Graduate education is an exciting field to follow – its shifts and trends are a natural extension of the preferences of students, faculty, employers, and everyone else involved. With the advances in technology and the emergence of new fields of work, schools around the world have the opportunity to reflect these trends in their programmes by designing interesting Masters degrees and innovative formats.
Emerging fields and tech-related degrees
Our current way of life has moved us into previously unfamiliar professional disciplines. The differences in the way we work become even more nuanced when we consider regional and global specifics as well. One thing is clear – people who nurture their curiosity and desire to learn have more study options to choose from than ever before.
In an article for Masterstudies.com, Alyssa Walker, who is a writer, educator, and non-profit consultant, gives several examples of emerging postgraduate fields of study. In the past couple of years, Masters specialisations such as Biostatistics, Artificial Intelligence, Cyber Security, and Urban Studies have become extremely relevant for today’s workforce. What all of these disciplines have in common is their focus on making the world a better place to live in while also providing excellent working conditions for professionals. According to Fortune, a postgraduate diploma in Biostatistics can lead to a median salary of about USD 113,400 and has 20% projected job growth by 2022.
Of course, some of these fields are still very new and are not among the most sought-after graduate studies, especially compared to Business and Management or Finance. However, there is one spectrum of subjects which has seen increasing interest from prospective students and professionals – STEM, short for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Statistics collected by Washington’s Education Research & Data Center show that the number of students enrolling in STEM graduate programmes in the US is growing tremendously. In 2016-17, students majoring in Computer Science more than tripled; Chemical Engineering programme participants increased by 77%; Electrical Engineering went up by 101%, and Mechanical Engineering by 132%.
The boom in online programmes
Next to the diversity of majors and specialisations, more and more international Masters programmes are now exploring untapped markets and different formats. In July 2018, the prestigious University of Pennsylvania (US) announced that its School of Engineering and Applied Science is partnering with the online learning platform Coursera. The joint project offers the first fully-online Masters degree in Computer and Information Technology, reads the official announcement. The programme introduces another interesting concept by targeting prospective students who do not necessarily fit within the traditional applicant pool. According to the news, working adults without any prior technology experience will be the main target group of the online Masters.
This is not the first online degree to make the headlines, nor will it be the last. Business magazine Fast Company notes that Coursera alone offers 10 other graduate degrees in areas ranging from business to public health. Apart from designing online programmes, universities and business schools are catering to various other niches. Those applicants who prefer the on-campus experience but cannot commit to full-time study, can look for part-time or blended programmes which combine the digital element with the established face-to-face teaching approach.
For some fields of study, there are even pre- and post-experience study options. Prospective students interested in continuing their education in Finance can take a look at The Financial Times Masters in Finance rankings. Applicants with little to no work experience in this sphere can browse pre-experience programmes while those who have already been in the workforce may be more suited for post-experience degrees.
New ways to attract talented applicants
Another North American university has taken innovative measures not only in the field of study and the format of the programmes on offer, but in the admissions process as a whole. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) began accepting applications for its new Masters degree in Data, Economics, and Development Policy (DEDP) in 2017. Applicants who would like to get admitted do not have to worry about the usual admissions criteria such as test scores or letters of recommendation, but instead have to follow the so-called MicroMasters programme. This is a set of online courses which, when passed successfully, grant students the opportunity to apply for the newly launched MIT Masters on campus.
“Performance in the online MicroMasters in DEDP will be a key selection criterion for those students who complete this programme and then apply to the MIT Masters. [...] Through this unique 'inverted' admissions process, the blended Masters programme opens new doors for those seeking education at MIT,” is how it is further explained in the school’s blogpost.
Moreover, results from the first year of the MicroMasters have been extremely positive. One of the professors who taught in two of the programme’s campuses (Spain and Malaysia) highlighted the excellent quality of the blended learning class. Yossi Sheffi, Director of the MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics and Director of the Masters programme in Supply Chain Management, also shares her enthusiasm for the future of education: “The amazing thing is that you get people who never had a dream of getting an MIT-level education.”
It seems that with the latest developments in international graduate studies, such a dream is no longer impossible.