The Master’s degree is a great choice for those who want to further their knowledge in their chosen field and gain an edge in a competitive job market. However, some programmes are much more likely to help you land a job after graduation than others.
So, which are the best Master’s degrees for the future?
The world is changing, and so are education trends. Right now, if you want to find a well-paying job in a dynamic, fast-growing industry, you cannot possibly go wrong with a Master’s programme in the fields of Healthcare, Data, or Cybersecurity.
This is what the numbers say. Data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that physician assistants, computer science professionals, statisticians, and nurse practitioners currently belong to the occupational groups enjoying the biggest growth in median annual pay in the US. Logically, these are also professions in short supply in the international job market.
Below is an overview of some of the Master’s programmes that can serve as a springboard into a career in one of these industries.
There is an unprecedented demand for healthcare services as virtually every country in the world is experiencing growth in the number and proportion of older persons in their population. According to the United Nations, “population ageing is poised to become one of the most significant social transformations of the twenty-first century.” Older people are more likely to be living with long-term conditions and they often also have multiple health problems, which makes their care costlier and more complex.
Master’s in Nursing
The Master’s in Nursing can be a great stepping stone for those interested in a career in nursing. There is a massive deficit of nurses with advanced skills. In the UK alone, there are currently nearly 40,000 nurse vacancies, which has led the government to commit to increasing the number of nurses in training.
Master’s in Nursing students gain a comprehensive understanding of how to work with other health professionals to provide person-centred care. For example, nurses can treat and support children and adults with physical or mental disabilities or they can offer care to people suffering from a wide range of mental health issues. In general, nurses are trained to help anaesthesiologists, surgeons, dentists, and other medical professionals.
Master’s in Physician Assistant Studies
We should take care to distinguish between a physician assistant and a medical assistant. Medical assistants are trained to perform mainly administrative duties, while physician assistants (called a physician associates in the UK) examine patients, prescribe medicine, and order diagnostic tests. In most cases, the latter help physicians or surgeons, but they can also work more independently.
The curriculum of most Physician Assistant Master’s programmes covers topics such as immunology, pharmacology, genetics, diagnosis, patient assessment, to name a few.
Cybersecurity is the practice of protecting systems, networks, and programmes from digital attacks. The term has become more popular as cyberattacks and hacks have become a common feature in news reports in recent years. The problem is so serious that almost all major tech companies such as Apple, Samsung, and Google run so-called bug bounty schemes to encourage users to report flaws, so that they can be fixed before criminals exploit them. It goes without saying that there is a massive shortage of qualified cybersecurity experts nowadays.
The curriculum of a Master’s in Cybersecurity typically covers topics such as data integrity, disaster recovery, business continuity planning, and risk management. The structure of programmes vary across universities. The Cybersecurity: Threats and Defenses Master at École Polytechnique (France), for instance, devotes the first year of the programme to acquiring tools and techniques, while the second year focuses on real-world applications. Some programmes combine technology applied practical studies with business management in an effort to produce the well-rounded cybersecurity experts generally demanded by the industry.
Graduates have access to a wide range of jobs such as security auditors, system developers, and security architects, to name a few.
Data is a hot topic today, especially data that is analysed and structured into a usable format. In an article for TechCrunch, Bernard Moon, cofounder of SparkLabs Global Ventures, writes: “Even for companies whose core product isn’t data, the data they have access to has become extremely valuable.” With data seemingly being the new gold, there is an ever-growing demand for people who can collect, interpret, and present it in meaningful patterns. As a result, statisticians are in demand across various industries and at different types of companies.
Master’s in Statistics
Those who choose to enrol in a Master’s in Statistics can expect to deal with subjects such as probability stochastic (random) processes, applied statistics, and theoretical statistics. Students learn how to analyse and interpret data and use a wide range of software tools.
In terms of career prospects, graduates with statistics degrees typically get hired by consulting firms, banks, and in the public sector.
Master’s in Mathematics
The degree exists in many variations -- Pure Mathematics, Applied Mathematics, Mathematics and Finance, etc. The curriculum typically covers topics such as analysis, algebra, geometry, Lie theory, logic, number theory, probability, statistics, topology, and astrophysics, to name a few.
Graduates find employment in a range of fields, including education, research, risk analysis, investment banking, and management consultancy.
These programmes are very specific but remember that employers are interested in recruiting specialists who can help their companies grow in a particular industry. Your specialisation will be highly valued, much more than a “jack of all trades” type of background.
The choice of a Master’s field should certainly be based on practical dimensions such as expected salary and career outcomes, but it should also involve your heart. If you have no passion for statistics or the prevention of cyberattacks there is not much sense in picking a Master’s in these fields. After all, your job should bring you joy as well as money.