WHAT IS GRADUATE STUDIES?

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Text taken from the Canadian Association for Graduate Studies’ Graduate Studies: A Practical Guide.

Graduate schools offer master’s programs (usually one or two years of full-time study following an undergraduate degree) and doctoral programs (approximately four to six additional years of study that may follow a master’s degree).

The learning environment in graduate school is markedly different from that of the undergraduate level. It has been characterized as advanced, focused and scientific in nature:

It is advanced because it builds on undergraduate education.
It is focused because in graduate study the emphasis is on depth.
It is scientific, because it is not only about acquiring knowledge and skills, but also about critically analyzing existing knowledge and creating new knowledge. Graduate students are expected to develop and apply advanced analytical and interpretive skills, as well as understand and/or produce research.
While expectations of students enrolled in graduate programs may vary, it must be recognized that graduate study is a very different educational experience than undergraduate study. Scientific discovery is rarely a linear process, and it is generally not possible to lead research directly to the desired outcome. Discovery is a combination of insight, effort, curiosity, and luck.

A student gives a classroom presentation at Queen’s University.
A classroom presentation at Queen`s University

GRADUATE PROGRAMS CAN BE BROADLY CLASSIFIED INTO THREE CATEGORIES:
Professional programs – provide specialized skills and qualifications for a particular profession (such as speech-language pathology or MBA programs).
Terminal Programs – Master’s and doctoral degrees are earned separately. Students enroll in the doctoral program after first earning their master’s degree.
Non-Terminal Programs – The master’s program leads directly to the doctoral program with no option to stop after the master’s degree. You can enroll directly after undergraduate studies.
In addition, your degree can be:
Course-based – a combination of required courses, internships, qualifying exams, independent research, or a capstone or project course.
Thesis-based – a combination of required courses and a thesis project under the supervision of a thesis advisor.
Thesis-based master’s programs offer students the opportunity to explore the possibility of pursuing a career in research. The normal time frame for completion of this degree is two years, although the completion of a high-quality thesis may require more time.

Students are expected to demonstrate enthusiasm and dedication to the goals that define their research project, which may mean working on their project beyond the normal work week. In research, the end result is almost always determined by the student’s effort and commitment to the project. As a reward, the student has the opportunity to examine research questions and make discoveries in important and diverse areas that aim to reduce human suffering and improve our understanding of the world.

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