Obtaining a graduate degree requires time, determination, and commitment. It also requires you make some choices because a multitude of options exist. Let’s flesh them out.

Earning advanced degrees such as master’s, doctoral, certificates, and non-credit training, can help you move forward in your career in different ways. No doubt, deciding which route to take can be overwhelming.

Is a Graduate Degree For You?

Let’s talk about a master’s degree. What is it, and what can it do for you? Well, whether you want to pursue a specialization in your field, advance beyond your current job, or discover a new area of study, a master’s degree could help you take that critical step towards success.

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Graduate Degree Types

For starters, master’s degrees can be either research- or course-based. In research-based programs, students work independently on a research project of their choosing, with guidance from department faculty. Course-based graduate degree programs require more structured time in seminars and lectures, but also usually have a research component. Let’s further breakdown the categories of graduate programs by type of study. These categories include programs such as Master of Science (MSc, MS), Master of Arts (MA), Master’s of Professional Studies (MPS) and Executive Master’s. The MPS programs are geared for working professionals and address current industry needs. Also, they are typically applied, and offer flexible classes.

A Focused Specialization

A master’s degree provides students with the ability to delve further into a subject about which they are passionate. Unlike undergraduate education, with required general education courses, courses at the master’s level focus more on specialized content and relate to more specific sectors.

Flexible Time Commitment

Depending on the field of study and if you opt to attend courses full-time or part-time, it can take one to three years to graduate with your master’s. Most curricula require between 30 and 54 credits. Many graduate degree programs offer courses in the evenings and on weekends so that you can maintain your career and further your degree simultaneously. Some programs are even offered partially (hybrid) or entirely online.

Master’s Versus Doctorate Degrees and Certificates

While a Master’s degree takes one to three years to obtain, a Ph.D. can require four to nine years. Because a Ph.D. takes longer, it requires more funding. Doctoral programs require more in-depth and independent work and research.  Ph.D. candidates must write a thesis or dissertation, while some master’s degrees do not require this.

A graduate certificate requires a shorter term study in a specific subject, and can take six months to one year, or twelve credits. Many professionals enroll in certificate programs to meet specific career needs.

Keep Skills Up To Date

In rapidly growing fields like Cybersecurity, Biotechnology, and Geographic Information Systems, it is vital to stay informed of recent industry developments, technologies and methods. A graduate degree is highly-valued in these fields.

“Students often indicate that what they’ve learned in the classroom on Wednesday night, they actually apply in the work place on Thursday morning.” Liz Ducey, Alumna, UMBC Master of Professional Studies


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Invaluable Connections

When attending graduate school, your instructors and fellow classmates will likely be working or experienced in the field of study. Having access to this network will benefit you throughout your education, and when it is time to apply for positions. Some programs include a mentorship component, where you can receive specified advice and instruction from a faculty member.

Job Outlook

The demand for graduates with advanced degrees continues to grow. This is especially true in fields related to science, technology, engineering, math, education, healthcare, business, and social service. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those holding a master’s degree on average have a higher salary than those with a bachelor’s. Also, a master’s degree salary over the course of a lifetime may produce $400,000 more than the lifetime salary of someone with only a bachelor’s. Bottom line, a graduate degree allows you to move up in your industry. And, it provides you the chance to explore a new direction entirely.

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