Historians say that up until the 19th century, the variety of international Masters programmes was mostly limited to the Master of Arts. At the turn of the century, Europe and the US were just starting to explore the possibilities of graduate studies and their focus, while the Master of Science entered the picture only in the second half of the 1800s.
Fortunately, universities caught up with demand and today, postgraduate study options are diverse, flexible, and most importantly – customisable. Students are encouraged to tailor their learning experience, choosing among a variety of specialisations, courses, and schedules. In the end, your Masters adventure will be like no one else’s.
Select your programme focus
Those who are interested in one field of study and have a particular career role in mind can go a step further by choosing their Masters concentration. Also referred to as a study track or focus area, the concentration enables students to pursue their career goal purposefully and from the start. For example, if you are starting your Master in Finance at London Business School (UK), you will be able to pick from specialised study routes – Investment Management and Analysis, Risk Management and Derivatives, Corporate Finance, and CFO. Each concentration looks at the financial industry through a different lens, providing additional knowledge and confidence to students interested in these career trajectories. Selecting one will also let your professors know what you are looking for in this programme so that they can help you get there.
Do not be discouraged if none of the concentrations seem to speak your language. If you just want to study Finance or Management or another discipline, you can always go for the general programme style. “Concentrations aren’t compulsory,” says London Business School. “Many students choose to follow a general track, which equips you with the skills you need to be adept and confident across a wide range of finance functions.”
Assemble the perfect content mix
While selecting a study track shapes your Masters experience on a macro level, you can also customise your programme in detail. Following one or two terms dedicated to core courses and compulsory studies, students need to handle their “pick and mix”. This is done depending on the scope of electives and optional courses available at the university of your choice. The Master in Management at ESCP Europe, for example, offers more than 140 electives, but their availability varies according to the campus location. The course on Digital Marketing is offered within the campus in Paris, but if you want to sign up for the Corporate Social Responsibility elective, you will have to be enrolled in Berlin.
Seemingly a straightforward activity, choosing your optional courses should also be a strategic decision. On the one hand, students can follow the path that is expected for professionals within their field. If you are committed to a STEM-related programme, you can stick to the fundamentals and go for highly technical and scientific electives that will add to your industry expertise. On the other hand, opting for some courses outside your comfort zone is another strategy to help you stand out as a future graduate. Interdisciplinary knowledge is highly valued in today’s workforce, so electives in Communication or Management may actually prepare you to go further in your scientific field.
Choose your schedule
Beyond customising the curriculum, universities enable students to enrol in the programme format that suits their short-term and long-term plans. London Business School, for instance, not only gives class participants the opportunity to choose between full-time and part-time attendance, but also offers different programme lengths for each format. If you decide to be entirely committed to studying and prefer the full-time option, you could still consider whether an additional fourth term (from August to December) could benefit you even more. This extra step means students could take advantage of even more electives or choose to go on an exchange programme in another country.
Similarly, the ESCP Europe programme in Management encourages its cohort to explore the allure of internships, a work–study mix, and even taking a gap year. Depending on how you customise your learning, obtaining your degree can be prolonged to up to four years. While to some students this will seem much too lengthy, others will appreciate the chance to take slower, yet deliberate steps.
Of course, a few paragraphs can barely scratch the surface when describing the opportunities for customisation available across the globe. Do you fancy the idea of obtaining a dual degree? Thanks to their global partnerships, many institutions can offer a dual Masters degree option. Do you want to choose between a research-based final thesis and a practical capstone project? As the Masters thesis takes up a significant part of many graduate programmes, you may be able to decide how to approach it. Are you looking forward to an insightful study trip at a specific business destination as part of your curriculum? This is usually encouraged by schools so they present you with a myriad of alternatives ranging from cosmopolitan cities to rural areas.
Which option are you going to pick for your graduate experience?