Is Grad School For You?
What is a graduate degree?
A graduate degree refers to an advanced level of education beyond the undergraduate degree that provides an advanced understanding of a specific topic, field, or discipline.
The learning environment in graduate education is drastically different from the experiences you may have encountered in your undergraduate studies.
Common characteristics of graduate education:
- Obtaining that builds on your undergraduate education
- Expectation to acquire and advanced analytical and interpretive
- Focus shifts from breadth, focusing on multiple aspects of a discipline, to depth, or area
- It is scholarly because it is concerned not simply with the acquisition of knowledge and skills, but with the of existing knowledge and the
There are two main levels of graduate programs: Master's and Ph.D.
Master's level programs require advanced-level thinking, where the goal is to advance the graduate student's subject knowledge and to develop the student's capacity for independent research.
A Ph.D. program shifts towards even further independence as the student continues their program. A requirement of the Ph.D. is to provide a substantial, original contribution to knowledge.
Graduate programs can be identified as follows:
- Terminal Master's degree: Master's degrees are considered terminal if the field does not offer a degree beyond the Master's.
- Postgraduate diploma (PGD): Can be earned after a Bachelor's degree to expand upon a student's field of knowledge. Is often used to ladder into a master's program.
- Doctoral degree: The highest level of academic degree in most fields. This term also captures the Philosophical Dotorate (PhD) and doctorate (e.g. EdD or DMus).
Programs can be: course-based, project-based, or thesis-based (research).
A course-based program results in acquiring advanced knowledge, skill, and experience to be proficient in one's field. These are common in professional degree-type programs, diplomas and certificates.
A project-based program requires students to complete coursework and a final project, common in Master's degrees.
A thesis-based program requires students to design, collect, analyze, and interpret research findings and communicate this new knowledge in the form of a thesis. The expectations of discovery are different between the Master's and the Ph.D. level.
The next element of a graduate degree important to consider is the program's discipline. A program discipline shapes and often provides a particular lens in how a researcher views the novel data in front of them.
Finishing grad school is a big deal. It takes years of commitment, hard work, long hours and dedication. It is good to have career goals and options in mind. It is a common misconception that you can't start applying for jobs until you have your degree in hand. Many employers welcome applicants who are still working on a degree. You are a 'fresh talent'. Here are a few tips:
- Leverage your grad school professional network
- Attend job fairs
- Start your search with websites like HigherEdJobs, GlassDoor, LinkedIn
- The job market is competitive - your first job out of grad school does not have to be your career
- Prepare and research for each opportunity
Talk to USask's Career Services Team. They are here to help.
Why do people enroll in a graduate degree program?
The motivators to pursue a graduate education vary by student. Some examples include:
- pursuing a specific career (e.g., Speech Pathology, Counselling, Nurse Practitioner, MBA) that requires a professional graduate level of study to advance;
- pursuing a career in research through academia or industry;
- desire to continue learning or gain experience in research;
- gain skills and experiences to support their overall development.
Career trajectory of graduate school
Want to learn more about graduate studies?
The decision to pursue a graduate education will have a big impact on your life. To help you in deciding if you want to pursue a graduate education, learn more about graduate education, and discover which program would be a good fit for you, there are different services available at the university you can approach:
- Explore potential career options
- Build skills in preparing for your career
- Develop a deeper understanding of yourself
- Learn about the skills you would gain from the program
- Explore what learning opportunities you would gain
- Discover potential career options possible from the program
- Learn more about the university and different programs available
- Receive support in how to apply and what is required of you