What Is a Graduate Degree?

Graduate school degrees provide opportunities for advanced education after completion of a bachelor's degree program. Some popular types of graduate degrees include the Master of Business Administration, Juris Doctor and Doctor of Philosophy. Continue reading to learn more about graduate degrees.

Graduate Degree Definition

Graduate degree programs include both master's and doctoral-level degrees. In contrast, undergraduate degree programs include associate's and bachelor's degrees. Advanced, graduate-level academic degrees are available to individuals who already have completed bachelor's degree programs and wish to further their education.

What Is a Graduate Degree Program Like?

Most graduate degree programs exclusively feature courses specific to their fields of study, rather than including numerous general education requirements, as in associate's and bachelor's degree program would. Ph.D. programs, however, usually include courses from a wide study range.

Though many students pursue graduate studies in the same field in which they received their bachelor's degree, undergraduate and graduate degrees don't have to match. For instance, if you earned a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Psychology, you could pursue a Master of Arts (M.A.) in English or even a Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.). Similarly, if you earned a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Engineering, you could choose to pursue a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Theology. Students have the opportunity to either advance in the same field or branch out to another field, depending on their career goals.

Degrees Master of Science, Master of Arts, Doctor of Philosophy, professional degrees
Online Availability Growing number of resources
Possible Careers Areas Postsecondary teaching, social sciences, law, medicine/healthcare, STEM (science/technology/engineering/math)
Median Annual Wages (2017)* $68,000 (master's-level positions); $103,820 (doctoral- and professional-level positions)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Types of Graduate School Degrees

Master's Graduate Degree Meaning

Master's degrees are designed to denote the mastery of a specific field of study or professional practice. A master's degree generally takes anywhere from one to four years to complete, but can take even longer in some cases. Many institutions also offer joint master's-bachelor's programs that allow you to complete both degrees in as little as five years.

The following are the most common types of master's degrees in the U.S.:

  • Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.)
  • Master of Science (M.S.)
  • Master of Arts (M.A.)

Doctoral Graduate Degree Meaning

A doctoral degree is the highest level of graduate degree. It is achieved by a little more than one percent of the population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. As is the case with all higher education, the cost of a doctoral degree will vary by school, but can be a significant investment. Most students complete doctoral degree programs within ten years, although some finish in as little as four years.

The most common type of doctoral degree is the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D), which generally includes several years of coursework followed by the completion of a dissertation. The Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) is also well-known, and generally includes residencies and internships. Another popular graduate degree is the Juris Doctor (J.D.), which is a professional doctorate in law. A J.D. is required to practice law in the U.S. and many other countries.

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:

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Popular Schools

  • Georgetown University

    Georgetown University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Georgetown University:

    • Master

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    Popular programs at Strayer University:

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      • Doctor - Education: Leadership
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    Popular programs at The Chicago School:

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    • Master

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    Popular programs at Southern New Hampshire University:

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