Once you’ve finished your undergraduate studies and have your brand-new bachelor’s degree in hand, you’ll likely feel a mix of emotions. Happiness, pride, a little sadness, and definitely relief—no more papers or early-morning classes for you! . . . or are there? Depending on your career path, you may be looking at an additional four to eight years of graduate-level study. Although they can’t guarantee a six-figure salary, a grad degree can help you delve deeper into specific areas of your field and make you more marketable to employers. Some careers, like the ones listed below, simply require an advanced degree because of the breadth of knowledge and practical experience necessary.
If you have your bachelor’s and teaching certification, you might be satisfied to stay in the classroom. But if you have your sights set on becoming an administrator, such as a principal or superintendent, you will need at least a master’s degree. These professionals have a long list of responsibilities—developing curriculum, overseeing teachers’ day-to-day lesson plans, and monitoring school programs, just to name a few—so they need to have a thorough understanding of educational philosophies and how to apply them successfully.
Physical therapists help ill or injured patients improve their mobility and manage pain. All physical therapists entering the field are required to have their Doctor of Physical Therapy (D.P.T.) degree and license from the state.
Marriage and family therapist
These professionals are responsible for helping couples work out a range of issues, so they must be well versed in various areas of psychology and human dynamics. In addition to holding a master’s degree, marriage and family therapists must be licensed by the state, which includes an advanced degree as well as supervised clinical experience.
Physician assistants (PAs) work closely with physicians to diagnose and treat a variety of ailments. Their training is also similar to a physician’s in that they take many of the same prerequisite courses and must complete a set number of clinical rotation hours in different areas of medicine. Like PTs, NPs, and family therapists, PAs must be both certified and licensed by the state.
A nurse practitioner (NP) is essentially as high as you can go in the nursing field—the next step beyond this would be a physician. NPs work with patients from all walks of life, from newborns to the elderly, treat a variety of illnesses, and are authorized to write prescriptions. Because of the wide body of medical knowledge required, NPs must complete advanced training. A shortage of primary care physicians, combined with the growing need for health care, has created a demand for experienced NPs.
Most full-time college professor positions at two- and four-year schools require at least a master’s degree, although many adjunct positions only require a certain number of grad credits. Career and trade schools have different requirements for their instructors (many prefer experience to education), so read the job requirements carefully before applying.