Advanced Degrees: A World of Opportunity

    According to a study released by the U.S. Census Bureau, adults with advanced degrees earned four times more than those with less than a high school diploma. The real value of a graduate degree, however, goes beyond compensation. The potential for increased earnings can be extremely appealing, but the effect an advanced degree can have on a person’s overall job satisfaction and quality of life is immeasurable.

    If you are considering grad school, the first step on your “to-do” list is finding a college with a reputable reputation that offers a program in your chosen field.

    Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota— with campuses in Winona and Minneapolis and centers in Rochester, Apple Valley, and Minnetonka—offers advanced degrees at the master, specialist, doctoral and certificate levels. There are over 58 programs (including bachelor degree completion programs). Saint Mary’s Schools of Graduate and Professional Programs’ main focus is on the adult learner and providing personal, ethical, professional and innovative education. The areas of study include Saint Mary’s Graduate School of Education, Graduate School of Health and Human Services, and Graduate School of Business and Technology (popular programs in this school include the M.S. in Project Management and the Master of Business Administration (MBA) program). The School of Professional Programs offers Bachelor of Science completion programs, giving students the opportunity to take the valuable life experiences they have and apply them as part of the degree credits. They offer affordable tuition and experienced professors, many who work in their prospective areas of expertise.

    The University of Minnesota Rochester offers 20 doctoral, master’s and post-baccalaureate programs, with a number of courses in the doctoral programs requiring travel to the Twin Cities campus. The masters of business administration (MBA), human resource development (HRD), adult education, healthcare administration, and the biomedical informatics and computational biology degrees are the most popular.

    The University of Minnesota is one of the largest research universities in the country; each year we rank among the top ten schools in  research dollars awarded and PhDs granted,” says Joseph Marchesani, program director, Regional Alliances, University of Minnesota Rochester. “Our professors are experts in their fields; they write the scholarly articles and books that are used throughout higher education.”
    Any advanced degree gives you a competitive edge as “someone with expertise in your field,” Marchesani says. But when the degree is from a major research university, such as the U of M, it “carries even greater weight.”

    The University of Minnesota also offers advanced degrees through the College of Continuing Education. Students can obtain a master’s degree in biological science, liberal studies, professional studies in arts and cultural leadership, and professional studies in horticulture.

    At Northwestern College, a private Christian college based in Roseville, students can pursue an advanced degree through Northwestern’s Center for Graduate Studies. The Master of Organizational Leadership (MOL) degree is designed to integrate a Christian perspective into the context of leadership and management, prepare leaders for a fast-paced administrative environment, and provide skills and knowledge that will allow students to incorporate leadership skills into a variety of organizational settings. The program can be completed in 18-22 months. The Master of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS) is designed for those in lay leadership, service in professional ministry, or a teaching ministry in ecclesiastical or academic settings, and can also be completed within 18-22 months.

    Most advanced degrees—regardless of the college or university—are designed with the needs of working adults in mind, with part-time courses offered in the evening, online, or via distance learning. 

    Challenges and Rewards

    At graduate school, students are more focused and interested in the subject matter, unlike undergrad when many students are forced to take “general education” requirements (whether they like the classes or not). Students come from all walks of life, providing a rich diversity of age, background, and ethnicity. And every class is somehow relevant to the selected course of study.

    According to Julia Jenson of Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, “In a graduate program, you will be in classes with students that are similar to you and students that differ from you, and will provide you with a learning experience that is so much richer because of it.”

    Professors don’t “babysit” students, either. It’s less structured than obtaining an undergrad degree—they won’t tell students what to do; they have to carve their own niche and think about who they are and what they want to accomplish in the world. Keith Harrington, vice president of sales and marketing at Aspire Technologies selected DeVry University’s Keller Graduate School of Management for his MBA “because the curriculum was grounded in the reality of a business, not just ivory tower theories,” he says. Courses are offered in Edina and St. Louis Park or online (students can mix and match to fit their schedule). The  session-based courses are structured with six unique start times every year. The rigorous program allowed Harrington to develop an aptitude for using and interpreting financial statements, understand advanced accounting principles, and sharpen his critical assessment skills. It’s one thing to earn an MBA and come away with book knowledge; another thing entirely to be able to understand how to practically apply the education.

    “I am fortunate that Keller’s approach to its MBA degree program takes into account the real-world application of educational wisdom,” he says.

    Graduate school can be challenging—you’ll be treated more like a colleague than a student—but the rewards can be tremendous. What you learn in graduate school can be the foundation for a life-long learning experience and successful career.

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