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Fall TV Characters: Graduate Degrees that Help Them Make Bank

By GradSchools.com, October 2013

There’s nothing like snuggling on the couch at the start of the fall TV season.As a viewer you may be full of anticipation, knowing you are about to find out the thrilling conclusion to a cliff-hanger season finale, or find comfort in reconnecting with your favorite fictional character. TV characters inspire us, they make us laugh (or cry - in a good way), and teach us that it’s okay to be our neurotic, quirky selves.

An essential part of the story line for many characters involves the challenges and triumphs they experience in their on-screen careers. Did you know that many of your favorite characters careers require a graduate degree? Read on to learn more about some of television’s most beloved fictional personalities’ educational backgrounds and find out how much you might earn if you pursued a similar path. There are hundreds of different graduate degrees to choose from!


Character: Dr. Mindy Lahiri
Degree: M.D. (OB/GYN)
Median Salary *: $281,190
Airs: Tuesdays @ 9:30pm on Fox

Dr. Mindy Lahiri is an ambitious, talented, and passionate OB/GYN working at a women’s health practice. Mindy is a successful doctor who is often unlucky in love. Mindy earned her Doctor of Medicine Degree (M.D.) from Princeton University. Becoming a medical doctor is no easy task. Candidates are required to earn a medical degree, complete an internship and residency, and meet strict licensure requirements. Entrance into a medical school may be highly competitive; most programs require a background in the sciences, a high undergraduate GPA, strong MCAT scores, excellent references, and good communication skills. To learn more about Medical Doctor graduate programs click here.

Degree: PhD (Forensic Anthropology)
Median Salary *: $54,230
Show: Bones
Airs: Mondays @ 8:00pm on Fox

Dr. Temperance Brennan is a forensic anthropologist and novelist who works closely with her lover, FBI Agent Seeley Booth. Brennan uses her expertise to solve important criminal cases. Bones, Brennan’s nickname, went to graduate school at Northwestern University. Like Bones, many anthropologists may decide to earn a master’s degree or PhD because it may help them advance their careers; an advanced degree may also allow an anthropologist to specialize within the field. A PhD in anthropology is usually research based and requires candidates to complete a dissertation in a specific area of research. Click here for more information on graduate degrees in anthropology.

Character: Ted Mosby
Degree: M.Arch (Professional or Master’s Degree in Architecture)
Median Salary *: $72,550
Airs: Mondays @ 8:00pm on CBS

In the show “How I Met Your Mother,” Ted Mosby tells his children the (long winded) story of his 20’s and early 30’s that eventually lead to him meeting their mother. The story follows the lives of an ensemble cast of characters discovering themselves while living and working in New York City. Ted Mosby is an architect who achieves his dream of designing a skyscraper that becomes a part of the New York City Skyline. Ted also works as a professor of Architecture at New York University. Architects are required to earn a professional degree (a 5 year course of study) or a master’s degree from a program recognized by the National Architectural Board. Masters degrees and PhDs in architecture, though not required, are sometimes useful for individuals interested in teaching, conducting research, or specializing within the field. An architecture graduate school may require applicants to submit GRE scores, a portfolio of their work, a personal statement, and strong letters of recommendation.

Degree: M.S. (Criminology and Forensic Science)
Median Salary *: $51,570
Show: NCIS
Airs: Tuesdays @ 8:00pm on CBS

Abby Sciuto is arguably the brains behind the NCIS team’s operation. Her intrepid ability to extract clues from even the most obscure piece of evidence and her unique personality are both incredibly useful and charming. Abby is a forensic specialist who earned a graduate degree in criminology and forensic science from Georgia State University. If you are interested in pursuing a graduate degree in criminology or forensic science you will likely need to have a background in biology, chemistry, psychology, and mathematics and be prepared to submit GRE scores, a personal statement, and letters of recommendation to an admissions committee. Abby’s skill set is unique and highly specialized which implies great variability in the salary her character may earn. According to the BLS, forensic technicians earn a median salary of $51,570/year, although we imagine Abby’s expertise may mean that she earns much more.

Degree: PhD or Psy.D. (Psychology)
Median Salary *: $89,900
Airs: Thursdays @ 9:360pm on FX

Dr. Charlie Goodson is a pro-baseball player turned psychologist who runs a successful private practice counseling clients with – you guessed it – anger management issues. Psychologists are generally required to earn a PhD or Psy.D. in Psychology. PhD programs are usually researched based requiring a dissertation, while Psy.D. programs focus on clinical training. Psychologists are required to obtain licensure in order to practice; many state licensure requirements include proof of earning a degree from a graduate school, and completion of a minimum number of supervised training hours. To learn more about graduate programs in psychology click here.

Degree: J.D. (Environmental Law)
Median Salary *: $112,760
Airs: Wednesdays @ 9:00pm on ABC

Mitchell Pritchett is a tightly wound environmental attorney. Mitchell is a part of the crazy yet loving family portrayed in the Modern Family television series. A true perfectionist, Mitchell earned his undergraduate degree from Cornell University and his law degree from Columbia. In most states lawyers are required to earn a Juris Doctor degree from an accredited law school. Some may choose to purse an LLM, Masters of Law, to help advance their practice, or qualify to work as a professor or researcher. Law school programs typically require students to complete 3 years of academic study. Individuals from various undergraduate backgrounds may qualify as candidates for a law program. Applicants are required to submit LSAT scores, impressive letters of recommendation, and have a strong undergraduate GPA. Click hereto search law programs.

Degree: B.A/M.Ed. (Education)
Median Salary *: $51,380/year
Show: New Girl
Airs: Tuesdays @ 9:00pm on Fox

Jessica Day is the quirky main character of the comedy series “New Girl.” Jess is a middle school teacher who becomes the roommate of 3 men following a nasty break up with a longtime boyfriend. Jess develops strong bonds with her new roommates through a number of awkward yet endearing experiences together. Teachers are qualified to work after earning a bachelor’s degree, but many choose to earn a masters degree in education to enhance their skills, or specialize in a specific area of education.   Teachers are usually required to pass the PRAXIS exam upon completion of their studies.Teachers interested in continuing their education beyond a bachelor’s may benefit from a few years of experience, a strong undergraduate GPA, a good performance on the GRE, and strong letters of recommendation.

Degree: M.Ed. (School Counseling)
Median Salary *: $53,380
Airs: Thursdays @ 9:00pm on Fox

mma Pillsbury-Schuester is the school guidance counselor at the fictional McKinley High where the GLEE club practices, performs, and learns life lessons. As the school guidance counselor, Emma guides the adolescent characters of the glee club through the hardships of being a teenager addressing issues such as anorexia and bulimia, teen pregnancy, alcohol abuse, sexuality, and self-esteem. These challenges are not unlike the issues real school guidance counselors must address.School guidance counselors work with students to help them develop healthy life skills. Most states require school guidance counselors to earn a masters degree in school counselingor a related field. Many masters programs include a practicum where graduate students train under the supervision of an experienced professional.

Character: Sheldon Cooper
Degree: PhD (Theoretical Physics)
Median Salary *: $105,430
Airs: Thursdays @ 8:00pm on CBS

The character of Dr. Sheldon Cooper is a brilliant and kind, albeit socially awkward and compulsive, doctor of physics conducting ground-breaking research at Cal Tech University. As a theoretical physicist Sheldon researches String Theory, a highly complex mathematical model that explains the connection between particle physics and quantum mechanics. Applicants interested in exploring the mysteries of the universe with a graduate degree in physics are not required to be prodigies like Sheldon, but they may benefit from a strong foundation in mathematics and science. Typically they are intellectually curious and able to think about the relationships between many different concepts at once. PhD applicants will likely have to submit a personal statement or a statement of research interests, GRE scores, and strong letters of recommendation. Click hereto learn more about graduate programs in physics.

Degree: M.D. (General Surgery)
Median Salary *: $343,958
Airs: Thursdays @ 9:00pm on ABC

The character Dr. Meredith Grey is a talented and emotionally complex surgeon at The Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital, formerly known as Seattle Grace Mercy West Hospital. After surviving a grueling residency and several personal fiascos, Meredith becomes an attending surgeon and rising star in the medical field. While Grey’s Anatomy is the fictional story of the evolution of Dr. Grey, the series provides some insight into the life of an aspiring surgeon. Long hours, emergency situations, and intense competition may be characteristic of this challenging field. Individuals interested in becoming a surgeon are required to attend medical school, pass several licensure examinations, and undergo rigorous training before they are qualified to practice. Surgeons must have finely tuned motor skills and the ability to make good decisions under pressure.

While everyone knows television provides a fictional and often glamorized depiction of the professional lives of on-screen personalities, the truth, in many cases, is that the on screen portrayal of what it is like to work in these careers is not too far from reality. So don’t be afraid to admit that your favorite television character is your inspiration for exploring a new career path. In reality, many on screen characters are not only engaging in interesting and exciting jobs; following in their fictional footsteps may actually lead to a lucrative career.

*Median Salary Information per the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Editionhttp://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physicians-and-surgeons.htm (visited October 11, 2013)., Physicians and Surgeons, on the Internet at
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Editionhttp://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/anthropologists-and-archeologists.htm (visited October 11, 2013)., Anthropologists and Archeologists, on the Internet at
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Editionhttp://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/architects.htm (visited October 11, 2013)., Architects,
on the Internet at
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Editionhttp://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/forensic-science-technicians.htm (visited October 11, 2013)., Forensic Science Technicians, on the Internet at
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Editionhttp://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm (visited October 11, 2013)., Psychologists,
on the Internet at
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Editionhttp://www.bls.gov/ooh/legal/lawyers.htm (visited October 11, 2013)., Lawyers,
on the Internet at
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Editionhttp://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/kindergarten-and-elementary-school-teachers.htm (visited October 11, 2013)., Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers, on the Internet at
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Editionhttp://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/school-and-career-counselors.htm (visited October 11, 2013)., School and Career Counselors, on the Internet at
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Editionhttp://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/physicists-and-astronomers.htm (visited October 11, 2013)., Physicists and Astronomers, on the Internet at
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Editionhttp://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physicians-and-surgeons.htm (visited October 11, 2013)., Physicians and Surgeons, on the Internet at

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