Why You Should Go to Graduate School
The Ph.D. Degree
The degree requirements for the Ph.D. degree vary between academic disciplines, departments, and institutions, the Ph.D. is a research degree awarded for demonstration of the ability to synthesize and communicate new knowledge in a specific field of study. Unlike the bachelor’s degree, the Ph.D. is not awarded in recognition of the completion of a specific program of coursework or study and/or completion of a period of residence in study at an academic institution though coursework and examinations are frequently required elements of the doctoral program. In fact, doctoral students typically spend the first year or two of their degree program taking courses, the purpose of which is to ensure that students have the requisite understanding of the theory and experiment that they will need in order to successfully perform independent research in their chosen field. Most institutions usually require candidates to demonstrate proficiency in these skills by completing a series of written and/or oral examinations that often include the identification of a significant research problem and an outline of a research proposal addressing that problem. Upon successful completion of these so-called “cumulative examinations” doctoral students spend three or more years exploring their research questions in the laboratory. When the degree candidate has synthesized a sizeable body of significant, new knowledge, they communicate this information in writing in the form of a dissertation and defend their work orally before a committee constituted from faculty from their department and/or university who share similar research interests and/or technical expertise.
The M.S. Degree
The masters degree is intermediate between a bachelor’s and the Ph.D. Completion of a masters degree usually takes two years. Some masters programs are entirely course-work based and others require completion of a masters thesis in addition to completion of advanced coursework. No matter the program, the first year usually involves completion of a wide range of advanced coursework intended to develop breadth and depth of knowledge in your field. Students studying for a masters degree usually take the same courses that doctoral students take. If a thesis is required, masters students usually begin work on their research during the spring or summer of their first year and continue this through the second year of the program.
You should apply for graduate study if you have:
- a strong undergraduate record in your major,
- a strong interest in and aptitude for independent research,
- a strong internal drive and motivation to succeed
- a temperament to work on complex, challenging problems, and
- high personal expectations for career opportunities and professional success