Graduate school differs from an undergraduate education in that it involves specialized study and a more narrowed focus. Many Middlebury alumni pursue advanced degrees, but only about 15 percent do so immediately after college. Most seniors work and explore their interests further before beginning graduate study. Graduate degrees can mean a significant commitment in time and resources, so you want to be ready to invest yourself in that degree.
Why pursue a graduate degree? In some careers, such as medicine, law, clinical psychology, or college/university teaching, it is a required qualification. In other career paths, such as business or public administration, it may be advantageous to your career goals.
Types of graduate degrees:
- Academic degrees (MA, MS, PhD): These are awarded in all liberal arts disciplines and typically involve original research. Master's programs are typically two years. Doctoral programs (PhD) are longer; time to degree may be five to seven years, depending on the field of study.
- Professional degrees: These have a more career-specific focus, often combining clinical or professional internships with classes. Examples include architecture (MArch), business (MBA), medicine (MD, DVM, DDS), law (JD), Education (MEd), Fine Arts (MFA), library science (MLS), social work (MSW), public administration (MPA), among others.
Deciding if and when to apply requires careful consideration and planning. Here are some suggestions to help you begin the process of making an educated decision:
- Evaluate your interests and goals and be clear about your reasons for pursuing a particular degree. Pursuing a graduate or professional program without a specific outcome in mind can be a costly decision that does not yield benefits. Graduate school should not be thought of as the option to take simply because you are unsure of what else to do; and remember, graduate school does not allow for the type of exploring that takes place in an undergraduate liberal arts curriculum.
- Identify the type of work you would like to do when you have completed your degree, and whether or not this degree helps you in that career path.
- Determine if you have the financial resources to cover the cost of graduate school and investigate alternative sources of funding such as financial aid, fellowships, and assistantships.
- Talk with your faculty adviser and others who specialize in your areas of interest to determine whether or not graduate school is a good option for you at this time.