Master's degrees follow a bachelor's degree and usually require two additional years of study if you go to school full-time. For some fields of study such as business and law, a master's degree is a professional degree, meaning most graduates immediately enter the workforce equipped with the necessary knowledge. In other fields, a master's degree is not viewed as a terminal (or final) degree and is usually a stepping stone to a doctorate degree, such as a Ph.D. in Psychology or Economics.
If you're considering continuing your education after a bachelor's degree, check out federal statistics on pathways after a bachelor's degree. You'll see what the salary pay-off will be from earning a master's or doctorate degree in your major.
The time to earn a doctorate degree varies greatly by program and by the student's motivation. Most doctorate students begin by taking classes, but end their studies by writing a dissertation or participating in a residency program. Many fields, such as history or English, require a dissertation--lengthy, original research that defends a student's stance on the subject. A dissertation can take two or more years. A residency allows a student to practice their skills in a controlled setting. For example, residencies for medical doctors are three or more years and take place in a hospital.
Questions to Ask
Ask yourself these questions if you're considering continuing your education after a bachelor's degree.
- Are you ready to work? Even if you're confident that you want to earn a graduate degree, you may need to work first, and not just for financial reasons. Many programs -- including most MBA (master's of business administration) programs and many law schools -- require or prefer that applicants have valuable work experience before they apply.
- What are your long-term goals, both personal and professional? How will graduate school affect them?
- What is motivating your desire to attend graduate school? It might not be a wise move if you're unsure of your career path or are just trying to avoid full-time employment.
- How certain are you that you've chosen a career path that is right for you? Would a full-time job prior to graduate school help you make sure your decision is a good one?
- How do your personal relationships and commitments fit into your grad school plans?
- Do you need a break from school, or are you prepared—mentally, physically and financially—to earn another college degree?
- How do you plan to pay for graduate school? Should you consider working first to save money—and perhaps being able to take advantage of employer tuition plans? Don't forget that you may earn scholarships or grants, however.
- Do your grades show you're prepared for the challenge? If you've struggled in school, the added intensity of graduate school may not be for you, or the timing may not be right.
Ask an Adviser
While you're considering these questions, make an appointment to speak with an academic adviser. Talking about your plans and graduate school ambitions may help you clarify your goals.
Find the Right Fit
Search Indiana colleges to see master's and doctorate degree programs that are a good fit for you.