Alternatives to Graduate School That Are Available to Students

Posted: March 06, 2018

Alternatives to Graduate School That Are Available to Students

If you’re considering getting your master’s or PhD, there are many things to consider. First, how expensive is grad school? Can you afford it? Is staying in school after graduation the best choice for you or your family? Is the graduate degree necessary for careers in your field? What is the likelihood of your getting into a program such as engineering or earning your MBA?

Fortunately, there are alternatives to graduate school. Today, many students and professionals are taking an interdisciplinary approach to education. This means they are seeking out education from a variety of sources to obtain the knowledge that is most useful for their career goals. These alternatives to a degree or more flexible, often less expensive, and sometimes even free.

Are you ready to explore your options? The world of education is being blown wide open thanks to the fact that graduate school is no longer the only option for students. Let’s take a look at various programs you can use that are an alternative to MBA programs or other advanced degrees.

MOOCs Are Great Alternative Graduate Programs

MOOC stands for massive open online courses. If you’ve ever used Coursera or EdX to take a course, you have participated in this valuable educational offering. Colleges and universities, including very elite ones such as Stanford or Harvard offer, free short-term courses lasting only a few weeks. These courses are free to take. If you would like a certification, those are often free as well. For a relatively small fee, you can obtain a certificate that has been validated to confirm that you are indeed the person who completed the coursework. This will provide solid proof that you have completed a class from that college.

What’s very exciting is that these courses cover a wide variety of topics. This includes small business management, religious studies, accounting and finance, technology, science, and so much more. Earning several unique certifications can make you very valuable to potential employers.

Bootcamps Are a Great Example of New Trends in Graduate Education

In some cases, if you want to take the shortest path to earning the credentials you need to get the job you want, boot camps are your best option. These are short term, immersive, and intensive programs that students can use to master important skills in a brief period of time. These programs can absolutely be expensive. They are certainly intensive. However, they offer a quick trip to mastering concepts that may not even be covered in graduate school. 

Bootcamps can cover social media marketing, web design, coding, user experience design, etc. They are designed to offer great value by offering recent grad alternatives that pay off almost immediately. If you can dedicate time to truly focusing on mastering one subject, boot camps are truly worth it once you realize how your achievement can improve your career path. This is a great path for students with STEM-related majors who are interested in getting jobs with upward mobility.

Online Learning Sites

There are two online learning sites that are likely the most well-known. The first is Khan Academy. This is a free online learning resource that is available for students of all ages. They offer educational opportunities for homeschoolers, business professionals, college graduates, and autodidacts. Students have a few options. They can cherry pick courses to take. They may also follow course maps in order to earn certificates.

Another resource is Lynda. This is a paid program. Still, for many, this may be more than worth it. This gives members access to a full library of videos and other digital learning materials. Like Khan Academy, the subject matter covered here is both broad and in depth.

Your Local Community College

You may consider your local community college a place to earn a short-term degree or certificate. Although, if you really stop to consider what is a certificate program in college, you might realize that it is simply something that teaches you a skill or set of skills that can lead to a job. For a student who has already graduated, it can potentially lead to promotions and other new opportunities. You may even be able to find a school that offers continuing education for people in specific fields. Some even cooperate with local businesses that provided training programs that can help people learn emerging trends that will help them pick up needed skills in as little as a year or less. Add this to your degree and you have some great opportunities. 

Another option to consider via your community college are continuing education programs. These are courses that are designed to help professionals gain new skills or ensure that they retain the skills needed in order to meet regulatory requirements and maintain licensure. If you work in fields such as logistics, human resources, manufacturing, or accounting you may be able to take courses and develop skills relevant to your career. Keep in mind that even though you aren’t earning credits you have to do the work required to pass these courses. Some may be writing intensely. If you need help, paper writing service reviews can help you find the academic assistance you need.

Management Training Programs

In the corporate world, internships have evolved. What once meant a few months of unpaid drudgery has changed. Many large corporations offer recent graduates and those approaching graduation the opportunity to participate in leadership and management programs. These are sometimes referred to as management development programs. Companies vary in the way that they execute these programs. However, they often include a combination of on the job training, mentorship, cross training,  job shadowing, management and leadership development courses, and networking opportunities.  This is a great option for those who need to earn a full-time income but want to get on a managerial career track as quickly as possible.


If it is a good fit for your career goals and lifestyle, graduate school can absolutely be worthwhile. If it isn’t, don’t despair. Your career and future don’t need to be stymied. There are multiple options for you to take courses and develop the skills you need for success.