What Is a Graduate Degree? (Ultimate 2024 Guide)

According to recent reports, it is predicted that 2.4 million jobs in 2024 will require at least a graduate degree. This shows the increased demand for graduate degree holders in upcoming years.

So, if you are considering pursuing a graduate degree, let me tell you the median salary earned by the graduate degree holder is $108,316.

Worth it! Isn’t it?

In this article, I have provided a detailed guide to what exactly is a graduate degree, the types of graduate degrees, and the cost you will need to complete a higher degree.

Let’s get straight into it!

What is a Graduate Degree?

A graduate degree is a higher academic program you pursue after getting your bachelor’s degree.

Graduate degrees are typically more specialized than bachelor’s degrees, and they can lead to higher-paying jobs and more opportunities for advancement.

What is a Graduate Degree

Many students often enroll for graduate degrees to open various opportunities to get higher salaries, more jobs, or a step toward research. 

Three major types of graduate degrees allow you to specialize further in the subject.

Let’s now understand what are the types of graduate degrees.

Types of Graduate Degrees 

The most common graduate degree is a master’s degree. Let’s take a closer look.

1. Master’s degree 

Master’s degrees are the most common type of graduate degree. Depending on the program and your schedule, they typically take one to two years to complete. 

Master’s degrees are offered in a wide variety of fields, including arts and humanities, science and technology, and business.

Master’s degrees require students to take coursework and complete a thesis or a research project.

On average, a master’s degree holder earns $75,000 to $95,000 each year.

Did You Know? A typical master’s degree requires between 30 and 60 credit hours.

2. Professional Doctorate Degree

Professional degrees are designed to prepare students for specific careers, such as law, medicine, and dentistry. 

A professional degree takes up to four years to complete and often requires students to complete an internship or residency.

This degree also requires completing coursework, clinical rotations, and a capstone project.

3. Doctorate Degree

This degree is the highest level of academic degree, and they are typically pursued by students who want to become researchers or professors. 

Doctorate degrees typically take four to eight years to complete, and they require students to complete coursework, research, and a dissertation.

The doctorate degree holder typically earns an average salary of around $108,316 annually.

How Long it Takes to Get a Graduate Degree?

The duration of a graduate degree is majorly dependent on the type of your program. 

The time you require to complete a graduate program depends on the following factors:

  1. Type of degree that you want to pursue
  2. Desired subject area
  3. Type of institution

The majority of the master’s degree takes one or two years to complete for full-time students. In contrast to that, a Ph.D. degree takes around 6 years to complete.

Similarly, the professional doctorate degree requires core research and practice in the related field. This takes around 7 to 12 years to complete a professional doctorate degree (including undergraduate studies).

While for part-time students, a master’s degree usually takes longer than a full-time degree. It takes more than three years to pursue a master’s degree for part-time students. This depends on how many credits they enroll for each semester.

Similarly, for some intensive professional degrees like MD, it can take up to eight years to complete the degree.

Skills Gained in Graduate Degree Programs

Graduate degree programs can provide students with many skills, both hard as well as soft skills. 

Hard skills are specific to a particular field or discipline, while soft skills are more general and can be applied to a variety of jobs.

Following are some of the skills that you will gain with the help of graduate degree programs:

  • Advanced knowledge of a particular subject area
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Research skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Communication skills
  • Teamwork skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Writing and editing skills
  • Presentation skills
  • Technical skills specific to the field of study
  • Time management skills

In addition to these specific skills, graduate degree programs can also help students develop their professional networks and build their resumes.

Requirements of Graduate Degree 

The requirements for the graduate degree vary depending on the institution, subject, or if it is a culminating degree or not. 

The most common requirement for a graduate degree is an undergraduate degree in a related subject as a base.

Other than this, you need to follow the following requirements:

  • Most schools require an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher.
  • You have to complete the prerequisites before applying to the technical, specialized, or medical master’s degrees. For example, specific courses in intermediate accounting and auditing are required for an M.S. in Accounting.
  • Moreover, the GRE or GMAT score is required for many graduate programs. But if you meet the specific GPA criteria some programs might waive this requirement.
  • Other than this, you need documents like:
    • Your educational transcripts
    • Statement of purpose
    • Portfolio of your research if necessary
    • Academic or professional recommendations
    • Your resume, if needed

Bonus: Access comprehensive guides on crafting a compelling Statement of Purpose and effective Letter of Recommendation for Graduate School applications.

Cost of Graduate Degree 

The cost of a graduate degree depends on the program of study, the type of institution, and the school’s location.

In general, the graduate degrees are more expensive than the undergraduate degrees.

According to NCES data, the average total cost of a graduate program in the US is $65,134.  This includes tuition and fees, books and supplies, room and board, and other expenses. 

Cost of Graduate Degree 

Tuition and fees are the largest expenses associated with graduate school. The average cost of tuition and fees for a graduate degree at a public institution is $12,394 per year, while the average cost at a private institution is $26,621 per year.

Other than that, the cost required for the books and supplies for a graduate degree is $1,200 each year. 

Similarly, other expenses associated with graduate school include transportation, personal expenses, and professional development costs. The average cost of these expenses is $15,000 per year.

Benefits of a Graduate Degree

Pursuing a graduate degree not only benefits you with greater expertise but also helps you gain higher job opportunities.

1. Higher salaries: 

Graduate degree holders typically earn higher salaries than those with only a bachelor’s degree. 

As per the data from US BLS, the average weekly earnings for professionals with a master’s degree in 2021 were $1,490, compared to $1,300 for workers with a bachelor’s degree and $880 for workers with only a high school diploma.

2. More job opportunities:

A graduate degree can open up more job opportunities and lead to more advancement opportunities. According to a 2022 survey by the NACE, 92% of employers plan to hire new college graduates in 2023, and 63% of employers plan to hire graduate students.

3. Networking opportunities:

Graduate programs offer students the opportunity to network with other professionals in their field. This can lead to job opportunities, mentorship relationships, and research collaborations.

4. Greater expertise:

A graduate degree can help you develop greater expertise in your field of study. This can make you more competitive in the job market and lead to more rewarding and challenging work.

Related Reads:

Final Verdict

Earning a graduate degree is a valuable investment for your future. 

It can help you to achieve your career goals and gain more personal fulfillment.

So, if you are considering gaining a graduate degree, start researching the institute you want to enroll in, the cost and time you will need to invest, and possible career opportunities.

What are your thoughts on this? Let me know in the comment section below.


How much do graduate degree holders earn?

Typically, a graduate degree holder earns more than $65,000 each year.

How long it takes to earn a graduate degree?

Depending upon the type of graduate degree, it takes more than 1.5 years to 7 years to earn a graduate degree. A master’s degree usually takes 2 years to complete, while a Ph.D. or professional degree takes up to 5 to 6 years to complete.

What is the average cost of a graduate degree?

The average cost of a graduate degree varies according to various factors. According to the reports from NCES, the average total cost of a graduate program in the US is $65,134.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top