Graduate School Requirements and Prerequisites

Students interested in graduate school should have a bachelor's degree from an accredited university or college. Graduate schooling can come in the form of a master's degree or a doctoral degree program and can take anywhere from 1-8 years to complete.

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Before applying to graduate school, prospective students must prepare an application and take standardized tests.

What Are Graduate School Requirements and Prerequisites?

Graduate students have the choice of earning a master's or doctoral degree. The requirements usually include holding a bachelor's degree, submitting an application with required materials and taking the appropriate graduate standardized exam for the student's desired field of study.

Application Requirements

A bachelor's degree is the first prerequisite to applying to graduate school and can be earned in about four years. These programs usually require 120 credits, and applicants may be required to have a minimum undergraduate GPA. While specific requirements can vary between degree programs, bachelor's degree-holders are typically required to submit the following application materials when applying to graduate school:

  • Application
  • Personal statement
  • Standardized test scores
  • Letters of recommendation

Standardized Test Scores

The standardized test scores that prospective graduate students are required to submit vary based on the kind of program that the student is applying to. The following are some examples of graduate-level tests:

Graduate Record Exam (GRE)

The Graduate Record Exam is required of students applying to graduate school in a wide variety of fields of study. This exam includes three sections: quantitative reasoning, verbal reasoning and analytical writing. The verbal and quantitative sections are each graded out of 170 potential points, while writing is scored on a scale of 0-6.

Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)

This test is taken by students looking for acceptance to medical school, and each multiple-choice section is scored out of 118-132. Subjects on the test include physical sciences, verbal reasoning and biological sciences. At the end of the test, candidates can opt to participate in a voluntary trial section, which is unscored and used to try out questions for new editions of the test.

Law School Admission Test (LSAT)

This test, for students applying to law school, includes logical reasoning, reading comprehension, analytical reasoning and an essay. This test is scored from 120-180.

Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT)

This test must be taken by those students looking to earn their graduate degree in business, such as an MBA. It includes a quantitative section, a verbal section, an integrated reasoning section and an analytical writing assessment. The test is scored out of a possible 800 points.

Master's Degree Overview

Master's degrees are offered in many different subjects, and the type of degree earned depends on that subject. Some of the most common master's degrees include:

  • Master of Arts
  • Master of Fine Arts
  • Master of Science
  • Master of Business Administration

Doctoral Degree Overview

Graduate schooling can also be completed at the doctoral or Ph.D. level. These programs can take many more years of schooling than a master's degree, since they require intensive research to be completed in the field. Ph.D. programs in topics like philosophy, English and biology typically prepare graduates for academic research and teaching careers at colleges and universities. There are also doctoral-level professional degrees. For example, a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree provides the educational foundation for a career as a physician.

In order to be accepted to a master's or doctoral degree program, it is typically necessary for bachelor's degree-holders to take a particular standardized test and submit a complete application.

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