What is a terminal degree?

A terminal degree is the highest degree you can earn in a particular academic discipline. Read about the degree types, careers, when to enrol in terminal degree and more.

Posted by Arpit Sachdeva on 22nd May 2018

As you look ahead of your graduate school, you must be wondering ''what is a terminal degree and how does it affect you?”.  Well, you found the right place for your answers.  

This blog will talk about all the aspects related to the terminal degree such as,  

  • What is a terminal degree? 

  • What are the benefits of terminal degree?  

  • What are the career options after getting a terminal degree? 

All of the above questions will be answered in this article.

So, let’s start!


What is a Terminal degree? 

In simple terms, a terminal degree is what it sounds like - a degree that helps you to reach the 'end' of your education. 

If you receive a terminal degree, whether it’s a Master’s degree or a Doctorate degree, it is considered terminal if it is the last degree you can get in your field of study. 

In most scenarios, this degree is also called the Ph.D. or Doctor of Philosophy, and in some cases, it is considered as a professional degree, such as Doctor of Medicine or Law. 

These professional degrees are legally required by the person before practicing the profession.

What is a Terminal degree?source - entrepreneur.com


When to enroll for a Terminal degree? 

If you know that you want a particular career that requires the highest level of degree, then you should start the program as soon as possible. Failure to do so could mean that you spend more time in college or graduate school than it is necessary. 

However, most colleges do not require that you declare a major right away. Take help, whether from your academic counselor or the professionals from the field to learn about the various aspects of your degree. It will help you to make the right decision about your area of study. 

Why to enroll in a Terminal degree

source - pexels.com


Types of Terminal degrees by field 

Earning a terminal degree would require many years of learning, analysis work, internship experience, and at least four years of education beyond the Bachelor’s degree to perform at the highest level of the field. 

The terminal degrees of the various fields differ and some of them are given here. 

Doctorate level

  • Doctor of Medicine (MD) 

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)  

  • Doctor of Public Health (Dr.PH) 

  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), and more. 

Master's level

  • Master of Fine Arts (MFA)  

  • Master of Social Work (MSW) 

  • Master of Business Administration (MBA), and more.


Difference between Terminal and Non-Terminal degrees 

Master’s degree or a Terminal degree is usually offered in academic programs that don’t lead to more advanced research in the discipline. 

While this does not necessarily mean that it’s impossible to continue studying for a doctorate or professional degree, it’s unusual for students to pursue a higher level of education.  

Non-terminal degrees are offered to undergraduate or graduate students, and if this course plan is pursued, these programs are often just the starting of a long scientific career.  

After the qualifications have been fulfilled for a non-terminal degree, most students at the master’s or doctoral level continue to build upon their knowledge in this area of study. 


Benefits of Terminal degree 

Benefits of earning a Terminal degree which can help you grow in your career are - 

Financial Rewards 

The primary benefit of earning a terminal degree is an increase in earning potential. A higher degree can earn you a better job in the end.

Although factors such as the cost of the educational program and the future salary of the career you hope to pursue should be taken into consideration. 

Terminal Degree benefits

source - pexels.com

Personal Fulfilment 

Let's say if you have a passion for the field of psychology and a genuine desire to contribute to that field in a particular way, obtaining a terminal degree may be the only way to see that dream come true.  

For example, if becoming a college professor is your goal, most institutions only hire professionals with both a Doctorate degree and an experience working within the industry.  

Career Versatility 

The terminal degrees can provide you with careers you didn't even know you could be in. For example, some advanced psychology degrees are quite specific in nature and may prepare you to work in a very limited number of jobs.  

However, with the knowledge and experience you acquire at the doctorate level, chances are pretty good that you can utilize your unique combination of skills and experience to find a job in a variety of fields. 

Career versatility after Terminal degreesource - pexels.com


Terminal degree careers

The terminal degree can offer careers in various fields, depending on your area of study. Let's explore some of the subjects and what kind of jobs you can get through them. 

Careers in Science and Research 

  • Computer Engineer or Computer & Information Research Scientist 

    If you want a career leading technology-related research and development, you’ll need a Ph.D. in Computer Science or a Ph.D. in Computer Engineering.  

  • Systems Engineer 

    Some of the highest-paying careers in engineering are for Systems Engineers. In a system engineering Ph.D. program, you’ll learn how to analyze and design the different pieces of engineering systems.  

  • Mathematician or Statistician 

    Advanced Math is the foundation for all other scientific fields - and most often the sciences merge with technology to improve the quality of people’s lives. If you want to contribute to the improved function of any technological device we use, you’ll need a Ph.D. in Mathematics. 

  • Biologist 

    Earning a Biology doctoral degree opens ways for a career in advanced research. If you’re interested in the biomedical field, you’ll need the Ph.D. in Bio-Medical Sciences to find the next vaccine, cure, or treatment for the thousands of ailments that both people and animals suffer from.

Careers in Health Care 

  • Healthcare Administrator 

    Gaining a Doctor of Nursing Practice will give you clinical practice-oriented leadership training. With your Doctor of Nursing Practice degree, you’ll become an expert practitioner who can provide the desired leadership in the hard healthcare environment.  

  • Speech, Language, and Audiology Clinician, Researcher, or Scientist 

    With your Ph.D. in Applied Language and Speech Sciences, educating the future speech-language pathologists and conduct the research that leads to breakthroughs in diagnosing and treating a range of speech, hearing, and language disorders will come in handy. 

Careers in Education 

  • Professor 

    Earning your Ph.D., EdD, or DNP is a critical part of becoming a professor or researcher at a college or university. Becoming a tenured professor is almost impossible without these terminal degrees. 

  • School or University Administrator 

    If you want an administrative role in schools, colleges, or universities, the Educational Leadership Doctoral degree will guide you for the job.

Careers after Terminal Degreesource - pexels.com


Conclusion 

Keep in mind that as degree programs and their professional requirements change, so might the associated terminal degree. 

But, for now, it is the highest level of any degree and there will not be any changes in its importance in the near future. The people who have a terminal degree, for now, will be on top of the mountain and would experience more profit as compared to others.


FAQ

  What is considered a terminal degree?


When a degree is considered terminal, it means that it is the highest degree awarded in a given field. In most fields, the terminal-level degree is the doctor of philosophy or Ph.D., but in some fields, it's a professional degree, such as a doctor of medicine or law degree

  How long does a terminal degree course last? 


The exact time may vary according to various programs while comparing it with the non-terminal degree. The terminal degree takes more time for completion.

The least amount of time that a terminal degree would take for completion is 2 years. 

  Is it necessary to take a terminal degree for good career growth? 


It's not; there are some exceptions where if you want to go to a research field or as a professor then for some courses it might come in handy. But, mostly it acts just as an added advantage.

  What are the career options after completing a terminal degree?


These are some of the examples of career options one can pursue-

  • Computer Engineer or Computer & Information Research Scientist   

  • Systems Engineer 

  • Mathematician or Statistician 

  • Biologist 

  • Healthcare Administrator   

  • Speech, Language, and Audiology Clinician, Researcher, or Scientist  

  • Professor  

  • School or University Administrator 

  What is the difference between a Terminal and a Non-Terminal degree?


Terminal Degree:- It refers to the last stage of the studies as in most cases this is the most advanced degree.

Non-terminal degrees are offered to undergraduate or graduate students, and if this course plan is pursued, these programs are often just the beginning of a long scientific career. 

  Is a master can be considered as a terminal degree? 


While most degrees that are considered terminal are PhDs or doctorates, some master\'s degrees are considered terminal if the field does not offer a degree beyond a master\'s degree