Masters programmes around the world offer a myriad of options for candidates seeking a post-graduate degree. In fact, the sheer number of Masters degree programmes in a given subject – many with indistinguishable programme names – could confuse even experts in that particular field. However, a close analysis of the degree programmes combined with careful self-analysis of your unique career goals and educational needs can place you in a programme that is just right for you.
Which Masters majors are right for you?
At this point in your life, you likely know in which subject area you wish to further your education, so it may seem like little research needs to be done. After all, a Masters in Economics would be the same around the globe, right? Wrong. Slight differences in curricula can mean big differences in covered skill sets, both between different schools and within the same school.
When researching Masters majors, you want to narrow your focus as much as possible without narrowing your options. You may be considering a Masters in Economics, but what is it specifically that interests you about economics? Would you prefer to study economic effects on one particular business or global trends? Would you prefer a government job or are you more interested in private business? Do banking and currency issues interest you more than statistics and research?
For example, Lehigh University’s College of Business and Economics (US) offers a Masters in Economics, which seems straightforward enough, but how does that differ from their Masters in Analytical Finance? Only when you understand the nuances of a particular field can you make a judgement on what degrees would suit you best. Then the programme research begins.
Differences between schools
As mentioned, not all Masters degree programmes are the same, even if the names are. The curriculum established by the faculty and administration at one particular B-school or university may be quite different from another. Similar accreditation of programmes or schools can also be misleading as these are based on the standards of the agency or institution issuing the accreditation, not the standards of the programme or the school.
Masters majors with the same name can also have vastly different electives from which to choose, even if the core skills covered by the programme are the same. One school may have several electives focused on the international applications of the topic at hand, and another school may only have one or none.
For example, Lehigh University offers two post-graduate economics degrees: a Masters in Economics and a Masters in Analytical Finance. How do those degrees differ from similarly named degree programmes at the Loughborough University School of Business and Economics (UK), which offers Masters degrees in Banking and Finance, Economics and Finance, and Economics and Business Strategy.
Differences within one school
One school’s programmes may be widely comprehensive or they may be uniquely specialised in an effort to add value to the degree. To take the economics example one step further, consider Maastricht University (Netherlands). It offers Masters degrees in Economics with concentrations in Social Economics, Public Economics, Managerial Economics, Global Innovation Economics, and European Economic Policy, Competition, and Regulation in addition to its degrees in Econometrics, Economic and Financial Research, Actuarial Science, and Mathematical Economics. In such a case, the best idea is to contact the school for specific, detailed information on the similarities and differences of all these programmes, and then consider your options carefully.
More to consider than just the degree
Differences between schools go beyond nomenclature and curriculum. You may be considering a Masters degree programme at one B-school and a similar programme at a comparable university, but there is so much more to consider. One may have a better career services department and a better job placement record that interests you far more than minor variations in curriculum. Or one may have a relationship with an internationally renowned corporation that allows for prestigious internships, or a study-abroad programme that affords you much better opportunities for exposure to other cultures.
A combination of comprehensive self-analysis and thorough research will pay off if you consider the whole picture and not just a particular programme snapshot. The exercise may also enlighten you about specialised aspects of the field that you did not know existed, and that may change your career goals. Whatever your personal preferences, a diligent search can result in a Masters degree that offers you a lifetime of benefits, including long-term career satisfaction and personal fulfilment.