The Graduate School Advance to a Higher Degree


Advisor: Sometimes referred to as a major professor, advisors are faculty members who mentor graduate students through the graduate school process. The advisor/advisee relationship is probably the most important relationship a student will have in graduate school.

Cost-of-living: The amount of money it takes to live in a particular geographic area. Cost-of-living indices look at the costs of taxes, housing, food, transportation, and other necessities. You can compare Purdue's low cost-of-living to other schools across the U.S. using this interactive cost-of-living map.

Dissertation: A document that presents a doctoral student's research. A dissertation must be judged by an examination committee to include original, independent, and significant contributions to the student's field.

Doctoral degree: An advanced degree designed to provide applied expertise in a specialized field, often leading to professional career placement or advancement in a specific discipline (e.g., education-EDD, engineering-DOE, law-JD, medicine-MD, pharmacy-PharmD, technology-DTECH, veterinary medicine-DVM). Depending on the program and whether or not a student completes a master's degree first, a professional doctoral degree may generally take four to six years to complete, generally requires extensive coursework, and may require the submission of an independent written or oral research project, and/or a final comprehensive examination. (Note: At some institutions, the term doctoral degree may be inclusive of the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), but at Purdue University, a doctoral degree is restricted to professional doctorates.)

Faculty: Teachers at a university, including professors, associate professors, and assistant professors.

Fellowship: Similar to scholarships, fellowships are merit-based financial awards that provide money (often called a stipend) for living and educational expenses. In general, fellowships allow students to pursue graduate study full-time. Recipients do not have to repay fellowships and often do not have to work in return for the award.

Funding: Financial support provided by academic institutions, government agencies, philanthropic foundations, and other organizations that help students pay for graduate study. Examples of funding include teaching assistantships, research assistantships, and fellowships. More than 70% of Purdue University's full-time graduate students receive funding by or through the University.

Graduate Research Assistant: A graduate student who usually receives health benefits, tuition remission, and a salary (i.e., a paycheck) in exchange for working as a researcher in a professor's research program. Often, the professor a student works for is also his/her/their advisor. Research assistants are usually selected by a professor or group of collaborating professors.

Graduate School: A central office that oversees graduate education and acts as a resource for students and graduate programs. For example, the Purdue Graduate School has a Fellowship Office, Office of Professional Development, and an Office of Graduate Diversity Initiatives. Within these offices students can explore funding resources, skill building workshops, and other initiatives that ensure all graduate students excel academically and personally. Additional offices in the Graduate School include the Office of Graduate Admissions, Office of Graduate Records, and the Thesis and Dissertation Office. 

Graduate Teaching Assistant: A graduate student who usually receives health benefits, tuition remission, and a salary (i.e., a paycheck) in exchange for assisting a professor with a class. Sometimes teaching assistants do not "assist" a professor, but are in charge of their own class. Teaching assistants are usually selected by a student's academic department or college.

Interdisciplinary: Refers to programs or projects that span more than one graduate program, or cross disciplines. For instance, the Purdue University Interdisciplinary Life Science PhD program (PULSe) allows students to focus on specific areas of research without regard to departmental boundaries. PULSe is comprised of over 207 faculty from nine colleges, 30 departments, and 9 training groups.

Master's degree: A master's degree is designed to give students advanced knowledge of a specialized field. The program typically entails coursework and exams. Programs may require a written thesis, a final project or comprehensive exam, or an internship. Some "terminal master's" degrees, such as the Master of Fine Arts (MFA), are considered the highest degree obtainable in that field - there is not a PhD. Most master's students earn their degree in one to three years.

Ph.D. degree: The Doctor of Philosophy degree is an advanced degree designed to provide extensive expertise in a specialized field, often leading to careers as a professor or researcher. The foundation of this degree is the requirement that students generate new knowledge by conducting original research which is documented in the creation of a dissertation. Coursework beyond a bachelor degree may be required depending on the disciplinary area and if the student does not already have an advanced degree, such as a master’s degree. Depending on the program and whether or not a student completes a master's degree first, the PhD may generally take four to six years to complete.

Professional degree: A degree designed to prepare a student for a particular profession. Students receiving a professional degree are often required to pass licensing exams in the state they want to work. Examples of professional degrees in the Purdue University Graduate School are Doctor of Audiology, Doctor of Nursing Practice, and Doctor of Technology. The Graduate School also offers professional Master’s degrees. 

Salary: A paycheck or payment, usually received in exchange for working as a Graduate Teaching or Research Assistant. Fellowships, which may not require work in return for an award, also offer stipends.

Thesis: A document that presents a master's or doctoral student's research. At the doctoral level, the thesis is often referred to as a dissertation. At the master's level, a thesis may be optional in some programs.

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