Does Experience Matter?

Should You Start a Master’s Degree after Your Bachelor’s?

The crisis has made recent Bachelor’s degree graduates more inclined to avoid starting the jobhunting process right away andinstead build on the knowledge acquired during the undergraduate studies with a Master’s degree in the field of their choice.According to recent statistics from Forbes magazine, with unemployment at 8.2% and underemployment near 18%, pursuing aMaster’s degree looks much more attractive to most undergraduate degree holders than the immediate job searching process.

All kinds of research results and compensation data are being brought to the attention of potential candidates for Master’s degrees as illustrations of what the degree is worth. Statistics published by Salary.com show that the lifetime earnings of Master’s graduates amount to 2.5 million US $, compared to 2.1 million for people who only hold a Bachelor’s degree and 1.2 million for high school graduates.

Continuing your education is ultimately the best investment you can make in yourself. However, it is also an investment that should be carefully and thoroughly considered and analyzed. In a nutshell the concept of the Master’s programme is to provide students with very focused and specialised knowledge and skills in a particular area. It is for people who have a specific career goal in mind and want to deepen their knowledge in the area of their choice, thus giving themselves a cutting edge on the job market. The Wall Street Journal published research regarding annual salary incomes, showing that in comparison to Bachelor's degree holders, “the Master's degreepremium is 20% — $61,300,comparedwith $50,900.” Numbers in the same study also show that “people aged 25 to 64 whohave Master's degrees tend to earn 93%more than high-school grads over a 40-yearcareer, and 20% more than Bachelor's degreeholders.”

Give your career a flying start
In addition to giving you the chance to acquire more advanced, specific and deeper knowledge and enhanced potential future earnings, the Master’s degree is a tool which helps kick-start your career and gives you a competitive advantage in the crowd of job applicants. “The hands-on programme definitelyhelped me kick-start my career,” says Yaldaz Sadakova about the Master’s programme in Journalism which she studied for at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. “A news story I had writtenas a Columbia student got published in aNew York City newspaper. Because ofthat Imanaged to get an internship with thatpaper while at Columbia and a month aftergraduation I got a full-time job with thatpaper.”

Change your career’s direction
The Master’s degree could be also used if you hold an undergraduate degree in one area but want to start a career in a different field. For instance, if you have a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration but somewhere along the way you might have decided you want to have a career in Law, going to law school and obtaining a specialised Master’s is a way of redirecting your career path even without any prior work experience.

Study alongside your peers
In the majority of cases Master’s degrees are pursued by non-experienced people. Even though exceptions apply, the general rule of thumb is that candidates with zero to three years of work experience go for a Master’s degree and those with more than three years of experience pursue an MBA. That is why the Master’s programme curriculum and teaching mechanisms usually rely on the premise that most students lack experience and have a strictly academic background with few practical encounters with the “real” business environment.

Although older people tend to choose to do a Master’s degree too, such situations are the exception. Most students on Master’s programmes are in their early twenties, meaning that they are not only in similar places in their lives but also have similar levels of maturity. Thus, an older person who chooses to do a Master’s degree should be prepared to be the oldest one in the group and should feel comfortable being surrounded by mostly young classmates.

The value of the Master’s in the context of a career timeline
In terms of the advantages that the different graduate programmes can offer, the MBA is a programme which proves vital to people’s careers later in life. It may lead to a dramatic change in a previous career path or helping to advance to a managerial level. In contrast the Master’s degree, as mentioned above, rather marks the beginning of your professional path. Hence, unlike the MBA which is suitable for the needs of experienced professionals who can bring valuable and various working experience to the table, the Master’s is most appropriate for candidates without experience. The Master’s degree is fundamentally aimed at building on the knowledge and skills you have acquired during the years of studying to get a Bachelor’s diploma. Thus the Master’s programme is the right choice if your goal is to enrich your overall competency in the field of your choice for career development.

Furthermore, during the past decade employers and university faculty have on numerous occasions discussed the fact that the value of a Master’s degree has been gradually shifting in the recent years. The New York Times published an article about the importance of a Master’s degree in the contemporary employment arena, arguing that a Master’s degree today is starting to be perceived the way a Bachelor’s degree used to be perceived 20 years ago. Many jobs which were once suitable for college graduates now require a Master’s degree. For instance, if you started work after getting your Bachelor’s diploma and spent three or more years in the professional world, gaining considerable experience in the sphere where you want to develop your career, then studying for a Master’s would not be common practice. The Master’s degree is normally a means of starting your career and so it does not make much sense to spend money on a specialised Masters’s in an area where you have already worked. What people in such situations usually do is to wait until they have enough experience and then apply for an MBA programme.

The three-year work experience dilemma
However, although years of work experience might appear to be a sufficient factor to determine whether a Master's degree or an MBA might be the better option for you, this is not always the case. Candidates who have exactly three years of experience sometimes face the dilemma of which of the two programmes they should pursue. Since this number of years satisfies the requirement for work experience for most MBA and Master’s programmes, it might sometimes be hard to make the decision. Obviously the specific circumstances in each candidate’s individual professional and personal environment make a universally correct decision making process impossible. However, if you find yourself stuck in a similar situation, your choice can be informed by the career path you want to take after your post-graduat studies. If you like the job where you gained experience and want to delve into the depths of management and climb up the professional hierarchy at an international level, the MBA would probably suit your needs. If, on the other hand, you have gained some experience in a particular field but with just a Bachelor’s in hand, and you would like to stand out and make the difference in a competitive field or just enter a totally new field such as digital marketing, IT, the stock market etc., a specialised Master’s could give you just what you need.

The different cases and unique candidates profiles can make the selection of a postgraduate programme appear overwhelming. However, the bottom line is that if you have just received your Bachelor’s degree and have no work experience or are at the beginning of your career and want to make yourself stand out, the Master's will set you ahead of your peers in job hunting, and help you kick-start your professional path.



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