Differences between graduate degrees

There are literally THOUSANDS of graduate programs across the US and abroad.  Programs vary by institution and within specific fields.  Therefore, it’s essential to carefully research and consider the diverse programs and curriculum to determine which is the best fit for your academic and career goals.

Make your decision based on your personal and career goals combined with  the education level your chosen field(s) requires.

    • Focus: MA programs typically focus on disciplines within the humanities and social sciences, such as literature, history, sociology, psychology, and fine arts. These programs often emphasize research, critical thinking, and analysis of theories and concepts.
    • Curriculum: MA programs often have a more flexible curriculum, with a focus on coursework and research in the chosen field of study.
    • Research: MA programs may require a thesis or capstone project, but this can vary depending on the institution and the specific program.


    • Focus: MS (Master of Science): MS programs are commonly found in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. They tend to emphasize technical and practical knowledge, problem-solving, and often involve laboratory work or quantitative research.
    • Curriculum: MS programs may have a more structured curriculum, with an emphasis on technical or scientific coursework, laboratory work, and possibly a thesis or research project.
    • Research: MS programs often require a research-based thesis, project, or internship, which is typically more common in STEM fields.
    • Focus: A professional degree primarily focused on business and management.
    • Curriculum: Covers a broad range of business disciplines, including finance, marketing, operations, and strategy. Typically does not require a thesis but may involve group projects, case studies, and internships.
    • Careers: Management, entrepreneurship, or leadership roles in various fields.
    • Focus: Primarily awarded in creative and fine arts disciplines, such as visual arts, writing, theater, and music.
    • Curriculum: Typically includes studio work, projects, and a portfolio or thesis.
    • Careers: Commonly pursued by aspiring artists, writers, actors, and musicians.
    • Focus: Specifically designed for individuals interested in social work and the human services sector.
    • Curriculum: Combines academic coursework with supervised fieldwork and practical training.
    • Careers: Counseling, advocacy, and working with individuals and communities in need including healthcare, community services, non-profits, and education as well as the private sector.
    • Focus: PhD programs are more versatile and can be found in various fields, including the sciences, humanities, and social sciences. They are research-focused and intended to produce faculty and researchers.
    • Dissertation: PhD programs typically require an original and substantial dissertation based on independent research.
    • Research vs. Practice: PhD programs place a strong emphasis on conducting original research and contributing to an academic body of knowledge. Graduates often pursue careers in research, academia, or leadership positions in various industries
    • Focus: PsyD programs are focused on preparing students for careers in clinical psychology. The primary goal is to train practitioners who provide psychological services to individuals and groups.
    • Dissertation: PsyD programs typically require a doctoral project or dissertation related to clinical practice.
    • Research vs. Practice: PsyD programs emphasize clinical training and practice over research. Students do engage in research, but it is typically less extensive than in PhD programs.
    • Focus: EdD programs are primarily designed for individuals pursuing careers in education and related fields. The emphasis is on practical applications and leadership in educational settings.
    • Dissertation: EdD programs often require a doctoral project or dissertation that addresses a specific issue or challenge in education.
    • Research vs. Practice: EdD programs tend to be more practice-oriented, with an emphasis on solving real-world problems in education. While research is a component, it typically focuses on applied research.
    • Focus: The MD program is for those interested in becoming medical doctors or physicians. It focuses on the study and practice of medicine, preparing students for clinical practice.
    • Dissertation: MD programs do not typically require a traditional dissertation. Instead, medical students often complete residencies and internships to gain clinical experience.
    • Research vs. Practice: MD programs emphasize clinical training and patient care. While medical research is an essential part of the field, the primary focus is on diagnosing, treating, and preventing diseases.