WHAT'S NEXT: Kennia Merlos on Graduate Degrees

By Lydia McAllister on Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Amanda Cordell

Kennia Merlos

Age: 24 | Hometown: Bentonville | Undergrad degree: Bachelor of Science in Athletic Training with minors in Biomedical Sciences and Spanish from Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri | Currently attending: University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) | Working toward: Doctorate in Physical Therapy | End goal: Become a Physical Therapist

Growing up, Kennia knew she would want to continue her education after getting her bachelor’s degree — and she was the first person in her family to ever do so. During high school and undergrad, Kennia shadowed different professions to find a career path she was passionate about.

“I fell in love with the ability of a physical therapist to connect with each patient and how much of a difference they can make through their work.”

The entire physical therapy program takes about three years to complete, not including the typical four years of undergraduate studies. As she prepares to enter the workforce, Kennia is excited to work with underserved and underrepresented communities such as the Latino/Hispanic population.

“As a native Spanish speaker, I have had the chance to treat Spanish-speaking patients throughout my clinical rotations,” she says. “The first time this happened, my patient cried, not because she was in pain, but because I fully understood her. I had to take a moment to reflect and realize that something so simple could make a huge difference for a patient. It was a very humbling experience and one that would solidify my choice to become a physical therapist.”

Kennia also hopes that as a first-generation college student, she can inspire others to follow their dreams no matter where they came from or how they grew up.

(See more options in the health care industry at Jobs in Demand.)


The length of time varies depending on which program you’re working toward. Graduate degrees in the medical field typically take four years, while graduate degrees in business and education typically take two years (when taking classes full time).

The average cost of graduate school per year is $18,720, according to a study from the AccessLex Institute and Urban Institute. However, programs vary widely. An MBA might run $19,120 annually while a master’s in the medical field is closer to $23,970 per year.*

Most graduate programs have a minimum GPA requirement, a minimum score on a standardized test such as the GRE, LSAT or MCAT and a bachelor’s degree.

Most colleges offer on-campus living options for graduate students. However, most graduate students prefer to live off campus.

Some colleges have combined undergraduate and graduate programs, so you can get your bachelor’s and master’s degrees together in just five years.

*SOURCES: CollegeBoard.org, AccessLex Institute and Urban Institute

This option is for you if:
You want to advance your career.
You really love school and don’t mind studying.
You want to make a lot of money.

"I fell in love with the ability of a physical therapist to connect with each patient as well as how much of a difference they can make through their work."

– Kennia

See more of The Next Level