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Thompson Rivers University
Thompson Rivers University

What is a Graduate Degree?

You finished your undergraduate degree . . . Now what? During your undergraduate degree, you may have heard professors share information about graduate studies, or noticed events specifically for master’s students on campus. Or maybe your situation is entirely different: perhaps you’re a professional working in your field and planning the next step to advance your career.

There are many reasons why people choose to continue their university journey with an advanced degree. We spoke with three of our students currently pursuing graduate degrees in science and asked them a few questions. Let’s start at the beginning!

What is a graduate program?

A graduate program is a general term for an advanced university credential that you pursue after finishing an undergraduate degree. A graduate, or grad, student refers to someone currently enrolled in a graduate program. There are a few different graduate program credentials you can earn at TRU.

Graduate certificate

You complete graduate-level courses and typically need 25% or fewer credits than a master’s degree offered in the same discipline to complete. In some cases, you may be able to continue your studies in order to pursue a graduate diploma or degree.

Graduate Certificate in Educational Studies
Graduate Certificate in Online Teaching and Learning

Graduate diploma

You complete graduate-level courses and typically need between 25% and 50% of the number of credits of a master’s degree in the same discipline. In some cases, you may be able to continue studies in order to pursue a full graduate degree.

Graduate Diploma in Business Administration

Master’s degree

You complete graduate-level courses and will typically take at least four semesters of full-time studies to complete. Most master’s degrees allow you to choose how you’ll complete the program. The most common pathways are course-based, project-based, or thesis-based, though some programs may have other completion options.
Example: completion options for the TRU MBA:
  • Course – Students study four additional advanced management courses to complete the program, providing them with a broader knowledge base.
  • Project – Students address an applied management issue or problem. This option provides situational experience and allows the student to focus in a specific area of management related to their interests, future goals, or organization.
  • Thesis – Students prepare and defend a thesis, further developing critical thinking skills and academic research skills. Many doctoral programs require applicants to have a strong research background at the master’s level.

We offer eight master’s degrees at TRU:

Master of Arts in Human Rights and Social Justice
Master of Business Administration
Master of Education
Master of Environmental Economics and Management
Master of Nursing
Master of Nursing – Nurse Practitioner
Master of Science in Data Science
Master of Science in Environmental Economics and Management
Master of Science, Environmental Science

What are some reasons to enrol in a graduate degree?

Improve career prospects and earning potential

Many senior-level corporate roles require, or at the very least, favour those who have earned a master’s degree in a related field. Roles that require advanced degrees often earn higher base salaries.

“I chose to go back to school to pursue a graduate degree because the jobs and areas I wanted to work in required additional skills and experiences I did not have in my undergraduate. I also really enjoyed school and wanted to get more experience working with communities in a research setting.”Emalee Vandermale, TRU Master of Science, Environmental Science student

Prepare for impactful careers, PhD studies

If you have big aspirations to become a lawyer, doctor, university professor, corporate professional, and more, a master’s degree is a requirement for applying to advanced, PhD, or doctorate, studies.

“I hope to get involved in environmental management and environmental leadership to steer the direction of taking care of our ecosystems within BC while balancing the needs for industry, development, and creating sustainable communities.”Brandon Williams, TRU Master of Science, Environmental Science student

Conduct original research

Did something really capture your attention during your undergraduate studies? Pursuing a graduate degree at TRU means you have a unique opportunity to conduct your own original graduate research, and explore what interests you. Graduate students at TRU also have exclusive research awards and funding opportunities.

Mentorship from expert professors

As a graduate student at TRU, you have access to practically centuries of cumulative education and expertise in your graduate program supervisor. This professor is there to offer guidance, instruction, assistance, evaluation and examination during your master’s journey. Graduate supervisors are available from the TRU School of Nursing, Bob Gaglardi School of Business and Economics, Faculty of Science, Faculty of Education and Social Work, and the Faculty of Arts. Undergraduate and graduate students can also apply to work as student research assistants, for professors conducting research.

“After working as a research assistant, I began to see the benefits that research can provide to natural ecosystems and how important ongoing research is for environmental management. I was eager to continue contributing research that has important management implications for the field of environmental science.”Sarah Bayliff, TRU Master of Science, Environmental Science student

How are master’s degrees different from bachelor’s degrees?

Bachelor’s degrees generally require 120 credits to complete. While most master’s degrees require fewer total credits to graduate, the course work is more rigorous. Master’s degrees typically take about two years of full-time study to complete, and will often include fieldwork or practicum placements.

What should someone considering applying to a graduate degree program know?

Graduate programs are more specialized and known to be much more demanding than undergraduate programs. They can take a great deal of time and focus to complete. The academic load can be challenging for many, and we have plenty of student support services specifically for graduate students to help you along the way.

We offer graduate student orientation, graduate student mentors, the graduate commons shared workspace open 24/7, Cplul’kw’ten gathering place and Indigenous grad student circle, health and wellness resources including counselling and dental, and more. Academic supports include Graduate Library resources, the Writing Centre, the Math Help Centre, Accessibility Services, and more.

Learn more about our student services

Is there anything special or unique about your time as a graduate student at TRU?

“The people. The major highlight of my graduate studies has been making friendships and networking with people that I will carry forward for the rest of my life and have shaped the way my life unfolds every day.”Brandon Williams

“Being able to be a part of and learn from my peer’s research projects. You can become quite focused on your own research at times. However, I was lucky enough to be able to contribute to other graduate projects as well. This allowed me to increase my knowledge in other areas of environmental science, while creating important relationships with my fellow students.”Sarah Bayliff

“By far the highlight of my graduate studies has been my trips up to Fort Providence, NT, the community I am working with for my research. I spent a total of 9 weeks in the community helping out in their community garden and youth centre, and for a couple who train and race sled dogs. It was an incredible learning experience and opened my eyes up to another region of Canada I had never been to before.”Emalee Vandermale

How do you know what you need to get in?

Every graduate program has different admission requirements. You can check the specific admission requirements for all of our programs listing page.

Do you have more questions about graduate programs?

Get in touch with Graduate Student Admissions today!

To decide whether you should get a Master's Degree, check out the related article Should I get a Master's Degree?.

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