Graduate school usually refers to advanced education that takes place after earning a four-year or some form of bachelor of art or science degree. This term is used with great frequency in the US, but in other parts of the world an equivalent term could be postgraduate school or postgraduate education. There are many different types of studies that can take place at graduate school, and schools may either be standalone institutions or part of a larger college that serves an undergraduate population.
Many people head to graduate school to continue studies in the same work that interested them as undergraduates. They may strive to earn advanced degrees in this area of interest and these are often master or doctorate degrees. Usually the doctorate is the highest or terminal degree, and some people may undertake doctoral studies so that they can be most expert in a particular discipline. Not all people go to school to get a doctorate and some people can have great success in their profession with master’s work alone.
Masters and doctorate work are not the only possible things that can be earned in a graduate school. Some students go to medical or dental school, study law, or earn a specialist degree that allows them to take on certain high level careers. People might spend a year in graduate school that is designed to train elementary and secondary teachers, and essentially enter what is called a certificate program. Some of these programs are offered in conjunction with master’s degrees.
There are a lot of ways in which a graduate school may operate. It can be part of a larger university and students might even have some role as teachers to undergrads or as assistants to professors doing research. Some schools are called professional schools and they only exist to offer some form of graduate education, like law school. Graduate schools operate online and in many bricks and mortar configurations and for the person with a bachelor degree, there may be lots of ways to get into one.
In the traditional university-based graduate school, many programs are considered advanced studies, which mean that people applying to these programs need to show strong scholastic skills have already been acquired. This could demonstrated in a number of ways, and applications may ask for students to take and list standardized test scores for tests like the medical college admissions test (MCAT) or the graduate record examination test (GRE), which could include tests specific to subject and general tests. Students will usually also need strong grades and good recommendations from faculty in order to prove worth.
School standards may vary and some graduate programs are very competitive, while others have a more open approach. Chances are if the school is attached to a very well known college, it will much harder to get into a program. A student will have to demonstrate exceptional skills.
While many people study the same subjects in undergraduate and graduate school, some programs don’t require this. It might be easy to go from a history degree to a master’s program in marriage and family therapy, for instance. Sometimes students will be asked to take one or two basic courses so that a minimum level of knowledge is obtained first.
Other programs do not lend themselves well to students who haven’t studied the same thing at the undergraduate level. The history major, under most circumstances, will have a hard time convincing anyone to accept him into a chemistry PhD program.
Another thing that may vary about graduate school is the time it takes to complete it. Many master’s programs are finished in two years of full-time study, though if a thesis is required, a little more time might be needed. Most doctorate programs take a minimum of three years to complete, and more realistically people tend to be in school for at least four or five years. Training to be a doctor requires three years of school and a year internship, and that time can be significantly extended if people plan to specialize. Grad school to become a counselor or a social worker takes about two years, but then students have requirements of approximately 3000 hours of work prior to being able to get their licenses.