Other Doctorate & Master’s Programs
Degree: Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), Master of Arts (MA), or Master of Science (MS); varies
Test: GRE; varies
Class time: Up to 7 years
Attendees you may know: Sigourney Weaver (Master of Fine Arts), Condoleezza Rice (MA, Ph.D. in political science), your college professors!
What these programs are like: You’ve already seen the words “doctor” and “master,” but the aforementioned descriptions cover only the most common professional degrees. In fact, doctorate and master’s programs exist for countless other subjects, all of which can be incredibly valuable. “Graduate school involves much more focus on a targeted area,” says Ms. Carol Spector, director of Career Services at Emerson College. “You do not need to take the general requirements of an undergrad degree. It also allows you to conduct more research or perhaps gain more samples of work for a portfolio.”
Dr. Peck has valuable insight into doctoral programs, as well; she doesn’t only have an MBA, but also a Ph.D (and Superwoman status). “My doctoral program was an all-consuming, year-round endeavor,” shares Dr. Peck. “Doctoral students took classes for two years but were expected to help faculty with research and begin their own research by the end of the first year. About half the students in my cohort completed their degree requirements— classes, field exams, dissertation proposal defense and dissertation writing and defense—in four years. The other half took five years.” Master’s programs may not take as long, but are similar in structure and are characterized by a focus on one particular subject.
What you can do with these degrees: Graduate-level work in a specific area can qualify students to do more in-depth work in any number of ways, including teaching and research. “My reason for getting the doctorate was to allow me to teach; this is not the reason most people enter doctoral programs. The ‘usual’ reason is a desire to do research,” says Dr. Peck. This disparity between her reasoning and her peers’ had no effect on her happiness and career success afterward, though: “I have been at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio for nearly 20 years,” she says. “I spent six years as the MBA director, but the rest of the time, I have been focused on teaching both undergraduate business students and MBA students. I still love teaching and I am still glad that I followed the path I followed.”
How to prepare: Before pursuing higher education in any one field, Spector advises that students “first consider whether they need an advanced degree for the career they are seeking. Then, it is important to look at the courses and the professors in the program areas, perhaps review their research to see if this is what they are interested in pursuing.” As for getting a one-up in admissions beyond the basic academic qualifications, says Spector, a graduate school applicant “may want to see if she can do an interview for the admissions process. It may allow them to make a more personal connection with admissions.” Finally, Spector is an advocate of spending a few gap years between college and graduate school: “It is important to know why you want to go to graduate school, before jumping in too quickly. Sometimes, it can be very helpful to experience the workplace first.”