To MA or Not to MA

How To Choose The Right Master’s Degree Programme

You’ve heard that an MA these days is the ' new bachelor’s degree' and that more education is an ace up your sleeve in today’s sophisticated world of hyper-information and better qualifications. Taking the decision to pursue a higher university degree is commendable but you should remember that in the future you may well regret a hasty choice. So before you re-enter the world of academia you should take a good, hard look at what you want and what is out there to meet your needs. Here are a few things you may need to consider before you fill out that application form.

The Big 'Why'

Identifying the exact reason for going to a graduate school is crucial to choosing the right university. Why do you want to do an MA? Is it because of an intellectual passion or the need to fill gaps in your knowledge? Do you want to increase your qualifications and secure a better job? Or are you determined to change careers and make a fresh start in a new industry? The choice of specialisation is strictly personal. However, it may be a good idea to take into account the job market, as some professions are likely to experience growth while others are expected to remain stagnant. CBS reports that jobs this year will predominantly be offered to graduates who specialised in accounting, business administration, computer science, engineering and mathematics. According to the report, most employment is offered in the health care, green jobs and advanced manufacturing sectors. The advertising industry, on the other hand, is still struggling with the after-effects of a stifling recession.

The all-important 'Where'

If you are restricted by family or other commitments, your choice of university may simply come down to its location. You may also have personal preferences: a milder climate, a Spanish speaking country, a rural or urban environment. A good way to check if the location of a given university fits your needs and expectations is to check the official website of the city or area it is located in. You will find links to employment opportunities, community businesses, health care etc.

Part-time, full-time or distance learning

The benefit of doing a full-time MA immediately after undergraduate school is that you are likely to earn the degree quicker (a full-time Master's degree course lasts from 1 to 2 years while a parttime/ online MA may take up to 4 years to complete); you will stay in 'education mode', immersed in a culturally diverse and intellectually stimulating environment and get a higher starting salary. On the other hand, doing a part-time MA allows you to find out exactly what you want and get a degree without stepping out of the workforce. Part-time or online MAs are ideal for prospective students who already have a successful career and do not want to give up their well-paid job to attend classes.

Cost and rankings
It is certainly prestigious to be an Ivy League graduate. Doors are likely to open for you. However, the highest-ranking universities may not be the best option for you. In fact some of the less well-known alma maters are quite compatible and offer high quality education equal to that of top-ranking universities. Indeed, a highranking graduate school may have greater resources available, but may also cost more, which may make it more difficult to attend. Or it may have a higher student-to-faculty ratio which may actually detract from the educational experience. Another thing to consider (especially if money is an issue) is the financial support policy of the university. Some graduate schools, for example, tend to give less financial aid for a Master's degree than for a Ph.D.



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