Graduate Degrees and Program Examples

Questions to consider as you explore degree and program types:

  • Why am I interested in going to graduate school?
  • Will pursuing graduate education help advance my career?
  • Why are the pros and cons of pursuing a specific program?
  • Who are some people who completed a similar program and how did they benefit?
  • You can find alumnae by institution(s) attended and degree type by searching The Wellesley Hive.
  • Will a graduate program provide me with applicable licensure or certifications necessary to begin or advance my career?
  • Will graduate school provide me with tools, connections, and information needed to pursue a career in my area of interest?
  • Will I get access to networks of people and resources by attending a graduate program?
  • Is it a necessary step to begin my career? In other words, am I unable to start this career without a graduate degree?
  • Is it a necessary step to advance my career?  In other words, am I unable to take the next step until I have a graduate degree?
  • Can I afford and manage the practical aspects of spending the time, money, and energy to devote to grad school?
  • Have I done enough research to know which programs are a strong fit for my goals?


Certificate & Post-Baccalaureate Programs

Certificate and post-baccalaureate (or post bac) are grouped together in this resource because they are similar in a few ways. Depending on the program, it may be hard to discern the difference as language is not always uniform.

It is important to remember:

  • Neither are degree granting, which may limit funding opportunities.
  • Requirements for admission and duration can vary greatly across industry and academic subject, but generally plan on a year or more.

Certificate Programs

Overview: Certificate programs can vary greatly in duration, cost, competitiveness and necessity. They are not degree granting, meaning you may learn specific knowledge and skills but will not have an additional degree after completion. Some programs are designed to be completed before completion of a master’s program, while others are designed to be completed after a master's degree. Additionally, there are programs with no connection to getting a master’s degree. Some programs may also be tied to a certification exam.

Duration: Will vary based on industry, content and institution offering the certificate program.

Cost: Funding is generally limited because you are not earning a degree. In some instances your employer may pay for part or all of a certificate program. Cost is highly dependent on the institution and content covered.

Special Considerations: It is important to note that certificates are not the same as a degree. This does not mean certificate programs are not worth pursuing, but just be sure to closely review the skills and content covered to make sure it is worth your valuable time and money.  Work closely with your advisors and mentors to help make a decision. Below are some examples of a few valuable certificate programs across industries.

Examples: The programs below are not a comprehensive.  

Overview: The term post-baccalaureate (or post bac) can refer to any educational program you complete after graduating from Wellesley. For the sake of this resource we are narrowly defining post-bac programs as non-degree granting programs that prepare you for career changes, further developing skills or preparing you for further graduate education. Post bac programs are a great way to complete prerequisites if you are changing careers, enhance your academic record, or explore your academic interests.

Duration: They generally last a year or longer and can be very formally structured or a loosely associated selection or courses at a specific institution. It is important to note that post bac programs are not degree granting.

Cost: Funding may be limited and will vary greatly by institution, industry and purpose of the program. Financial aid may be limited because they are not degree granting programs.

Special Considerations: Attending a post bac program at a specific school will not guarantee entry into a given program.


  • Technology, Engineering, & Physical Sciences
    • Systems Engineering, University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Credits earned  can be transferred to some of their Master of Science programs.
  • Health, Public Health, & Life Sciences
  • Arts, Marketing, & Communications
    • In advertising, design, and studio art, post bac opportunities are focused on portfolio development - for job search, technical skill training, or graduate school admission.
  • Education, Nonprofit, & Human Services
    • Licensure Only: English as a Second Language (PreK-6) — approved by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for Initial Teacher Licensure in English as Second Language (PreK-6)
    • Not technically a certificate program, but aligns for a specific licensure requirement
    • For Boston, this additional level of licensure makes one more competitive for public school jobs

Master’s Programs (MA, MS, MBA, MFA, MEd, etc.)

Overview: Master’s degrees are the first graduate-level degree in the American educational system. Some programs may require a few years of experience in your field before you can apply because they help you develop advanced skills or even prepare you for certification or licensure exams.  Others may take a more generalist approach and prepare you to be an advanced consumer of information in your field.

Duration: For general planning, allow 1-3 years. Duration can vary greatly depending on the industry, academic area, structure of the program, and full or part time status.

Cost: Funding is generally limited but this can vary substantially by field and program. In some cases, your employer may be willing to fund some, or all, of your program.

Special Considerations: Programs may include some research and culminate in a capstone project or thesis. In some cases  they are a “mid point” between bachelor's and doctoral degrees and in others you cannot apply directly to the master's version of a PhD Program.



Doctoral Degrees

The distinction between types of doctoral degrees can be separated into two broad categories: professional and research degrees. In some cases the difference between the two is very clear, sometimes so subtle it may seem non existent. Professional doctorates focus on the specific content and competencies to prepare you to enter a profession or continue on as an advanced practitioner. They are often, but not always, tied to licensure. Below are examples of two programs.

Professional Degree
Erin wants to be work as a pediatrician in her local children's hospital. In order to meet her goal, Erin will need to earn a professional degree. In this case it will be medical school to earn her MD or DO.

Research Degree
Olivia is interested in working as a researcher in an educational policy center in her home state. She is particularly interested in examining teacher effectiveness and performance based compensation programs. Olivia can approach this through an number of lenses but will need to eventually earn a PhD from a research university. Because of her quantitative interests in this area she has decided to pursue a PhD in economics.

Professional Doctoral Degrees

Overview: Professional doctorates are designed for those who intend to practice in a given field through a focus on the specific content and competencies to prepare for licensure in the profession. Although you will earn a doctorate there is generally not a separate, independent research project as is required with a research doctorate.

Duration: Can last from 2-5 years (or more) and may require specific prerequisite coursework and degree(s) before enrolling.  

Cost: Will vary greatly by program type and industry. Some degrees in this area allow for loan forgiveness or repayment based on where and how you practice after completion of the program.

Special Considerations: After completion you will be prepared to begin your career in the field and pursue advanced study. Funding will vary by program type and industry.


  • Technology, Engineering, & Physical Sciences
    • Plastics Engineering, Doctor of Engineering (D.Eng./D.E.Sc./D.E.S.) UMass Lowell. This program requires applicants to hold B.S. degree in engineering or science. The curriculum has a management component that is not required for the Ph.D. and fewer technical courses.
  • Government, International Affairs, & Law
  • Health, Public Health, & Life Sciences
    • Doctor of Nursing Practice, Duke University School of Nursing. The curriculum has a focus on practice, rather than research. Teaching experience is not a requirement of the program but there is a minimum number of clinical hours expected to be completed as part of the scholarly project.
  • Education, Nonprofit, & Human Services
    • Doctor of Education K-12 educational leadership & Policy (Ed.D.), Vanderbilt University. The program is designed for mid-career professionals and prepares students for leadership in education and policy related settings.

Research Doctoral Degrees

Overview: Research doctoral degrees are designed with the intention to pursue research in a given field. Rather than a licensure exam, research doctoral programs require completion of comprehensive exams and defense of an independent research project, the dissertation. These programs will prepare you to pursue an academic or research based career.

Duration: Cand can last anywhere from 4-7 years. The length of the program will be dictated by the field of study, institution, and even the funding source(s).

Cost: You may have heard that PhD programs are fully funded. There is some truth to this but it depends greatly on the institution, academic focus, program, and related funding sources. The funding structure should be clearly defined before accepting any offers of admission.

Special Considerations: In some industries, there is a very clear limit to what types of positions you can hold without a PhD. In addition to the PhD there are a number of other research based doctoral degrees available in the US and abroad. Consult closely with your advisors, mentors, faculty, and post-docs.


  • Technology, Engineering, & Physical Sciences
    • Plastics Engineering, Doctor of Engineering (D.Eng./D.E.Sc./D.E.S.) UMass Lowell. This program requires applicants to hold B.S. degree in engineering or science. The curriculum has more technical courses and no management component.
  • Government, International Affairs, & Law
    • Ph.D. in Public Policy, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan. In addition to coursework in public policy, the curriculum includes courses in economics, political sciences, and sociology. There is also a clear funding structure for admitted students.
    • Doctor of Juridical Science/Doctor of the Science of Law (J.S.D./S.J.D.); Columbia Law School. Applicants are required to hold a Juris Doctor (JD). The J.S.D. Degree is awarded to persons who have completed an approved program of study, research and writing with distinction. To earn the degree, candidates are required to submit a dissertation and to pass an oral defense of the dissertation within six years of enrollment in the program. The dissertation can take the form of a unified work or a set of three articles with a unifying essay. Doctoral candidates are provided workspace at the Law School during their period of residence at Columbia.
  • Health, Public Health, & Life Sciences
  • Education, Nonprofit, & Human Services
    • Leadership and Policy Studies with a specialization in K-12 Educational Leadership and Policy (PhD), Peabody College of Education and Human Development, Vanderbilt University. Also has a track in Higher Education.
    • Counselor Education (PhD), University of Florida College of Education.


Dual Degree Programs

Overview: This is a very broadly defined track, as it simply means enrollment in two graduate programs, usually concurrently. These program can be a great option if your career and academic interests span multiple industries or academic disciplines.

Duration:  Will vary by program, academic area, and industry.

Cost: Will vary by program, academic area, and industry.

Special Considerations: Some programs are very formal arrangements with a set curriculum, requiring one application with multiple essays or statements. Other programs will require you, the applicant, to apply to each program separately and coordinate the curriculum between departments or schools. Pay careful attention to deadlines and details when applying. Most programs require acceptance to both programs separately. Work closely with your Career Advisor, Mentor, and academic advisor to craft an application plan.