When considering graduate school, whether it be at a traditional college campus or at one of the many accredited online universities offering graduate degree programs, something that crosses the minds of many prospective students is how far to go. Should you earn a master’s degree, or go all the way and earn a doctorate? Much of this depends on your career path, since there are many careers requiring a doctorate degree, but also many where a master’s degree if sufficient. Much of your decision also depends on the amount of time and money you want to dedicate to your education, since earning a doctorate degree can take longer to earn and cost more money than a master’s. Knowing more about each degree may help you make your decision.
A master’s degree is one level above a bachelor’s degree, which most online accredited universities require you to hold to be accepted into a master’s degree program. The average number of graduate credits required for a master’s degree is usually between 30 and 35, though some programs may require more. Once enrolled in a program, a full-time student can typically earn their master’s degree in two or three years, depending on the program and the institution. Some of the best online universities offer accelerated master’s degree programs, including online MBA programs, which can be completed in as little as 12 to 18 months, depending on the program. However, an accelerated program will require you to work at a faster pace, since you’ll be covering the same amount of material in half the time.
A master’s degree program will consist of advanced-level courses. This can include courses that expand on topics you learned while earning your undergraduate degree, as well as courses that introduce and delve into new topics and subjects. Due to the high level of understanding gained through a master’s degree program, graduates are often sought out by employers and able to advance in their current careers. Also, many careers require you to have at least a master’s degree. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has compiled a list of careers requiring a master’s degree, which includes working as an urban planner, post-secondary administrator, and various areas of therapy and counseling.
The highest academic degree you can earn is a doctorate. Fortunately for those who cannot devote their time to a strict classroom schedule required by many traditional, campus-based programs, many of the top ranked online universities offer doctorate degrees that can be earned entirely online without a designated “class time.” Most programs require you to have already earned either a bachelor’s or master’s degree, and many also require you to have a certain amount of professional experience. The amount of time it takes to earn a doctoral degree varies greatly, ranging anywhere from two to 10 years, depending on your major and the program. The curriculum is often very challenging, consisting of the most advanced courses pertaining to your area of study. In addition to this, most doctorate degree programs require you to write and successfully defend a doctoral dissertation prior to graduation.
Earning a doctorate degree will give you extensive knowledge of your area of study, having thoroughly covered every topic and issue pertaining to it. While a doctoral degree can be used to advance your current career, there are several careers that actually require you to have a doctorate degree to even join. According to the BLS’ list of careers requiring doctorate degrees, veterinarians, chiropractors, lawyers, and post-secondary teachers at many of the country’s major universities are just a few of the professionals who must have a doctorate degree to work. There is also a list of careers requiring an internship/residency in addition to a doctorate degree, including physicians, surgeons, dentists, and podiatrists.