Grad School

Graduate School Information

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What is Graduate School?

Graduate school or graduate study is a specialized and demanding study of a field of interest beyond the Bachelor degree. Graduate programs offer an in-depth study of a concentrated academic area and vary in the number of credit hours in length and lead to a master’s degree, a certificate of advanced study, or a doctorate. For more information, please see our guide to graduate school.

What is a Master’s degree?

The traditional graduate degrees in the liberal arts and sciences are the Master of Arts (M.A.) and the Master of Science (M.S.) degrees, which take one to two academic years of full-time study to complete. The M.A. in a liberal arts field, generally requires a thesis or comprehensive exams, whereas the M.S. usually requires a project or scientific research.

There are many master degrees other than the M.A. and M.S., which emphasize practical knowledge and skills such as business, law, and medicine. Some of the more popular professional programs that award a Masters degree are an M.B.A.(Master of Business Administration), an M.S.W.(Master of Social Work), an M.F.A. (Master of Fine Arts), an M.P.A. (Master of Public Administration) to name a few.

What is a Certificate of Advanced Study?

Certificates of Advanced Study (C.A.S.), Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies (C.A.G.S), Professional Diplomas and Specialist Certificates are post-master’s programs that involve additional coursework beyond the master’s (i.e. six years) and are intended to provide further expertise in a discipline.

What is a Doctoral degree?

A doctorate degree signifies the highest degree of education that can be earned. In addition to coursework, it requires the pursuit of original research culminating in a dissertation. Some individuals, particularly those interested in college teaching or research, go on to obtain a Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) after receiving a Masters degree. Other doctoral degrees include Ed.D., in the discipline of education, and the Psy.D. (in Psychology). A J.D. is awarded for law, an M.D. is awarded for medicine. These programs vary in the number of credit hours required to complete each program. Most, however, require a total of at least six years of college work for completion.

Why go to Graduate School?

One of the best reasons for attending graduate school is to earn a degree that will allow you to work in a field that requires specialized training. The pursuit of graduate study is often driven by a love of knowledge for its own sake and wanting to delve into a specialization. The ability to keep pace with current developments in the labor market as new jobs are created is also a great reason to consider graduate education.

Before you begin researching graduate programs, it may be helpful to evaluate your reasons for attending graduate school, as it is a significant investment of your time, energy, and money. A common misconception about graduate school is that it is simply a continuation of your undergraduate program. In graduate school, there is the presumption that you have made a well-informed and focused choice about what you are now studying. Not having a clear career direction or following the dreams or expectations of others, can be signals of the need for thorough self–assessment. If you are uncertain about your career or educational goals, you may want to speak with a career counselor. Know that graduate school focuses on the importance of research and relationships. Graduate school is driven by research. Whether pursuing a degree in political science or chemistry, the bulk of graduate work involves performing intensive research, either in a laboratory or a library. One should consider this reality carefully before pursuing the application process further.

Another important aspect of graduate school that is the development of relationships among other academics and scholars. A good relationship with a professor as an undergraduate, for example, can lead to a satisfying independent study or thesis and can be a strong demonstration of interest in and competence for graduate research. Relationships developed with fellow students in graduate school are even more critical, as they will form the nucleus of your professional network in academia.

How do I learn about Graduate Programs?

While there is a multitude of resources available online, a good place to begin your research is to talk with faculty members and other people you respect about different schools and programs. Alumni can be good contacts for grad school information; LinkedIn is a great tool to locate and network with Eastern alum. Peterson’s Guides to Graduate Education books are easy to use and provide program profiles including degrees offered, enrollment statistics, admission and degree requirements, costs, availability of financial aid, research facilities, phone numbers, and addresses to request information and catalogs. They also offer in-depth information about the application process, required tests, types of aid available, letters of reference and application essays. Peterson’s guides can be found at Peterson’s Education Center.

Additional information on program specifics can be obtained from the school’s graduate catalog and from the academic department.

Writing a Personal Statement

The Career Development staff can assist you with your personal statement. Contact our office for an appointment.

Write a Graduate School Essay
Writing Your Personal Statement for Graduate School

Helpful Links
Masters in Education Guide
Prepping for Entrance Exams

Other resources may be found in the J. Eugene Smith Library career section.