Graduate school provides students with the opportunity to conduct focused research and/or profession-specific training. Such programs can be loosely categorized into four types.
Classical Master’s degree
This degree is research-focused and can be terminal (ending after 2 years), or it can be a stepping stone toward earning a PhD. This type of Master’s degree involves completing a research thesis which focuses primarily on collecting and analyzing data, with the goal of trying to publish your work in a peer reviewed research journal. Students conduct research under the guidance of a supervisor but also need to work quite independently. This degree will typically involve conducting your own research as well as being an undergraduate teaching assistant and completing graduate level courses. Upon submitting your thesis, you likely will be required to present your research during a thesis defense. Completing this degree generally takes 2 years.
Applied/Course Based Master’s degree
This degree requires completion of a specified number of courses with no research (thesis) component. This type of Master’s degree will be focused around coursework. Depending on the program, a research or capstone project may be required. Completing this degree typically takes 1 or 2 years, and may require additional work placements or internships which could extend the degree by an additional year.
Professional Master’s degree
This program is designed to cross discipline boundaries and employment sectors, and to include work that develops skills related to workplace needs.
This is the highest level of education a student can achieve. It consists of completing a dissertation or thesis based on extensive original research in a chosen field. Most of your time is spent on research, though students will likely have some mandatory coursework and TA or teaching duties. Approximately halfway through this degree and after the student has completed any required coursework, the student will be required to complete a comprehensive exam. A comprehensive exam typically consists of a written or oral exam, or both, and it tests the student’s knowledge in their chosen field of study. Additionally the students are required to submit a thesis which they will likely be required to present during a thesis defense. Admission into a Ph.D. program may require completion of a Master’s degree in a related field with significant research experience and strong academic success. More often, students can directly enter a Ph.D. program upon completion of an Honours Bachelor’s degree, or transfer to a doctoral program after completing one year in a Master’s program. The time to complete this degree can be between 4 and 6 years.