With 2.4 million jobs predicted to require graduate degrees by 2024, application rates for grad schools have increased significantly in recent years. If you’re thinking of going to grad school, you might be wondering about the different types of degrees available and how each one lines up with your specific interests. For example, what can you expect from an MBA program and how can you decide whether it’s right for you.
Here are the most common types of graduate degrees.
Master’s Degree (M.A., M.S., M.F.A, MBA)
The most common type of graduate degree is a master’s degree. Typically consisting of one to two years of study, master’s programs cover a wide variety of specialties including arts and humanities (M.A. or MFA), science and technology (M.S.) and business (MBA). These programs generally combine structured coursework with independent study and often require you to submit a thesis in order to complete the program’s requirements.
Good to Know: In recent years, MBA programs have increased in popularity due to their reputation for helping candidates develop skills that will help them advance in their careers and earn higher salaries. In fact, MBA graduates typically earn 45 percent more than candidates with a bachelor’s degree.
Doctoral Degree (Ph.D.)
Another common graduate degree is a doctoral degree (Ph.D.). Spanning a wide variety of subjects such as psychology, history, computer science and engineering, doctoral degrees are designed to expand your understanding of a specific subject by building on the knowledge gained during a master’s program. These degrees are also a requirement for anyone wishing to become a professor or to have a research career in academia.
Good to Know: Although many of those who complete a Ph.D. go on to work in higher education, this is not the only available career path. Industries like management consulting, investment banking and tech are constantly looking for candidates with a specialized academic background.
Juris Doctor Degree (J.D.)
For those who are interested in a career in law, going to law school and getting a juris doctor degree (J.D.) is a great first step toward a legal career. A three-year program with a focus on both general legal principles and specific types of case law, a juris doctor degree prepares you to work in all aspects of the legal field and advocate on behalf of others.
Good to Know: Not all lawyers become practicing attorneys. Other career paths include finance and business, with many non-practicing lawyers focusing on entrepreneurship.
Doctor of Medicine Degree (M.D.)
One of the most prestigious types of graduate degrees is a doctor of medicine degree (M.D.). A four-year program combining coursework with clinical practice, medical school expands on the knowledge gained during an undergraduate education and develops the skills needed for a career as a physician.
Good to Know: In addition to earning an M.D. degree, physicians are required to complete a residency program lasting three to four years to gain hands-on experience in a clinical setting.
Doctor of Dental Surgery Degree (D.D.S.)
Similar to an M.D. program, a D.D.S. program is a requirement for those who wish to become dentists. Structured as a four-year program combining clinical practice and academic study, dental school teaches dental anatomy and patient care and prepares aspiring dentists for a career as clinicians.
Good to Know: Like medicine, dentistry has a high earning potential, particularly for more specialized areas like oral surgery. These areas often require additional postgraduate study but they also open up additional career opportunities.
Choosing a grad school program can be one of the most important decisions of your career. By knowing what each program entails, you’ll be able to pick a program that’s right for you.