All About Graduate Programs



Graduate programs are advanced academic degrees offered by graduate schools, and they are offered only to those students who have completed an undergraduate degree.  Graduate programs can be in a variety of subject areas, but they generally are separated from the category of professional school programs that offer specialized advanced degrees in things like law and medicine.

The most common types of graduate programs offered are master’s and doctoral degrees.  Master’s degrees can take anywhere from a single year to a few years to complete, while doctoral degrees are more intense.  Regardless of the exact degree, all graduate programs require some form of intense original research.  Most graduate programs require students to complete a thesis.  This is a paper and usually presentation for the students to show their original research.

Although graduate programs are entirely separate from undergraduate programs, they are often offered at the same institutions.  Many undergraduate students stay at the same college to complete a graduate program, and many programs are taught by the same professors who do undergraduate lectures.

Unlike undergraduate degrees, graduate programs rarely require students to take courses outside of their particular field of study.  Students generally choose a fairly specific area of academics in which to complete a graduate program, then take courses related only to that topic.  Many graduate programs, especially those in the doctoral category, require some portion of credits to be completed outside of the classroom.  Known as residency, these credits are designed to improve independent research and provide real-world experience.

A variety of professions require the completion of a graduate program.  Most teachers must complete a master’s degree before teaching, for example.  Similarly, many areas of work that do not require a graduate degree still encourage one.  Many businesses offer higher salaries to employees who have completed a graduate program.  Those employees who have graduated college and currently work can often go back to school to acquire a graduate degree at the expense of the business.  Companies frequently pay a portion or all of the tuition of employees’ graduate programs because it improves the ability for employees to help the business.