Community College to Grad School: 5 Things Every Student Should Know About Graduate Degrees

by Rachel Conway


Are you currently a community college student? Is graduate school part of your plan for the future? Whether you’re looking for graduate schools in Hawaii or graduate schools in Chicago, it’s important to understand the basics of the process. By understanding your goals and objectives, you’ll be able to plan ahead and ensure that you’re accepted to the graduate school of your choice. Here are some key things to think about on your journey from your associates or bachelor’s degree to your master’s.

Academic Degrees

Did you know there are actually two major types of graduate degrees? Depending on what you are looking for, you can choose to pursue either an academic degree or a professional degree. There are key differences between the two. Academic degrees usually focus on a specific subject such as political science, biology, sociology, or psychology. Academic degrees are usually more general, which will allows you to pursue a wide range of career options. It also prepares you for more advanced education such as a doctorate degree in your field of study.

Professional Degrees

Professional degrees are specialized and focus on skills needed to enter the workforce. Some examples of professional degrees include Masters of Education (M.Ed.), Masters of Public Policy (M.P.P.), or Masters of Business Administration (M.B.A.) Usually these degrees are designed with a very specific track in mind that will equip you for a career in the future. If you know exactly what you want to do, a professional degree may be the best fit for you.

Combined Degrees

A growing trend in higher education is combined degree programs. Many students are choosing to pursue combined degrees because it allows them to pursue multiple interests. Others feel that a combined degree will give them an advantage when they apply for jobs. Some universities offer combined academic and professional degrees. For example, let’s say you are interested in both the fields of Psychology and Education. There are educational institutions out there that will work with you to develop a customized program so you can pursue both a Masters of Education and a Master of Arts in Psychology. Combined degree programs are often intense, and involve more coursework than a typical professional or academic degree. However, they can be a great way to expand your education while be efficient with both your budget and your time.

Program requirements

Each graduate degree program has different requirements for coursework. Typically Masters Programs are between two and three years long, but this varies based on the subject of your choice. Most graduate programs require an undergraduate degree from an accredited field. Programs themselves feature both classroom hours and written requirements such as a final thesis or project.

If you choose to work towards your professional degree, chances are you will be required to do a practicum. Practicums give you real world experience in your field. For example, this may mean student teaching if you are working towards a Masters of Education or an internship if you are working towards a Masters in Library Science. Do your research and learn about program requirements before you apply so that you can make the right decision for your needs.

Choosing the right school

Look at your graduate degree as an investment. Be sure to keep in mind that there are both good investments and poor ones. Your graduate degree will be a good investment if you choose a solid program that’s aligned with your learning and employment goals. To ensure that you are choosing the right program, consider the following points. Do you really want to work in this field? Is this particular subject your passion, or just something that is intriguing to you? Graduate degrees are expensive, so it is important to consider whether the subject you are pursuing is something that really lights your fire. Second, are the program requirements a good fit for you?

Some fields have more flexibility than others. If the program you are looking at is an intense two-year commitment, but you’re working full time, that’s a serious consideration. Third, where is the school located? Do you want to live there? Finally, is the program accredited in your field. Depending on what you’re studying, this may be critical to future licensing or certification.

If you are currently enrolled in community college and are planning to go to grad school, there are many things to consider as your plan your path forward. By assessing your career goals, your lifestyle plans, and what you want to get out of a program, you’ll be able to select the degree that’s right for you. By starting your plans during your undergraduate education, you can choose classes, participate in programs, and pursue internships that will make you a strong candidate for top schools of your choice in the years ahead.

About the author

Elizabeth Alton is a freelance business and technology writer. She covers trends related to small business, entrepreneurs, and the evolving digital landscape. Her work has been published by The Huffington Post, USA Today, The Daily Muse, Better Homes and Gardens, and PolicyMic. Connect with Elizabeth on Google+. When she’s not writing you can find her covering Olivet Nazarene Graduate Program.

 Photo Credit

This post was written by Rachel Conway

Rachel Conway is a staff editor at CCTS. She transferred from community college to Cornell University and enjoys helping students with this community college guide.

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