Graduate school constitutes an advanced program of study focused on a particular academic discipline or profession. Traditionally, graduate school has been "academic" (centered on generating original research in a particular discipline), but it may be "professional" (centered on developing skills and knowledge for a specific profession), or a combination of both.
How is Graduate School Different from Undergraduate Education?
Compared to undergraduate studies, graduate school is a more concentrated course of study and expectations regarding the quality and quantity of your academic work are greater. Graduate programs also entail:
What Graduate Degrees are available?
- focused studies in a specific discipline with fewer elective possibilities
- rigorous evaluation of your work by professors and peers
- smaller classes with much student interaction
- work experience via internships, teaching, or research
- production of original research is often required
Graduate degrees are available in almost any subject and come in three levels-Master, Specialist, and Doctorate. Depending on the graduate school program and degree level you desire, your program requirements and length will vary.
- Specialist degrees are usually earned in addition to a master's degree and will require additional coursework, training, or internship experience. This type of degree usually prepares students for professional certification or licensing requirements (e.g., Ed.S. for school principal or credential for becoming a teacher).
- Master's degrees are offered in many fields of study. Some are designed to lead to a doctoral degree while others are the "terminal" degree for a profession (e.g., Master of Library Science; Master of Business Administration). For full-time students, completing a master's degree usually takes 2 years.
- Doctoral degrees are the highest degrees possible. They usually require the creation of new knowledge via independent research - be it basic or applied. Including the time it takes to write and defend a dissertation, this degree may take anywhere from 5-7 years to complete.
In some disciplines, having a graduate degree is a necessity for getting a "career" job. That does not mean you should dive right in immediately after completing your undergrad degree. Just make sure you have a good reason for going. Some of the reasons below are more valid than others, but they are all common reasons for which people attend grad schools.
1. Greater earning power. This is a popular reason why people go to grad school. However, it should not be the only reason, since getting a grad degree is a very serious commitment.
2. Advance your career. A grad degree can open up a wider array of career opportunities: in psychology, social work, healthcare, for example.
3. Career change. Many people are finding their current careers unrewarding. An advanced degree can help transition to another career—whether out of desire or necessity.
4. Enhance your education. Graduate schools can provide opportunities to explore theories you may have about a topic.
5. Get community recognition. If you explore your theories and discover something new, you will get recognition for it.
6. Get international recognition. Carry that recognition further. If your discovery is truly groundbreaking, you may receive international recognition, not to mention awards. Who knows? Maybe you have a Nobel prize within you.
7. Get research opportunities. Even if you do not get to explore your own theories, there are other opportunities to participate in funded research.
8. Upgrade your education. Your knowledge of your field is outdated and you find it difficult to keep up with advancements without following up and getting an advanced degree.
9. Enjoy travel opportunities. Some programs, such as archaeology, require studying abroad for research purposes. For those who like to travel, this is a bonus.
10. Find teaching opportunities. Not everyone is suited to teaching, but for those who are, getting a PhD can lead to a tenured position at a university or college, with a nice salary, a teaching or research assistant to help with workload, consulting opportunities (partly shared with your department), and a nice pension upon retirement.
11. Work on advanced projects. For example, the computer scientists who delved early into computer graphics set the standards for much of the CGI technology used in movies today.
12. Access to advanced equipment and tools. In a similar vein, entering a grad program could mean having access to advanced equipment on campus—such as the astronomy lab, supercomputers, rare books, and even great minds.
13. Higher potential for future promotion. While obtaining a graduate degree does not necessarily always lead to a high-paying job right away, it can open up opportunities for future promotions.
14. Not being stuck behind a desk. If you have the necessary education to qualify for a high-ranking position in your chosen industry, it means that you often have the option of not sitting behind a desk all day. You might go meet colleagues or clients, travel, or even play golf in the afternoon on a nice day.
15. Employer incentives. Some large corporations have funds set aside that will pay partial or full fees for qualified employees.
16. Be part of a chain of knowledge. This doesn't tickle everyone's fancy, but just imagine that the knowledge handed to you by your professor came from another professor who learned it from someone who learned it from a famous scientist or philosopher. You become part of a chain of knowledge.
17. Because you want to. To learn, to think critically, to accept the academic challenge.
18. To stand out. By attending grad school and completing a degree, you join an elite segment of the population.
19. Free tuition. In some cases, grad schools might not only waive your tuition, but also give you a stipend for living expenses in return for taking on the work of a teaching assistant or research assistant.
20. Realization of interest. Not everyone realizes during undergraduate studies that they are suited for grad studies. Some of your professors might recommend it to you and offer to supervise—with tuition waived and a research assistant position to cover expenses.
Getting an advanced degree can create many opportunities. In fact, recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics
and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
illustrates how education pays in higher earnings and lower unemployment rates.
Whether you are planning to go to graduate school or business school — or just exploring your options — you are taking an important step toward your future. It is a smart move to show schools your best and with the GRE General Test, you can!
The GRE General Test helps you do your best on test day. With the GRE General Test, you decide which scores to send to schools. If you feel you didn't do your best on test day, that's okay. You can retake the test and then send only the scores you want schools to see. It's all part of the ScoreSelect® option, only available with GRE tests.
Plus, the GRE General Test is the only admissions test for graduate or business school that lets you skip questions within a section, go back and change answers, and have control to tackle the questions within a section you want to answer first.
The GRE General Test features question types that closely reflect the kind of thinking you'll do in graduate or business school.
— Measures your ability to analyze and evaluate written material and synthesize information obtained from it, analyze relationships among component parts of sentences and recognize relationships among words and concepts.
— Measures problem-solving ability using basic concepts of arithmetic, algebra, geometry and data analysis.
— Measures critical thinking and analytical writing skills, specifically your ability to articulate and support complex ideas clearly and effectively.
The GRE® General Test features question types that closely reflect the kind of thinking you’ll do — and the skills you need to succeed — in today's demanding graduate and business school programs. The test-taker friendly design lets you skip questions within a section, go back and change answers and have the flexibility to choose which questions within a section you want to answer first. Get a look at the structure of the computer-delivered or paper-delivered GRE General Test.
The GRE General Test measures your verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking and analytical writing skills — skills that have been developed over a long period of time and are not related to a specific field of study but are important for all. Here's a look at content covered in the three test sections — Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning and Analytical Writing.
The Verbal Reasoning section measures your ability to:
- analyze and draw conclusions from discourse; reason from incomplete data; identify author's assumptions and/or perspective; understand multiple levels of meaning, such as literal, figurative and author's intent
- select important points; distinguish major from minor or relevant points; summarize text; understand the structure of a text
- understand the meanings of words, sentences, and entire texts; understand relationships among words and among concepts
Get a quick view of the Verbal Reasoning question types
Take a closer look at the Verbal Reasoning section
, including sample questions with explanations, tips and more.
The Quantitative Reasoning section measures your ability to:
- understand, interpret and analyze quantitative information
- solve problems using mathematical models
- apply basic skills and elementary concepts of arithmetic, algebra, geometry and data analysis
The Quantitative Reasoning section includes an on-screen calculator. If you are taking the paper-delivered test, a calculator will be provided at the test center.
Get a quick view of the Quantitative Reasoning question types
Take a closer look at the Quantitative Reasoning section
, including sample questions with explanations, tips and more.
The Analytical Writing section measures your ability to:
- articulate complex ideas clearly and effectively
- support ideas with relevant reasons and examples
- examine claims and accompanying evidence
- sustain a well-focused, coherent discussion
- control the elements of standard written English
The Analytical Writing section requires you to provide focused responses based on the tasks presented, so you can accurately demonstrate your skill in directly responding to a task.
Get a quick view of the Analytical Writing question types
Take a closer look at the Analytical Writing section
, including sample questions, scored sample essay responses, rather commentary, tips and more.
Modified Versions of Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning Questions
The test you take may include questions that are modified versions of published questions or of questions you have already seen on the test. Some modifications are substantial; others are less apparent.
Even if a question appears to be similar to a question you have already seen, it may, in fact, be different and have a different answer. Pay careful attention to the wording of each question.