Postgraduate FAQs: “Is a master’s degree worth it?”

 Postgraduate FAQs: “Is a master's degree worth it?”

It’s easy to feel pressured into pursuing a master’s degree when most of your friends and colleagues seem to be doing it. You may feel that you’re losing out on the career growth opportunities that purportedly come with it. But it’s a huge commitment, both financially and mentally. It’s worth taking time to explore the merits and downsides of pursuing a Master’s education so you can make an informed decision. 

1.Is a Master’s degree relevant for your profession?

Besides the high cost and emotional and mental stress involved, will your time be justified in undertaking a postgraduate degree? The answer to that depends on your career specialization. Forbes recently released a list of the best and worst Master’s degrees for jobs in 2017. According to the list, the following are the 10 best Master’s degrees for jobs in 2017: 

  1. Applied Mathematics
  2. Financial Management (MBA)
  3. Statistics
  4. Management Information Systems (MIS) (MBA)
  5. Mathematics
  6. General and Strategic Management (MBA)
  7. Corporate Finance (MBA)
  8. Physics
  9. Computer Science
  10. Biomedical Engineering

Check out the Forbes article for the full list and further insights.  

2.What are the benefits of a master’s degree?

Commonly touted benefits of a Master’s degree include: 

  • Career progression
  • Improved employment prospects
  • To enter a specific profession
  • Facilitate a career change
  • Stepping stone to industry-level recognition, such as a chartership

According to Fast Company, a new survey found that, ‘Nearly a third (32%) of employers are bumping up education requirements for new hires.’ The study reported that, ‘27% of those employers are recruiting master’s degree holders for positions that previously only required four-year degrees.’  This might suggest that employers have higher expectations of their employees now compared to before, though that’s not necessarily reflective of all companies. 

The same article by Fast Company also cited the example of PwC in the UK relaxing their requirements when vetting new recruits to avoid excluding candidates from disadvantaged backgrounds. Each organisation will have different requirements and expectations of their candidates. One way to get a more accurate read on the job market is to survey current vacancies in your profession and compare the requirements of employers. This should give you a rough indication of the recruitment trends of that industry and country. 

3.What are the entry requirements for a master’s degree?

The requirements vary depending on the country, education institution and subject of study. The admission requirements for a Master’s degree programme in Germany, for example, might be drastically different from the US. In the UK, most universities might require a 2:1 Bachelor’s Degree besides evidence of proficiency in English. Those with a 2:2, 3rd class or no undergraduate degree may also be considered, provided they have relevant professional experience. 

For more specific information about entry requirements, you might find this general guide a useful reference to getting started. You may also visit the websites of the institutions you’re interested in to see their requirements. 

4.Should you do a part-time or full-time master’s degree?

A master’s degree is a big commitment and not one to be taken lightly. A full-time study is by far the best choice if you can afford it, as it allows you to focus on completing the degree as quickly as possible. It is also much more intense, therefore only recommended if you don’t have any major financial or family commitments. 

Part-time study, on the other hand, offers much more flexibility. It’s more practical and easier to manage for those with families or full-time jobs doing a self-funded course. Whichever option you go for, take sufficient time to weight the pros and cons so you can make an informed decision. 

5.How do you decide whether or not it’s right for you?

When all is said and done, you should only commit to pursuing a Master’s degree if: 

  1. You’re genuinely passionate about the subject of study
  2. You’re not expecting a master’s degree to automatically advance your career
  3. You’re prepared to work hard and tirelessly for the entire duration of the programme
  4. It won’t be at the cost of a huge debt that you’ll struggle to pay off 

Having a master’s degree will definitely give you an edge when applying for jobs, but it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be more successful than candidates without one. It’s important to look at the big picture and to consider all the different aspects involved before committing to postgraduate study. 

 Why are you considering postgraduate study? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below. 

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