Know Your Options: Graduate Degrees

By Maci England on Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Madison Ogle

Sydney Foster

Age: 26 | Hometown: Little Rock
High School: Central Arkansas Christian High School
Higher Education: Harding University
Working toward: Master's degree in physician assistant studies

Sydney Foster is not afraid to take risks. When she first started college at Harding University, she had aspirations to become a veterinarian. She quickly realized that was not the path for her and gravitated to a degree in biology because of her interest in botany and environmental sciences. Having a love for the outdoors, Sydney decided to become a park ranger, but an unfulfilled desire to help others kept plaguing her.

This option is for you if:
• You want to further your education
• You want to maximize your earning potential
• Your dream job requires a graduate degree

She started considering yet another career path, this time, one in which she could care for people. She finally felt confident in her chosen path: becoming a physician assistant (PA).

Sydney’s dream is to go into a women’s health or family practice where she can maintain close relationships with her patients. Her dad is a family practice physician and she learned from him the importance of caring for others.

“I watched him take late-night phone calls, go on medical mission trips and remember minute details about each patient's life,” Sydney said.

After years of working in basic medical roles and job shadowing, Sydney was accepted into PA school. PA school allows Sydney to become a mid-level provider in just two and a half years. This was appealing to her because she wouldn’t need to go to medical school or do a residency. PA school also allows Sydney to easily change specialties and partake in medical mission trips—just like her dad.

Sydney encourages everyone to follow their hearts and not be afraid to just go for it.

“When I was deciding whether to become a park ranger or a PA, my mom asked: ‘Are you afraid to go to PA school because you don't think you'll like it or because it's hard? If the answer is because you don't think you'll like it, choose something else. You'll always be better off doing something you love. If you're afraid because it's hard, don't let that stop you.’”

What You Need to Know

Length of Program
The length of the program depends on the field of study. While it typically takes a full-time student two years to complete a graduate degree in business, it can take three years for law school and four years for medical students.

The cost of a graduate degree varies greatly by institution and program type.

Admissions Requirements
Most graduate programs have a minimum GPA requirement and a minimum score on a standardized test like the GRE, MCAT, DAT or LSAT. Many programs also expect students to have been well-involved in extracurriculars for their field of study while pursuing their undergraduate degree.

Most colleges do offer on-campus student housing for graduate students. Although, most graduate students live off campus.