Out of the 7,017 students who attend Lehigh, about 28 percent are graduate students.
A report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce found that a master’s degree is worth $457,000 more than a bachelor’s degree. According to a 2013 report from the Council of Graduate School, graduate school applications in all broad fields have increased since the early 2000s.
In 2000, Lehigh had 1,791 graduate students. Today, there are 1,942.
Lehigh’s four colleges each offer graduate studies for a variety of specified subjects.
Dominic Packer, an associate professor in the department of psychology and the associate dean for research and graduate programs, explained why people are attracted to graduate programs.
“Master’s programs are often a direct continuation of being an undergraduate,” Packer said. “People usually do a master’s either because they want to go on and do a Ph.D., or it’s a professionally oriented kind of master’s where they’ll be able to start at a higher level in a company after or they’ll have a higher starting salary.”
Packer said if a student’s ultimate goal is to become an expert in their desired field, getting a master’s degree or a doctorate degree is the way to go. He said those students in pursuit of the highest form of education will go beyond what their selected university has to offer and will follow professors or other academics who inspire them.
“If you’re doing a Ph.D., you’ve decided you want to become a scholar in something,” Packer said. “If that’s your goal, then you want to go where the best scholars are.”
This was the case for Nick Ungson, a fifth-year doctoral student who studies social psychology. Ungson, originally from Orlando, Florida, received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and master’s degrees from both New York University and Lehigh University. He plans to obtain his doctorate in May 2018.
Ungson said he was drawn to Lehigh because of Packer’s research, which he felt fit perfectly with his area of study.
“For grad school, it’s less about the school and more about what research is going on and how I fit with that,” Ungson said. “It turned out that what (Packer) does is very interesting and is very aligned with what I do. It was a really good fit with his research.”
Ungson said his graduate program includes 18 to 20 other graduate students, both domestic and international, hailing from countries like Iran, South Africa and Turkey.
Almost 37 percent of Lehigh graduate students are international students. Packer believes the reason for this influx of international students has to do with their desire to work with professors who conduct specific research and have valuable knowledge and esteemed expertise.
“There are a ton of international students here because they’ll travel to the United States because they want to work with a specific person,” Packer said.
Andrew Ward, an associate professor of management and an associate dean for graduate programs, wants to encourage students — both inside and outside of the College of Business and Economics — to start thinking about their potential career trajectories.
Undergraduate students who maintain an average GPA of 3.75 or higher can apply for the President’s Scholars Program, which awards outstanding students with a complimentary fifth year to pursue a second undergraduate degree, a graduate degree or research.