How to Choose a Master’s Degree

After your undergraduate degree, the next steps are either to join the workforce or apply for a master’s degree. Your master’s degree doesn’t have to be a direct link to your honors, meaning the world is your oyster when it comes to choosing a subject. So how do you choose? And are there different ways to study a master’s?

When it comes to choosing a subject, there are several questions you should ask yourself to help you narrow down the options:

What’s the overall goal?

Choosing to do a master’s is a big decision. And the first thing to think about before diving into another year, or multiple years of education, is the overall goal. Where do you hope to be in five years? What is your dream job?

These types of questions should help to align your current plans with your future. If you know you’d like to work in contract law; you’ll likely need to do a master’s in that subject. Other professions may have a little more flexibility about the topics you can study, so it’s worth thinking about where you actually want the master’s to take you.

Do you actually need a master’s degree?

There are some professions that will require you to have additional qualifications to even be considered for a role. Others will be totally welcoming to those with just an undergraduate degree. Taking another degree doesn’t just cost you time, but it also costs you money. Weighing up whether you really need the extra degree or if it makes more sense to jump into the workforce should be done early on so that you don’t waste resources if you don’t need to.

However, some master’s programs offer other benefits. The MBA salary increase, for example, is a massive draw for postgrads. While you don’t always need an MBA to get into a job role, it can help negotiate promotions or higher paycheques.

Can I handle another degree?

If you’re looking to do a master’s after already heading into the working world, it’s worth thinking about how heading back to school fits in with your life. Can you afford to stop working and head back to school? How much time do you have to dedicate to studying, research, or placements?

Taking a serious look at your time, energy, and mental health may flag up a few issues with getting a degree. However, even if you don’t think you can handle a full-time course, there are plenty of part-time and online options available.

Which master’s degree will get me where I want to go?

In a similar sense to deciding whether or not you need a master’s at all, you need to also consider whether this type of degree is right for your career. When researching courses, take a look at alumni and what they’ve managed to achieve. You might also want to look at the differences between a master’s and a doctoral degree – as one can often be better suited to certain professions than the other.

What actually interests me?

Money is certainly a factor people consider when it comes to choosing a career. However, as you’ll be spending a third of your life at work, it’s better to find a job you really enjoy. Partaking in a master’s is hard work, and without the enjoyment aspect, it will be difficult to keep the momentum. While making sure your subject aligns with your career plans, it’s also important to take a step back and think, ‘am I actually interested in this?’ If not, it might be time to reconsider other pathways into your dream role.

How do I want to study?

Different courses will have different schedules, lengths, and formats. Those that are coming back to education or starting their path to a second career may opt for online studying. This is typically much easier to manage around other life priorities and can end up cheaper. However, of course, there are also downsides.

On-campus courses may offer different lengths depending on the amount of in-house time provided. You’ll be expected to spend the rest of the time self-teaching or picking up placements within the industry.

There are so many ways to study a master’s now: online, offline, hybrid courses, part-time, full time or long-distance. Thankfully, there are usually courses of all subjects available in any format; you’ll just have to do some digging!

On-campus or online: which to choose

There are several pros and cons to both formats of studying. What stage of life you are at could help you determine which is the most appropriate option for you. However, if you’re struggling to make the decision, here are a few things to take into consideration:

Flexibility

Studying online is pretty flexible. It means you can schedule pre-recorded modules around your work or childcare. You can study anytime that suits you, and from anywhere you find yourself.

Traditional, on-campus courses have set schedules where you’ll be expected to attend in person. If you choose a course from a university further afield, you’ll need to account for travel time or financing accommodation during term time.

Socializing

A huge part of the university experience is socializing – meeting like-minded people, getting to know other students, and generally building life-long connections. This is incredibly easy to do on campus but a little harder when studying online. Most e-learners have to work extra hard to maintain relationships over video chat and discussion boards. Students on site will be able to mingle and socialize with people not only on their course but from other clubs, courses, and social events. Deciding how important the social aspect is for you will significantly impact how you want to study.

Self-discipline

Some people will be more than capable of propelling themselves to study at home. Online students need a lot of self-discipline when it comes to learning the content and handing in assignments on time with very little interaction with other students and professors.

On-campus, you’ll have the opportunity to speak to lecturers after classes and will be continuously required to turn in assignments in person and attend seminars.

There’s a lot to consider when choosing a master’s degree. However, with plenty of research, you’re bound to find the perfect course that will help you achieve your career dreams.

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