Advanced Degree Planning

Applying to Graduate School

The Basic Questions

What is the Ph.D?

Obtaining your Ph.D. in any field consists mainly in learning how to do research. The main emphasis in graduate school is knowledge production. This entails much research and writing, completing a master’s thesis and a dissertation, passing area exams, and publishing. The goal of most doctoral students is to become a professor; for others, it is to do research in industry, government, or another type organization.

  • Who should go? People who love research, scholarship, and teaching for their own sake and for the difference that these can sometimes make in the world.
  • Who should NOT go? Graduate school is not for everyone. People who simply want more undergraduate courses should not go because it is not about consuming knowledge but about contributing to the discipline. It is also not for people who are in a hurry to get a real job. Nor for people who are trying to avoid getting a job.
  • How long does it take? Earning a Ph.D. varies in terms of length of time to complete. Typically, programs in the U.S. take from five to eight years of study and research, organized by a single department or interdisciplinary program at a university, which culminates in a doctoral degree.
  • How much does it cost? The cost of graduate and/or professional school varies; so also does the type of funding. Financial support takes many forms: scholarships, fellowships, assistantships, loans, etc. Typically, students pursuing graduate studies in Sociology and other social sciences not only have all of their TUITION WAIVED, but they also receive a graduate assistantship THAT PAYS $15K-25K per year!

What is the Master's Degree?

A master's degree is a type of graduate degree, earned after completion of an undergraduate degree. Master’s degrees typically require 30 credits of coursework, which takes approximately 2 years of full time study, but longer if done part-time. Though most master’s degrees are 2 years, there are some that require only 1 year of full-time study, and others that require three years. Comprehensive exams and a thesis are required in some master’s degree programs. And in some master’s programs, internships and other applied professional experiences in the field of study are required.

  • Who should go? Those who want to practice a profession in which a master’s degree is required. There are also many other reasons, such as to increase earning potential, qualify for a promotion, assume more responsibility or greater autonomy in a job, distinguish oneself, increase knowledge and skills in a field, expand personal potential, make a career shift, or establish competency in research before applying to a Ph.D. program.

See "Applying to Graduate School" - for more details on:

  • Deciding what kind of degree is right for you
  • Trying your hand at research
  • Choosing the appropriate school or program
  • Writing statements of purpose
  • Securing letters of recommendation
  • Understanding rating scales that gauge your potential for graduate studies

For some ideas on how to pay for graduate school, click here.


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