An interesting fact about the Masters degree is that it is not solely designed for young people with limited professional experience who are yet to kick-start their careers. It can also serve as a lifeline to experienced professionals pursuing a career change.
We all know people who have had their career goals sorted out from the age of 10. They know what they want to become and have no intention of veering off their predetermined path. But for many, the journey isn't as clearly defined. There are numerous instances of people who make the bold decision to start a new career. Fortunately, they have a trustworthy and reliable partner: the Masters degree.
A major career change and a managerial role with a Masters degree
It would come as no surprise to find out that the Masters degree can help an investment banker become a financial analyst or an architect switch to construction management. These changes within a certain professional field happen often and seem completely possible.
But can a corporate lawyer become a museum curator? Some may greet such a proposition with an incredulous look, but it’s completely possible. Just ask Amy Weinstein.
After 11 years as an attorney at a financial services firm, Amy, now 60, decided to go back to school when she was almost 40 to earn a Masters degree in the history of decorative arts from Cooper-Hewitt/Parsons School of Design (US). Now, she’s the associate director of collections and senior oral historian at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York. She admits that she didn’t have a clear idea how she was going to use the degree, but she knew that she had always loved museums and that she wasn’t going in the right direction in her previous career.
Amy’s case highlights a major rule for those who want to effect a complete career change - they should not only select a field that offers growth potential, but also one that they are really passionate about.
Amy told the Observer: “I came from a background where being practical was important. So being a poet or studying anthropology or becoming an artist or a fashion designer, all things that you think about, were sort of not exactly encouraged—maybe actively discouraged. My father was and still is a lawyer and there was a little familial pressure to go in that direction. So I did. But I can’t say I did it willingly or with an open heart.”
Work experience brings value to Masters studies
There is nothing wrong in enrolling in a Masters programme when you are younger than 25, just as there’s nothing wrong in doing so when you are in your thirties. There are many individuals who decide to pursue a Masters degree after years in the workforce. Yes, they may find it difficult to blend in at parties, but this doesn’t mean that the degree is not benefitting them as much as their younger peers.
Actually, there are many reasons why older students stand to profit more from a Masters programme than their younger classmates. Their professional experience is an asset, not a disadvantage. It is easier for people who have spent a number of years working in a certain field to know exactly what they want to gain from the programme. Typically, the decision to go back to school at a more advanced age involves careful consideration, weighing the various pros and cons, and a clear plan of what you want to learn and why.
And the benefit is mutual. More experienced classmates not only enrich class discussions but also enhance the whole Masters experience for everyone. They have a better understanding of the job market, especially the specialisation backgrounds and the skills that the companies are looking for.
When starting a new career is the next logical step
In some cases, a switch from one professional field to another is not viewed as an exception but as a well-trodden path. For example, many engineers, discovering that the enthusiasm with which they apply rigorous scientific principles to develop solutions to technical problems starts to wane, decide that it’s time for them to acquire business leadership skills. And Masters programmes are more than happy to accommodate them. There are many business-related programmes that attract participants from different backgrounds looking to widen their understanding of business. Such courses are the preferred choice for engineers who aspire to step into managerial and project management positions as well as for those who want to set up their own companies.
According to a post on the London School of Business and Finance’s blog: “Skilled leaders with the engineering knowledge and business leadership skills are the important link between these realms, and help realise the ideas that shape our world.”
Professionals with a non-business background need not worry about not having the relevant academic qualification for a business degree. In fact, institutions such as UBC Sauder School of Business (Canada) and Schulich School of Business (Canada) specifically look for aspirants from non-business backgrounds for their management programmes. It seems that all works out well for the engineers aiming at business and management programmes.
And not only for them. You can enrol in a Masters programme to start a new career at any point in your life. It’s never too late, as long as you are passionate about your new path and follow your heart.