When thinking about pursuing a graduate degree you should consider the following
words of wisdom
Graduating from college and moving on to pursue a masters or doctoral degree is not the same as going on to college after high school. Earning your bachelor’s degree allows for exploration and study of multiple subjects before majoring in one, while graduate school is specific, in-depth, and rigorous from the get-go. If you are not passionate about the field of study or are unsure of your decision, it will be much harder to succeed – and you will likely end up dissatisfied. Graduate school is a significant investment of time, energy, and money, and there is no switching of majors if you change your mind. An even higher level of commitment is required to pursue graduate work, as compared to undergraduate.
- You are excited about the intended discipline of study!
- You are confident in your career direction, and a graduate degree is required to pursue your profession of interest.
- You have had related internship or research experience, and graduate school is the next step in achieving your goals.
- You have gathered information about different degrees and potential programs and feel you have found a good fit.
- You have spoken to faculty members about pursuing graduate work and they have expressed confidence in your ability to succeed academically.
Not so Good Reasons
- You want a higher salary
- You'd rather stay a student than go out into the
- You are thinking
I need to go now or I will never go back
- You are concerned about the economy/job market and the possibility of not finding employment
- You think everyone needs an advanced degree to get a good job
It is common to hear students say
if I don’t go now, I never will. For those students that have had relevant internship or research experience, and know that further education is right for them, going directly into a graduate program may be the right decision. However, there are benefits to waiting. For some more professional oriented graduate degrees, like an MBA or an MSW, taking time to work in the field can enhance your credentials, and help you get into better or more competitive programs. Additionally, there is a possibility that your entry-level employer may be willing to fund your graduate degree as you continue to work. So-called
gap-year programs also exist that allow students to take a year (or two) between degrees, help build on your qualifications, and may even offer education stipends. Finally, trying out the world of work may help you realize whether graduate school is really for you, and give you the confidence to start a program as an experienced, assured professional.
If you feel your motivations for pursuing a graduate degree align with the
good reasons suggested above the next thing you want to consider are the types of graduate programs available to you.
What Graduate Degree Is Best for Your Career Goals?
Because of the time, effort & money it takes to pursue graduate school - it is VITAL to determine your career goals and choose the graduate degree program — graduate certificate, master's, or Ph.D. — that will actually help you achieve them.
Therefore, understanding your reasons for considering a graduate degree program will help you determine the best one for you, which can save precious time and hard-earned money. When you review the graduate school websites, make note of the different kinds of graduate degrees that those programs offer. PLEASE NOTE: there is a huge variety of degrees which make it impossible to present a comprehensive classification. It is critical to understand the differences in degrees and how and if they affect career options for each field. In-depth research in degree options for your field of interest is crucial for making a successful decision.
Academic Masters & Doctoral Degrees
Academic degrees are intended to prepare students to carry independent research in a specific field.
Master’s Degree (M.A/M.S.):
Master's degree programs provide a comprehensive education in a particular field. They typically require between 30 and 60 credit hours as well as a thesis (sizable research paper), comprehensive exam, or
capstone project that involves applying classroom learning to a real-world issue.
Doctorate of Philosophy – Ph.D.
Graduate degree programs that result in a Ph.D. typically require 4 to 8 years of extensive coursework and research in a discipline that culminates with the writing of a dissertation (extensive research paper). You might need to earn this graduate school degree to pursue a career as a professor or researcher at a college or university, a research institution, or a government agency. You might also want to acquire a doctoral degree to remain marketable in a highly competitive industry or obtain a managerial position.
Professional degrees are intended to prepare students for employment in a specific career at the professional level. Samples of professional degrees are listed below.
Masters of Business Administration (M.B.A):
A Master of Business Administration is a professional master's degree that prepares students for a career in business. The core subjects include accounting, marketing, operations and human resources, though specialization can be achieved in one of these areas. Acceptance to an M.B.A program requires a bachelor's degree, though the student's major can be from a number of disciplines, including history, economics and English, for example.
Masters of Social Work (MSW)
A Masters in Social Work prepares students for advanced social work practice. It provides students with the needed theoretical and practical expertise to function with maximum competence at different administrative, clinical, or policy levels in the social welfare fields and/or in the provision of direct services to individuals, families, groups, and communities.
Masters of Fine Arts- M.F.A
This is a specialized, terminal degree available on the graduate level. The M.F.A is a concentrated
professional degree for students seeking advanced education prior to becoming practicing artists or designers. The M.F.A is considered a
terminal degree in fine and applied arts majors. That is, there is no higher level degree available or required for the practice-oriented student.
Additional Doctoral Degrees
While all doctorates require the completion of a dissertation, some doctoral degrees have less emphasis on research, and more on practice in a particular field. Examples of more professional-oriented doctoral degrees include the Doctorate of Psychology (Psy D.), Doctorate of Education (Ed. D), and Doctorate of Social Work (D.S.W.).
Graduate Certificate Program
Graduate degrees are not the only items graduate coursework can furnish. If you don't want to quit your job or commit to full-time study to obtain a graduate degree, a graduate certificate may be just the option for you. You can receive a graduate certificate after successfully completing an integrated course of study in a specific field. Graduate certificate programs are generally 12 to 18 months in duration and consist of 3 to 12 courses.
If you have a bachelor's degree, you can earn graduate certificates to advance your career or launch a new one, to meet licensing requirements, or just to learn about a field that is of interest to you. Because many colleges and universities allow students to apply credits earned in graduate certificate programs toward graduate degrees, it can be viewed as the first step toward earning a master's degree.
Certificate Programs at Stony Brook:
Art and Philosophy Program
Women's and Gender Studies
School of Professional Development Certificate Programs
Now that you have digested all this information about the types of graduate work you can pursue, it is time to Explore, Prepare & Apply for those graduate programs that may interest you!
Also refer to the graduate school timeline for a rough outline of what you should be doing as you move towards applying for graduate school.