Grad School 101—it seems like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? There are no 100-level courses in grad school, but maybe there should be. Grad school can be confusing, complicated, and, frankly, overwhelming.
If you’re considering going back to school to earn a specialist’s degree, or certification, or a master’s degree, consider this article as a primer on grad school: what it is, why you might go, and what considerations might influence your decision.
What Is Grad School?
Graduate school, or grad school, is simply the extension of study (beyond a bachelor’s degree) at a higher education institution. In other words, going to grad school means you’re going to school to earn a specialist’s degree or certification, a master’s degree, or a doctoral degree. Specialist’s degrees are usually earned in addition to a master’s degree, and typically prepare students for some type of certification. Doctoral degrees are a more advanced education level than master’s degrees. A doctoral degree is the actually the highest level of education you can earn; because it is the highest degree available, a doctoral degree is called a terminal degree.
Typically, grad school programs focus on a particular discipline or program, with coursework concentrated within the discipline you choose and designed around generating original research or developing your skills and knowledge within that field.
Grad school is usually more rigorous than undergraduate coursework, and often includes smaller class sizes that demand more interaction with your professor and your peers. Students often enter the graduate program with work and/or life experience that may shape their perceptions and, subsequently, their viewpoints and discussions related to the coursework. You will also have more independence in grad school, with the expectation that, as an adult, you can manage your own deadlines, workload, time, and responsibilities related to the program and enrollment, etc.
Most graduate school programs can be completed in two to three years (if attending full time), depending on the discipline; some doctoral programs can take more than five years. Your status as full time or part time refers to the number of credits you take per semester or session. Some graduate programs have classes scheduled to accommodate students’ professional lives, meeting in the evenings and on weekends so that students can work full-time. You can also attend graduate school part time, but it will take you longer to complete your degree.
Joint-degree programs, sometimes called accelerated degrees or 4+1 programs, are programs that can help you earn a master’s degree with your bachelor’s degree in a shorter amount of time than earning your bachelor’s degree first and then completing your master’s degree.
Why Go to Grad School?
So, if you’ve earned your bachelor’s degree, why go for more schooling in order to earn another degree?
For some, an advanced degree may be a requirement for the jobs they want. For example, many positions in allied health and in education require additional degrees or certifications beyond a bachelor’s degree.
For others, an advanced degree may help increase earnings in the jobs they have and over their lifetimes. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, individuals with graduate degrees increased their lifetime earning potentials by $400,000. This number goes up even more with a doctoral degree.
Some may choose to go to grad school in order to change careers. By gaining an education and skills in a field outside the field in which you currently work, you gain employability and the ability to change your career field.
Still others may want to attend grad school simply to advance their knowledge of a particular discipline, or so that they have opportunities to conduct research, stay on the cutting-edge of innovation, or even travel or obtain recognition for potential research, theories, or ideas discovered while in grad school.
Other Grad School Considerations
Although the gains in lifetime earning potential can offset or even surpass it, there is a cost to attend graduate school. Funding or financial aid is often available, but are you able to sustain the added cost until you complete your program and start seeing the return on your investment?
Grad school is also a commitment and can be stressful, particularly if you’re juggling a career and family. You’ll be responsible for managing your time and your relationships, and staying on top of work, home, and school could be taxing. Even applying to graduate school could be stressful, as grad programs are often more competitive than undergraduate programs.
Graduate school can be an amazing and worthwhile experience that can help you advance your career, grow in your educational journey, and put you on the path to achieving your dreams, but it is a years-long commitment that you should consider carefully before you enroll.
Cabrini is committed to helping you on your journey to success. Our graduate programs fuse knowledge with ethical and responsible decision making, helping you to become a leader in your chosen field.
We offer full-time and part-time programs with flexible scheduling and online coursework, empowering you to fulfill your dreams while maintaining your career, family life, and social responsibilities.