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Picking The RIGHT Master’s Degree


February 17, 2016 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ News About Education


 

The demand for a Master’s degree is on the rise and with the efforts of many Universities across the globe to ‘internationalize the curriculum’, there is now even more interest and perhaps, reason to embark on a Master’s degree. I remember undertaking my Master’s degree over a decade ago and I can comfortably say it was one of the best career decisions I have made as it determined the career path which I am on today.

The Master’s degree, for those who are not very sure, is a higher level qualification which you can attain after studying for a Bachelor’s degree (traditional route) or other technical qualification (for those on polytechnic or college courses + some experience). Increasingly, universities are considering individuals with extensive experience in a particular sector to study for Masters degrees on a part-time face to face or online/ distance learning basis; offering the opportunity to use qualifications, skills and experience from other ventures to showcase themselves as certificated “Masters” of that field.

So now you have a better idea what the Master’s degree is about, how do you know what Masters course is for you?

The Prospects website lists the different types of Masters degrees you can embark on. These include:

M.Sc. (Master of Science)

MA (Master of Arts)

M.Phil. (Master of Philosophy)

M.Res. (Master of Research)

LLM (Master of Laws)

M.Litt. (Master of Letters)

MD (Doctor of Medicine)

MFA (Master of Fine Arts)

MEd (Master of Education).

Surprised at the range of Masters options available? Don’t be! What this demonstrates is regardless of your background, your subject area, your interest and skills, there is a Master’s degree course for you.

You can study for a Masters on a “taught” basis where you can attend lectures, seminars, have the traditional assessments such as exams, individual and group presentations and projects and the dissertation (we’ll discuss the dissertation later!). Your other option is to study for a Masters by the way of research i.e. doing an M.Res. or M.Phil. My experience was one of an M.Res. and I really enjoyed the independent work and how it offered the opportunity to investigate a specific question or topic in great depth. This is a good option if you are considering studying for a Ph.D. in the future. I often regard the M.Res. or M.Phil. as the point where you realize whether you want to embark on or flee from a Ph.D.

What is important when choosing your Masters?

This is an often neglected question and one which I always ask any prospective Masters applicants and my mentees. There are many reasons why you should do a Masters and aside the fact you learn what it takes to be a “master” of a subject, you have the added qualification that can benefit you in many ways. Saying that however, there are many other reasons why you should not do a Masters or do the “wrong Masters”

So when choosing your Masters keep the following in mind:

  • Choose a course that suits your career objectives – this might sound very simple or flimsy but it is very important as the Master’s degree is not exactly cheap wherever you choose to study for one. Have you thought about what you want to do in your career? Do you have that 5-year or 10-year plan? Perhaps do some career mapping or see a career counselor before you choose the course so that you can tailor your choice to benefit you and your future.
  • Read the fine print – Yes you might be excited that a University has considered to offer you a place on a Masters or you feel the name of the course is exactly what you had in mind but before you click that apply button, check the details of the course on the course website and where possible, call someone at the University or institution and ask very key questions.

These questions could range from, what are the employability prospects for people who study that course and from the said University? Is the course mainly taught or are there opportunities to develop practical skills?

You could also ask about placement opportunities and internships (paid or unpaid) and whether the University has schemes to support you to gain employment after your degree.

Another question can be around links to industry and professional organizations which you might be interested in working at once you finish your Masters.

  • Be prepared for “Sprint Learning” – you might be wondering what I mean by sprint learning. You probably did an undergraduate degree for 3 or 4 years where you were slowly introduced to the course in the first year and then subsequently you learn the higher concepts in your second and third year. Well, your Masters is different. The Masters is not a degree that encourages slacking (not if you do not want to fail) or laziness as you practically have six months to learn all the concepts and how to apply them and the remaining time, you will usually have an independent project which brings tests to your ability to manage a project and produce a report (the dissertation) at the end of it. Hence the Masters is like a sprint where your Bachelors and even the Ph.D. are like marathons!
  • Working in and out of the Masters – one of the key things the Masters is meant to achieve is enabling you function both independently and within a group. Often, people underestimate the amount of personal responsibility that goes with the Masters. No one will chase you to do your assessments, exams, attend lectures, seminars, workshops and the like but as a former student of mine and friend says “You are responsible for your own workload, so PRIORITISE!” As an addendum, part-time work during your Masters is advisable but do not over commit – no matter how strong or hardworking you think you are, the Masters is not your friend if you do not give it the time it deserves……………..if nothing else, remember you heard this here first…Your Masters or Postgraduate degree is like a new lover. If you do not treat your new lover well, it only goes one way, well 4 ways – stress, pain, regret and a waste of time and money!!

Finally, just in case the Master’s appears daunting now, don’t be afraid. Many succeed at the Masters level with positive application during their studies. So do your research on what your Masters will offer you before you open and sign that cheque book. I’ll be back with more tips on how to enjoy your Masters and make it a resounding success.

This article was first shared on the Aspiring Professionals’ Hub

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