Differences between Graduate School and Undergraduate:

  1. Many more seminar type courses, especially at advanced level.

  2. More papers, projects and presentations; fewer tests.

  3. More research oriented approaches.

  4. Increased specialization of subject matter studies.

  5. More independent work requiring self-discipline.

  6. Less short-term feedback about how you are doing academically.

  7. Increased pressure to maintain high grades; generally B or above is the expected minimum.

Master's Degree (M.A. or M.S.)

Four typical types of programs:

  1. Coursework and thesis - A thesis is an independent research project which the student designs, carries out, writes and defends before a committee of graduate professors.

  2. Coursework and exams - Some programs give the student the option of not writing a thesis, but taking comprehensive exams instead.

  3. Coursework and internship - An internship is a supervised, experiential learning situation, usually on a part-time, voluntary basis.  The student may spend one or two semesters working in a setting compatible with his/her area of study to develop knowledge and skills in that area.

  4. Combination of the above.

Doctoral Degree (PhD)/Other Professional Degrees

Usual requirements include:

  1. Preliminary coursework.

  2. Some programs require a master’s thesis.

  3. A comprehensive examination covering required coursework which may be written and/or oral.

  4. Dissertation which is an original, independent research project.  The student usually presents the project to a faculty committee for approval and defends the completed project before the same committee.  Differs from a thesis in that it must be original, is usually more complex and in-depth, and must be judged to be a significant contribution to knowledge in the student’s field.

  5. Requirements for applied programs such as counseling, clinical psychology, nursing or social work may involve some practical experience.

  6. Some professions may require some licensing procedure, i.e. a bar exam or state license exam.