor of Philosophy

    At the highest rank of study in any field, a Ph.D. is a postgraduate doctoral degree focusing on extensive research. Some of the common areas where students can get Ph.D. credentials are social sciences, humanities, and technology with specific programs like counseling and psychology. Unlike a professional doctorate, a Ph.D. prepares students to pursue a career in academia instead of providing practical skills to solve modern-day problems.

    Generally, the most common graduate degree is the master’s degree, followed by the professional doctorate. While all the types prepare students for an impressive career path, they differ primarily on the length of the study period, costs, and classes’ intensity. Otherwise, the common fields that require a graduate degree are education, psychology, economics, social sciences, humanities, and health.

    Graduate School Application Tips 

    Students filling an application to get into grad school have several questions running in their minds. Most worry about their grades and if they will get in. Grad school application matters because it determines whether students can fulfill their dreams since freshman year. It’s advisable to apply earlier instead of delaying till the deadline.

    Grad school graduate programs are different. Every student looks forward to filling the grad school application successfully. 

    Here are tips that can boost your grad school application: 

    Perfect GPA

    Grades are crucial for any student to get into grad school. With a 3.0 GPA, students should be confident of getting in. However, they should remember that they are competing against other students who have high grades. The average GPA posted by most graduate schools should help them know what to expect. Thus, students should work smart to achieve the grades needed to get into various grad schools.

    Relevant Work Experience

    Grad schools are expensive, and balancing between work and education can be tiresome. However, it’s possible to balance between a part-time job and school. There are several opportunities where students can grow in their field. Finding a job that incorporates their future career is an excellent decision.

    Prerequisites

    Sometimes, grad schools consider the student’s prerequisite GPA instead of the overall GPA. It indicates how well a student can do in the program they have chosen. When GRE is not required, it can be offered as an interview.

    How to Apply to Graduate School

    Students applying to grad school are happy, but there’s a lot they need to accomplish. They should stay on track to ensure they get into the grad school of their dreams. Though the application process is long, it’s worth every minute you spend.

    Before application, students who are unhappy with their scores can take standardized tests necessary for admission. They should then research for financial aid by creating a budget. In grad school, they need money for housing, fees, books, and other expenses. By making a list of available funding sources, students can be confident about any finances they could need.

    When selecting the schools to apply to, students don’t have to visit any school. Through online research, they can know much about the programs they have narrowed down. Extensive research also gives them more understanding of reputation, faculty, cost, alumni networks, and support services of a certain program. Also, they know about any requirements.

    How to Apply

    Students should fill online application documents and any necessary materials. They should get organized by ensuring that they have the early applications ready. Proofreading all the application materials ensures that all the information they give has no mistakes. After proofreading, they can send their applications and wait for the confirmation statements.

    After two to four weeks of the application deadline, grad schools contact students for interviews as part of the graduate admission process. They should then make a list of all the schools that have invited them in order of priority. Students can then decide on the grad school of their choice by weighing several factors.

    Getting into grad school isn’t all about statistics and test scores. If students overlook other crucial aspects, they could miss getting into their graduate program of choice. Educational prerequisites vary depending on the department or school they are applying to.

    Original documents are required during grad school application. Using fake documents or photocopies could land applicants into trouble. Again, the application process is never complete if the applicant doesn’t submit all the required documentation. 

    It’s essential to look into the grad school considerations. Doing so helps students ensure that they meet all the requirements and also know the dos and don’ts. Being keen ensures the students are honest and know what prerequisites are needed in the grad school they are interested in attending

    Here are some grad school prerequisites: 

    • An official transcript of a completed bachelor’s degree
    • A completed application and fees
    • Resume or CV
    • Two or three letters of recommendation
    • Standardized test scores
    • Personal statement

    Sometimes, students can apply to the school of their choice and get rejected, so they should be keen to avoid making mistakes that could lead to rejection. Proofreading the application documents is crucial because they ensure that all the information they give is correct. They should also have all the necessary prerequisites depending on the grad school they have applied for.

    Typical Requirements for Graduate School 

    Stellar grades are vital to get into grad school. It doesn’t matter how passionate the applicants are because they must attain certain grades. Though grad schools have no minimum GPA, the applicants must have a GPA within a certain range. Students should aim to get a high GPA because it has an impact on their career outlook.

    The applicants’ GPA determines the program they should apply for. Some programs allow applicants with a 2.5 GPA or 3.0 GPA, while others need a 3.5 GPA and above. Most grad schools’ minimum GPA is 3.0. For example, UCLA and the University of Wisconsin-Madison require applicants to have attained a minimum of 3.0 GPA to be admitted to any graduate program. 

    Other grad schools are lenient with GPAs. All they need is for the applicants to make up for their low scores in other ways. Such head schools accept applicants with a low GPA, but in turn, they face scrutiny.

    Factors that Determine a Grad School GPA Expectation

    Despite your GPA, some factors determine the program an applicant undertakes, including:

    • The specific field the student wants to join.
    • The degree program or a graduate certificate program a student is seeking.
    • The competitiveness of the program the applicant is applying to undertake. 

    What Sort of Paperwork do You Need to Have to Apply for Graduate School?

    When a student is unorganized, applying for grad school can be daunting. Graduate certificate program materials are similar to those of a master’s degree program. When seeking to join a graduate school, the following paperwork is needed.

    • Grad School Application Form: Applicants can submit this form in traditional paper format or online. The application form’s information reflects the applicant’s CV, including the chosen program, academic details, and personal details.
    • Academic Transcripts: Most grad schools allow applicants to submit copies of their academic transcripts, which helps speed up the process. However, most schools require students to show original copies during registration.
    • Personal Statement: Graduate schools often ask applicants to write down why they chose a certain graduate program. They should include the professional and personal experience of the program they have chosen. Again, they should state the benefits they hope to achieve by studying a particular program.
    • References or Supporting Letters: All grad schools require either two or three supporting letters from references. This part of the application process is important, especially to students who have applied for competitive programs. Certain programs require academic references; others require professional references while others require both. 
    • Grad School Test Scores: Students should submit score results on time to avoid admission delays. Most graduate schools require applicants to submit one or more standardized or internationally known tests such as GMAT, GRE, PTE, IELTS, and TOEFL. 

    Why Recommendations Are Important in Grad School Application Process

    Almost all graduate schools require letters of recommendation from their applicants during the application process. These letters help those making decisions during admissions to assess the potential of each graduate student. Each recommendation letter should have 300 to 400 words presenting the accomplishments and objectives of the applicant. 

    Letters of recommendation written by the wrong individuals can affect the student’s admission. Applicants should get letters of recommendation from individuals with whom they have a serious relationship and who write positive reviews and increase the chances of a student getting into grad school.

    Graduate school application requires that students submit two or three letters of recommendation. These letters should be from a professor, an employer, and any other individual who can evaluate a student’s job experience or academics. Letters of recommendation speak a lot about students’ capabilities and credentials, written in the third-person.

    Educational Benefits of Pursuing A Graduate Degree

    Everyone wants to reach the greatest heights of their careers. Once you’ve got your high school diploma, the sky’s the limit, and the only thing standing in the way of a long and successful career is you. There are plenty of options and opportunities, so you have to believe in yourself and never be afraid to try it. After all, you miss a hundred percent of the shots you fail to take.

    If you’ve already graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree but still looking for ways to get an edge in the job market, a graduate degree is naturally the next step. Statistically, only 13.1% of Americans hold a postgraduate degree, so pursuing one makes you part of an exclusive club. 

    When you get the chance to pursue a graduate degree, it is always worth taking it up. 

    There are plenty of advantages that come with a graduate degree, and you are certainly going to enjoy them even before your graduation.

    Networking

    Grad school tends to have smaller sized classes with fewer students, making it easy for you to work closely with your peers and professors. These relationships help you establish strong connections that might help you thrive within that field.

    Increased Salary

    There’s no beating around the bush: the more you learn, the more you earn. A graduate degree will increase your earnings potential compared to someone who only has a bachelor’s degree.

    Career Advancement

    Typically, the only way to move up the ladder in your particular field of expertise is by gaining experience. By going to a grad school and completing your master’s program, you get a competitive edge over someone with fewer years of education under their belt but has a similar experience level.

    Employment Opportunities

    Pursuing a graduate degree will always open up more possibilities. Employers always lean towards people with higher education qualifications, which ultimately means you have a higher chance of securing employment once you’ve graduated.

    Benefits of a Graduate Degree

    As seen above, one of the benefits of pursuing a master’s degree or any other postgraduate qualification is that they improve your career prospects in several ways.

    Improved Skill Set

    Anyone who has gone to a graduate school and successfully graduated has learned a lot more than someone with an undergraduate degree. With a master’s degree, they have more advanced skills and enjoy various options when it comes to securing a job.

    Gives You A Competitive Edge

    Everything in this life is about competition. When applying for a job, you are up against all of the other applicants, meaning you have to be outstanding to stand out from the pack and beat them for the job. A postgraduate degree gives you that competitive edge over other applicants. More often than not, when employers are faced with choosing between an applicant with a master’s degree and one with a bachelor’s degree, they will always go for the one with the master’s.

    Makes You Marketable 

    If you are interested in a field where few people hold a postgraduate degree, getting one instantly makes you highly marketable. Multiple companies will be looking to sign you up, giving you a lot of power in negotiations.

    How Can You Determine If You Would Benefit from A Graduate Degree?

    While there are many benefits to getting a master’s degree, pursuing one can be risky, and in some cases, it doesn’t pay off. Here’s how to know if your graduate degree is worth it.

    Check If Your Career Requires an Advanced Degree

    Fields such as law, medicine, finance, and upper management make it mandatory for professionals to have a postgraduate degree. If you are looking to pursue a career in this field, then it’s a no brainer.

    Determine If You Handle the Pressure

    Grad school can be very intense, especially if you have other things going on. It would be a waste if you applied to grad school, got the financial aid, and everything else but had to quit midway because it was too much for you.

    Determine the Rate of Investment

    Even when you apply to the cheapest grad school, it is still an investment of your time, energy, and patience. So, you ought to do your research and find out if the investment is worth it. 

    The benefits of a master’s degree or any other postgraduate degree are relative. Therefore, it is up to you to do your due diligence and determine if your career aspirations will be better by pursuing a graduate degree. 

    In Summary

    Graduate school is a step beyond a typical degree. Earning a master’s degree requires intense classwork and many other time-consuming activities. So, if you are looking to join a graduate school, remember the journey ahead isn’t easy. Unlike when pursuing an undergraduate education, graduate programs include a lot of work outside of the classroom, and research prioritizes everything. Moreover, you will need to be a self-starter because you will handle every inch of your courses.

    When choosing the right grad school, you will want to check on some defining qualities to decide on the best. For instance, one excellent consideration that defines a top-rated graduate school is the part-time or full-time options. Another issue to check on is the program delivery as either online or on-campus. You will also want to check on the school’s reputation by speaking to alumni or assessing their program rankings. An indispensable grad school education also offers cost and financial aid options, so even if it feels unattainable, many things can help you get there.

    Find the program that’s right for you

    Whether you’re trying to start your career or make a big change, we can help you find the perfect school to help you reach your goals.

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    BestValueSchools.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.
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