What Are the Types of Graduate Degree Programs?

Students who would like to pursue advanced degrees have many kinds of graduate degree programs to choose from. Read on to find out more about the different types of graduate degree programs.

Degree Options

Graduate degree programs are designed to provide students with the opportunity to pursue advanced study in a particular field. Most students in these programs have already completed an undergraduate degree and would like to increase their knowledge of a topic or pursue another area of interest.

Important Facts About Graduate Degree Programs

Prerequisites Varies, depending upon institution and intended program of enrollment; some schools may require GMAT, GRE, LSAT, or MCAT scores
Online Availability Fully available for select programs
Possible Careers Engineer, physician, surgeon, lawyer
Continuing Education Varies, depending upon occupation; physicians and surgeons require licensure
Median Salary (2018) $87,370 (for mechanical engineers)
$200,890 (for physicians and surgeons)
$120,910 (for lawyers)
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 9% growth (for mechanical engineers)
13% growth (for physicians and surgeons)
8% growth (for lawyers)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Master of Arts Degree

A Master of Arts program (M.A.) is one of the most common graduate degree programs. M.A. programs take approximately two years to complete and involve a combination of classroom coursework and research. This type of degree is usually awarded for study in humanities-related fields, such as English, philosophy, and fine arts. Most programs require candidates to complete a thesis of a predetermined length on a topic of their choosing. Some examples of M.A. degrees include the following:

  • Master of Arts in Education
  • Master of Arts in Cultural Studies
  • Master of Arts in Nursing
  • Master of Fine Arts

Master of Science Degree

Master of Science (M.S.) programs are similar to the M.A. degree program but are most often awarded to students studying a science-related field, such as biology or chemistry. These degree programs usually combine coursework and research. Some examples of M.S. degrees include the following:

  • Master of Science in Biotechnology
  • Master of Science in Mathematics
  • Master of Science in Physics

Master of Business Administration

A Master of Business Administration (MBA) program is popular among working professionals from many disciplines who want to gain management skills. MBA candidates typically choose among several degree concentration areas, including finance, management, marketing, business information systems, and decision science. Because of their popularity among busy working professionals, many MBA programs are offered online, during the weekend, or during the evening. Traditional full-time MBA programs exist as well.

Doctor of Philosophy

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs are considered the most advanced degree programs available to students. Completing a Ph.D. program demonstrates a high level of expertise in a field through extensive study and research on a particular topic. Although most Ph.D. programs require students to complete some coursework, emphasis is generally placed on research. Once students have chosen an area of specialization in consultation with their academic advisors, they begin an intense process of research that culminates in an original thesis or dissertation. Students are usually required to orally defend their dissertation in front of an academic board. Depending on the amount of time needed to complete the dissertation, a Ph.D. program can take several years to complete. Many students have the opportunity to teach college courses while completing their degree.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

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