If you have already started to look for suitable Masters studies and to think about your career aspirations in more detail, you will probably know that most Masters programmes are targeted at fresh Bachelor’s degree graduates with little to no work experience. However, depending on the field you are interested in, there will be programmes that have specific requirements or preferences when it comes to your professional experience and academic background.
Pre- and post-experience Masters programmes
Programmes that have specific conditions in terms of the prior experience of applicants are usually referred to as pre-experience and post-experience Masters programmes. Even if this is the first time you have heard about the categorisation, the difference between the two is quite straightforward and easy to grasp. The Financial Times uses this terminology for their Masters in Finance rankings where pre-experience programmes are “those aimed at students who have little or no professional experience” while post-experience ones “require participants to have work experience before enrolment.”
The distinction is necessary because there are specialised programmes that capitalise on knowledge and skills that can only be acquired when spending time in the field as a professional. This is often the case with Masters studies that have a very strong quantitative emphasis, such as Finance, Economics, and STEM. Learning about spreadsheets, calculations, and strategy is one thing in theory and completely different in practice. Furthermore, some of these post-experience programmes also put focus on the managerial side of the field, which makes them especially suitable for professionals on their way to leadership positions.
Still, there are other types of Masters programmes that may require previous professional experience from applicants, whether it is several months or several years. Erasmus University Rotterdam (the Netherlands) offer a Master in Corporate Communication which admits students with a minimum of five years of work experience in the field. Other post-experience programmes available at the Dutch university include the European Master in Law and Economics, Health Sciences, or Urban Management and Development. As the school’s website explains, post-experience programmes are necessary in light of the “growing demand for professionals who can combine specific knowledge of a particular market with international and intercultural management skills.”
Academic experience in a particular field
Some programmes may also require a completed Bachelor’s degree in a specific field. Take as an example the University of St. Gallen (Switzerland) and their top-ranked Masters programme in Strategy and International Management. Although this is a pre-experience programme, it is a specialised one and it requires some awareness of business and management, which is more difficult to gain in a non-business Bachelor’s programme. This is why applicants interested in this particular opportunity need to have a Bachelor’s degree in Economic Sciences or a Bachelor’s business degree from a Swiss, German or Austrian university of applied sciences.
However, applicants who already have another Masters degree under their belt can be exempted from this requirement, which demonstrates flexibility when it comes to prior academic experience at St. Gallen. Nathalie Naveda, Admissions and Recruiting Manager at the Swiss programme, encourages students to consider different options and look for help where needed. “If anybody is in doubt, they can always send their transcripts to the admissions office of University of St. Gallen and we will be able to assess for which degree they will be eligible or not,” shares Ms Naveda in an exclusive interview for Access Masters.
The benefits of early work experience
Of course, even when academic or work experience in the field is not a must for getting admitted to your dream Masters programme, it can be useful to have it. In addition to helping you stand out from the crowd and giving your application more context, prior work experience or internships will also be extremely useful when choosing your Masters programme and preferred industry specialisation.
Doing an internship or a part-time job during your Bachelor’s studies is one way to build up that much-needed practical experience, gain an extra boost of confidence, and get a feel for the industry early on. This will show the admissions committee that you have been proactive during your studies and that you take your academic and professional development seriously. Just make sure to clearly point out how your internship or work is relevant to the programme you are applying for as well as what you learned from the entire experience.
Taking some time after graduating from your Bachelor’s degree is another possibility worth considering if you wish to gain more experience before starting a Masters programme. This option gives some flexibility to those students who do not have time for a part-time job along with their studies. Do not be afraid to try out different jobs and work environments early on – this will help you establish what professional role fits you best and it will certainly be a great learning opportunity!