As you finish the last couple assignments and final exams for your last degree, it can feel overwhelming knowing that all your knowledge and skills will now be used in the real world and that there is much less room for error.

Some of us might feel at ease knowing that we can return to university and get additional education in our field if we decide we need more training. However, this is not often the case for those completing terminal degrees, which is the term for a degree that is the highest level of education someone can complete in their field.

In this post, we discuss what a terminal degree is and what expected or recent graduates can do to handle the transition to their career.

What is a Terminal Degree?

A terminal degree is any degree that is the highest possible achievement for a particular field (e.g. usually a master’s or a doctorate).

For instance, in the field of psychology, a doctorate (PhD) in psychology is a terminal degree because there is no higher credential a person can be awarded in that field.

With other careers, you could spend much less time in a classroom and not get a PhD and still reach a terminal degree. This is often the case with professional degrees (the type of degree one gets when becoming a medical doctor or lawyer).

Though a person with a terminal degree can still get a credential in another field, a terminal degree is usually the final qualification some individuals will receive before exploring their chosen career.

Getting Recommendation Letters

Typically, when graduating with a terminal degree, you don’t plan to return to university to walk the quad as a first year once again; you plan to start your career.

To make the transition to the workforce easier and to help with finding your first position in your field, consider asking professors to write you a Recommendation Letter or to be a Reference.

After graduating, you’ll likely have fewer opportunities to collect quality comments about your capabilities and performance from respected sources, so be sure to do so before you go.

Formatting Your Resume

Completing your degree means adding to or completely reformatting your Resume.

When doing so, there are a few things you’ll want to consider:

  • With two or more degrees, you won’t have as much space to work with compared to someone with only a high school diploma. Even just putting your degree title, university, and date graduated will take up a portion of your page. Keep in mind, many recruiters expect a resume that is one to two pages in length, so you might have to play Tetris on your resume in order to fit your experience and skills and showcase the best version of yourself to employers.
  • How to feature what’s most important. There are various ways you can set up your resume, including chronological (i.e. your most recent experience goes first), functional (i.e. you focus on skills and experience), or combination (i.e. a mix of chronological and functional). Something you might want to consider is where you put your education, especially if you have a terminal degree. For instance, if you are a lawyer, you need a law degree and to be a member of the bar association in order to practice law. You could include that you are a member of the bar in your highlights and list your education last, saving room for the more important details, such as your experience, at the top of your resume.
  • Ensuring you appear qualified but not overqualified. “Dumbing down” a resume is a legitimate concept that individuals with a lot of education or experience may need to consider from time to time. This includes tailoring your resume in a specific way, sometimes even omitting experience or education. As a new graduate, you might not face this situation as much as your more experienced peers, but it is something to keep in mind, especially if you are applying to lower-level positions with the aim to be promoted to a position more suited to your skill set.

Starting Your Career After Graduating

Finding a career as a new graduate can be difficult. Those graduating with terminal degrees, in particular, have often been in school for so long that entering the workforce can spring feelings of trepidation. Soon-to-be graduates can feel at ease by preparing for their careers before they leave school through obtaining references from professors and formatting their resume accordingly.

Posted by Ashley Camarneiro

Ashley is an experienced researcher and writer with an interest in real estate, contract, and family law. Before starting at LawDepot in the summer of 2017, Ashley worked as a legal assistant in the corporate and family law sector.