Future Students

Are you interested in graduate education?

Graduate education is a form of higher education after obtaining a bachelor's degree. Typically, students enroll in a graduate program to gain a greater understanding of a specific topic or to develop further, more specialized skills. There are also many other benefits to obtaining a graduate degree. There are three main categories of graduate degrees: Master's, Doctoral, and professional.

Generally, a Master's degree increases your understanding and builds skills in an area of interest. Master's degrees can be obtained in a shorter amount of time, usually 1-3 years depending on the program. There are research-based programs (thesis) and course-based programs (non-thesis), depending on what your interests and goals are.

Professional degrees are often targeted towards working professionals that are looking to advance their career in a particular field. Some are required for careers, such as a medical doctor (MD) or a lawyer (JD). At CFAES we offer professional Master's degrees in Applied Economics, Plant Health Management, and Environment and Natural Resources, which can help those looking to advance their career.

A Doctoral degree represents achieving the highest level of expertise in a topic area, often culminating with a dissertation on a specific research topic in your field. Doctoral degrees take longer to obtain, ranging from 4-9 years depending on the program and depth of research required for the dissertation. For a doctoral degree, the first two to three years will likely be spent taking required and elective classes. Some fields of study, like teaching and psychology, can also require a residency or internship during the process.

Following the coursework, students must then study for and pass a comprehensive examination. This exam allows the faculty to ensure that the students have met all academic criteria needed to gain expertise in the field of study. This process can take several months to complete. Once the comprehensive exam has been passed, Ph.D candidates begin the research and dissertation phase. In some fields of study, this can be accomplished in a year or eighteen months, depending on the extent of the research.

Some Ph. D. programs require that applicants have already obtained a Master's degree, whereas other programs may admit highly qualified undergraduate students directly into their Ph. D. program. It is important to discuss your goals with the program coordinator for the program you are interested in pursuing so that you understand your options.

It is also important to understand the depth and rigor of a graduate program prior to committing to one. Generally, graduate programs are less directed that undergraduate programs, with more self-guided research and learning. For those pursuing research-based degrees, you will work closely with your faculty advisor to advance knowledge in your field. Read more about the differences between undergraduate and graduate school here.

Learn more about what to expect in graduate school.