If the thought of Masters degree studies brings to mind large, grim auditoriums and dry, theoretical textbooks, think again! Discover the diversity of learning experiences and environments that universities provide today to prepare Masters students for further exploration and for making a difference in the professional field of their choice.

Not only are Masters classrooms filled with modern technology, but courses are intimate and hands-on. Programmes can be tailored to your own personal interests or career needs. Campuses are lively and most have amazing amenities to make your Masters experience comfortable as well as educational. Student clubs abound, offering opportunities for contact with like-minded individuals engaging in activities that will expand your horizons. And career services experts can assist you with transitioning into the next exciting phase of your life upon graduating from the Masters programme.

Educational opportunities

Striving for quality

A healthy, competitive market such as exists today in global Masters-level education practically guarantees you will receive a high-quality education. Universities and B-schools compete for the best faculty and high-potential applicants. Masters degree programmes compete with each other for a high placing on annual programme rankings and for the attention of reputable employers. Corporate recruiters compete for the top graduates.

Read: Why Getting a Masters Degree Makes Sense‚Äč

This level of all-round competition ultimately benefits the student the most. As universities and B-schools constantly make programme improvements in order to appeal to potential students and the requirements of employers, the standards of Masters programmes continue to rise every year. The flip side is that entry to the leading programmes becomes more and more competitive each year as well. But even competition among students ultimately benefits the students themselves the most, as it forces applicants to study harder and learn more to have a chance at a top programme.

Curriculum customisation

At a glance, Masters degree programmes may all look the same, at least the common ones like Management or Finance. But due to today’s flexibility in course selection even two students studying the same Masters degree at the same school may be following quite different programmes. Many top B-schools and universities provide postgraduate students with some level of curriculum customisation by allowing them to specialise in a particular segment of the degree field or by providing a wide array of highly specialised elective courses from which to choose, for example.

And as the market for specialised degrees continues to increase, the number of unique degree programmes available increases as well. With enough searching, you can find a programme with a one-of-a-kind specialisation that might grab your attention and launch your professional career into a field you had never even heard of before your research began. How many B-schools or universities offer a Master of Science in Luxury Management, with a specialisation in Fashion and Accessories? You can find such a degree programme at the International University of Monaco, but you can find a diversity of luxury and fashion programmes with a different focus as well. Just make sure of what you are really interested in.

Many schools also offer dual-degree programmes for Masters students hoping to enhance their skill set within two different but related fields. ESADE Business School (Spain) even offers two such “Double Degrees” within its own Masters in Management programme. This internal Double Degree allows you to choose two of ESADE’s eligible Master of Science degrees, such as combining International Management with Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The ESADE external Double Degree programme goes a step further to customise your learning experience, by allowing you – upon completion of your Master of Science in Management degree – to choose a degree programme from a partner institution in Italy, Brazil, Canada, or elsewhere in the world. This not only gives you great international experience, but it gives you “two degrees from two top business schools and [you can] access their combined alumni networks.”

Such customisation supplements students’ education with courses of particular interest to them, and it also allows students to distinguish themselves from other job candidates in the professional world. Demonstrating highly specialised knowledge or experience to potential employers may give your job application a competitive edge.

Multi-campus and international experiences

Many B-schools and universities have multiple campuses worldwide, and some of those programmes allow you to start your quest for a Masters degree in one part of the world and finish it in another, all the while gaining incredible, life-changing experience. Plus, as mentioned above, many schools have partnerships with institutions around the world, so opportunities exist for you to have a unique, international educational experience. That sort of international experience makes you a much more attractive candidate for employment upon graduation, and it can provide you with the skills you need to compete in today’s global marketplace.

ESCP Europe Business School is a good example of a B-school intent on adapting students’ experiences to their individual needs. In addition to offering courses at its multiple campuses in Berlin, London, Madrid, Paris, Turin, and Warsaw, ESCP offers dual-degree programmes, partnerships with many other schools worldwide, specialised elective courses, and apprenticeship study tracks. ESCP’s degree programme length is also flexible. You can complete your programme in anywhere from 2-4 years, allowing you plenty of time to take advantage of the school’s resources “in order to gain extended working experience in addition to the compulsory professional internships.”

Experiential opportunities

Classroom theory and textbook learning are valuable, no doubt about that, but a modern Masters programme also gives you the hands-on, practical experience you will need to thrive in the professional world upon graduation. There is a healthy balance between studying theory and focusing on practice. “The importance of theoretical knowledge in Masters education is often underestimated but, in reality, it results in better decision making. It also helps to boost creative thinking, leading to novel solutions in an entrepreneurial industry that is logic-orientated. Employers prize this skill highly, according to Monster Worldwide representatives,” highlights an article on the Value of Theoretical Knowledge in Masters Programmes from the Access Masters Tour. Universities have gone a long way to connecting classroom studies of concepts with the real-world application of those same concepts, and graduate students now enjoy a diverse portfolio of experiential learning options to master putting theory into practice.

Practical experience and internships

In order for today’s Masters programmes to be competitive, they must enhance traditional forms of study to give students more practical skills to use in the workplace. A student needs to be able to both learn and apply high-level knowledge of a topic. Götz Giering recommends the Masters of Science in Business Analytics Consulting from Loughborough University (UK) “because it gives you real knowledge about something that is applicable in the real world.”

Read: How Long Does it Take to Get a Masters Degree

Much of the practical experience a Masters student receives comes from programme internships. An internship differs greatly from an ordinary short-term job because it is a training programme and learning experience. It is typically directly related to your field of study and often at a higher level within the company. At ESCP Europe Business School, “Master in Management graduates leave with a minimum of 40 weeks of professional experience.” Whether or not internships are sponsored by the school or are required for your particular programme, students should seek out the amazing opportunities for travel and learning that come from the completion of an internship at a real-world company. There is little substitute for on-the-job training, especially when it is customised for your individual learning experience.

Access to advanced technology and concepts

Masters degree students also benefit greatly from the necessity for schools to stay up to date with rapidly changing technology and concepts. You can expect access to top-of-the-line equipment and computers – much of which is inaccessible to average individuals – in addition to well-qualified faculty members with esteemed reputations.

Adam Lutwin feels he benefited greatly from the progressiveness of the Master of Science in Cultural Foundations of Education programme of Syracuse University (US), which allowed him to improve his career prospects. “The School of Education is extremely progressive and has helped me grow as an educator. I am able to introduce graduate-level concepts into my classroom seamlessly. The university is supportive, engaging, and always exploring new avenues to extend their tremendous resources and expertise.”

Extracurricular learning

Many opportunities exist to enrich the education you receive from a Masters programme, with personal and professional relationships as well as personal and professional development.

Student clubs

Students know there is power in numbers, so like-minded individuals naturally congregate in established clubs and societies, or they get together to form a new one. NEOMA Business School (France) alone has 80 different student societies in areas such as the arts, business, sports, and charitable causes. The societies have a combined budget of over EUR 2.4 million and approximately 500 events are organised each year. Within that type of environment, any student is sure to find a unique outlet for interaction outside the classroom on topics they professionally or personally care about. “Student-run clubs and societies are a great opportunity to make a difference in a field that is close to your heart, but also develop a myriad of soft skills highly valued by employers nowadays – entrepreneurial spirit, can-do attitude, communication, persuasion, and working for a cause,” says international career counsellor Maria Barbara.

Faculty relationships

The relationships you develop with the professors who are experts in their fields can provide you with excellent guidance and advice as well as opening doors of opportunity. Amy Best earned a Master of Science in Human Resources from the Quinlan School of Business at Loyola University Chicago (US) and cites her relationships with her professors as one of the reasons she highly recommends the programme. “They provided me with career guidance, which ultimately helped me find good internships and an interesting and challenging entry-level role in human resources upon graduation.” Learning how to communicate with your professors is another essential skill for professional success – seeking a different perspective, professional advice, and expert help and working with consultants are valuable tools to make advances in your career or to develop your business.

Personal development

Post-graduate studies do much more than increase your professional skills or knowledge. They can enhance your personal development as well. Annalena Eigner considers her decision to pursue a graduate programme at Munich Business School (Germany) as “one of the most important ones of my life.” She not only appreciates the exchange of ideas with fellow students, she credits the programme as providing her with “the self-confidence and self-esteem to take responsibility within our family business.”

Basic educational and career needs may have triggered your desire to earn a Masters degree, but there is so much more you receive from participation in a modern Masters programme. You will have countless opportunities during your studies for personal and professional development that can forever change the course of your life. So get ready to transform into the educated, successful, fulfilled person you want to be, and begin the research to find the Masters degree programme that is just right for you.

This article is original content produced by Advent Group and included in the 2017-2018 annual Access MBA, EMBA, and Masters Guide under the title “How Master's Students Learn”. The latest online version of the Guide is available here.