Popular Trends in Graduate Education | 03.03.10
As a recently graduated student, I have seen firsthand what types of programs have been big recently for my peers pursuing advanced degrees. Due to the expensive nature of post-undergraduate education, prospective students are looking for the highest value, in the shortest amount of time, at the best price possible. This has lead many schools to start offering hybrid degrees and combination programs to increase their own admissions rates, as well as cater to what students are seeking.
If you are looking to go into a technology-related industry, such as Intellectual Property law, high-tech marketing, etc., many employers have begun to require their job candidates to possess multidisciplinary knowledge. This often involves a science background AND a business background — not exactly a common skill set. To address this need, many graduate schools have started hybrid degree programs; they contain an accelerated curriculum of two very different studies and run simultaneously. One example of this would be a Professional Science Master’s degree (P.S.M.), it is a fusion of depth learning in math, science, or engineering with a more traditional MBA program.
A leapfrog degree, or “headstart” degree (as I like to call it), is a course of study where an undergraduate student spends their last one or two semesters taking graduate classes to shorten the length of their Master’s degree. This is accomplished by taking all core and required classes at the expense of free electives, and then spending all those free electives at the end of your time in school on graduate classes. Not every school allows this, but it is becoming very popular — ask your academic adviser for more details.
Arguably one of the most popular trends in recent years, the combination degree has gained a lot of traction in higher education. Essentially, it allows you to compact two advanced degrees into an accelerated course of study that can potentially shave a year or two off your studies. The most widely adopted incarnation of this concept is the joint MBA/JD programs offered by many universities with business and law schools.
Recently, online degrees have exploded in volume due to their more flexible nature. As a working adult, it is far easier to take an online course than a brick & mortar one because they are offered at more times during the day, and they allow you to complete your coursework on a schedule that is more tailored to your lifestyle. Practically every common degree has an online version as well, so check an online school out if you need to work but still want to earn an advanced degree.
One thing I can advise about these programs is that with the exception of the leapfrog degree, they are all very academically rigorous and intense. If you choose to undergo a hybrid or combination degree, taking out loans is pretty much a necessity to keep your financial stress level low and allow you to focus on your studies. Remember to file your FAFSA to apply for federal financial aid (yes, it absolutely is available to grad students), and if necessary, a private student loan can help cover your other expenses.
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