Graduate Education


A master’s degree is designed to provide additional education or training in the student’s specialized branch of knowledge.

Graduate degrees are offered in many different fields, and there are two main types of programs: Academic and professional Master Programs- a person who finishes graduate school in the U.S. earns an M.A., M.S. or Ph.D. degree (Master of Arts, Master of Science or Doctorate of Philosophy). The Ph.D. is the highest scientific degree in the U.S. This degree usually requires at least three years of study and a dissertation defense. M.A. or M.S. degrees are awarded after two years of graduate studies.

Graduate degree programs are offered at several types of higher education institutions. Master’s degrees can be earned at some four-year colleges as well as at universities and institutions that offer graduate study only. Master’s degree programs generally take one or two years of full-time study to complete, but there are some that require three years of study.

Academic Masters: The Master of Arts (M.A.) and Master of Science (M.S.) degrees are usually awarded in the traditional arts, sciences, and humanities disciplines. The M.S. is also awarded in technical fields such as engineering and agriculture. Original research, research methodology, and field investigation are emphasized.

Professional Masters: These degree programs are designed to lead the student from the first degree to a particular profession. Professional master’s degrees are most often “terminal” master’s programs, meaning that they do not lead to doctoral programs. Such master’s degrees are often designated by specific descriptive titles, such as master of business administration (M.B.A.), master of social work (M.S.W.), master of education(M.Ed.), or master of fine arts (M.F.A.). Other subjects of professional master’s programs include journalism, international relations, architecture, urban planning, public administration (M.P.A.), and public policy (M.P.P.).


A doctoral degree is designed to train research scholars and future college and university faculty members. Receipt of a doctoral degree certifies that the student has demonstrated capacity as a trained research scholar in a specific discipline.

At the doctoral level, the Ph.D. (doctor of philosophy) is the most common degree awarded in academic disciplines. Other doctoral degrees are awarded primarily in professional fields, such as education (Ed.D. or Doctor of Education) and Business Administration (D.B.A. or Doctor of Business Administration). Doctoral programs involve advanced coursework, seminars, and the writing of a dissertation that describes the student’s own original research, completed under the supervision of a faculty adviser.

The Ph.D. degree is awarded to those students who complete an original piece of significant research, write a dissertation describing that research, and successfully defend their work before a panel of faculty members who specialize in the discipline. This may take an additional two to three years. To earn a Doctoral Degree may take anywhere from five to eight years beyond the bachelor’s degree and depends on the field of study.

Doctoral and professional degree programs are offered at universities and graduate-only institutions. Doctoral degrees usually require a minimum of three years beyond the bachelor’s degree.

No uniform procedure exists for graduate admissions in the U.S. The graduate admissions office usually shares the responsibility for admissions with the academic departments and most commonly, there is a graduate admissions committee for each department made up of faculty members and graduate admissions office staff. It is a good idea from the beginning of the process to network with both the graduate admissions office and your specific department of interest.

In addition to the match between the strength of your application and the admissions standard of a school or department, two other factors may influence your chances of admission. First, graduate student research may be highly specialized on the availability of a faculty member who shares a student’s interest, and on resources available in the department. A department may suggest that you be admitted because your research interests match well with a particular faculty member, or may advise against admission because faculty members and resources for your research are lacking. Secondly, since faculty members review applications to decide who should receive any available research or teaching assistantships, departments often look for applicants who can teach or do research in particular areas.

To be eligible to apply for a graduate level program, you should have completed, or be about to complete, a first academic or professional degree. Although all U.S. universities follow the same general guidelines, they may differ in the level at which they recognize a particular degree from your country.

Funding for graduate students (scholarships and grants) is merit-based. It is important for international students to understand that, although students’ needs may be taken into account, the main factors in awarding graduate financial aid are academic achievement and good prospects in the chosen field of study. The competition for funding is high, and international students have to compete with Americans. At the graduate level, the vast majority of funding is merit-based and comes in the form of graduate assistantships (research, teaching, or office work) and fellowships.