ADVICE

Aspiring master’s students: Here’s how to choose a graduate degree

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Don't flush money down the drain by choosing a graduate degree that will not help you in your career.


By U2B Staff 

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A graduate degree is a big financial and emotional investment. A full-time master’s programme can take between one and two years to complete and set you back by five or six figures. 

The degree will equip you with specialised knowledge in a particular area, which is why you shouldn’t rush into making a decision. Instead, think thoroughly about which programme to pursue and how they’ll help you meet your goals, rather than throwing money into an area that you may later realise you have no interest in.

There are many graduate degree options to choose from, but that doesn’t mean you have to fall into analysis paralysis. Here are some suggestions on choosing the right programme:

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Will it help you achieve your career goals?

It might seem trite, but understanding your “why” can help you narrow down your postgraduate options. 

For instance, in some professions, a master’s degree is a stepping stone for entry-level jobs in a particular sector; for others, it can help you enhance your earnings and get a promotion. You wouldn’t need an MBA for an entry-level job, but it will be useful if you’re a seasoned professional who wants to climb up the career ladder and improve your earnings. 

Meanwhile, if you’re an aspiring PhD candidate, you may want to consider how the degree will help you professionally  – beyond the thrill of adding a “doctor” in front of your name. A PhD can be your ticket into academia, but may not be necessary in some business roles, so do your research before taking the plunge, and don’t pursue something just because you think it’ll look good on your résumé.

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How in demand is the field?

A master’s degree means developing an expertise in a particular area of study, but how demand is your field of interest? 

According to industry professionals, some of the recession-proof master programmes include  supply-chain management; computer science, data science, computer engineering or biomedical technology; software development, data analytics, or technology management; cybersecurity; artificial intelligence; nursing or healthcare administration; and English, communications or marketing, to name a few.

This might help with your decision making.

The success of past graduates

Check the university’s website for details such as the graduate success and employment rates of students, along with where the degree has taken them. This can play a huge role in assessing if a particular programme can be useful for a professional of your cadre. 

You can also consider emailing the faculty’s professors for deeper insights into the programme, or get in touch with graduates via LinkedIn to see how the degree has helped them professionally. 

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How will you learn?

A master’s degree will be vastly different from your undergraduate one. Before choosing a programme, you might want to check with the university about the programme’s delivery along with what type of master’s will suit your goals. 

For example, a communications specialist might be interested in pursuing a master in communication programme, but depending on your career goals, a research-based, full coursework or mixed-mode programme might better suit your goals.

If you’re unclear about what each format entails, don’t hesitate to clarify with the university.

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Without a doubt, a master’s degree can help enhance your career prospects and future earnings. Despite that, choosing a graduate degree should not be something you rush into. By doing your research beyond what’s available on university websites and weighing out the pros and cons of each programme, you’re poised to make an informed decision that will positively impact your career.