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When is The Right Time To Get A Master’s Degree?

Why and when to take up a Master’s degree

You probably resolved to finally pursue that long-overdue Master’s degree this year. In fact, you have made all the financial arrangements and shopped around for the university that offers the best course for your prefered Master’s degree programme.

A Master’s degree is meant to help you become an expert in your field. It is supposed to open up more opportunities for you and help you as you take the next step in your career. But, most people are going back to school to pursue a Master’s degree immediately after completing their undergraduate studies. So, when is the best time to enrol for one?

Why you should pursue a Master’s degree

Well, there are many reasons to go for further studies, including but not limited to wanting to get a promotion. As joblessness continues to rise, some people are pursuing their graduate studies immediately after completing their undergraduate degrees. The general belief is that a Master’s degree increases your chances of getting a job and makes you more marketable. Here are the main reasons to finally pursue that Master’s degree:

Master's degree

  • You will grow intellectually: Pursuing a Master’s degree means gaining more knowledge and skills in your chosen field. This is knowledge you can use in your work to improve your performance and grow in your career.
  • To increase your options and career choices: A Master’s degree equips you with superior skills and knowledge in your field. As such, you can be able to switch fields and gain entry into those jobs and openings that require specialised knowledge. It should be noted that a Master’s degree equips you with specialised skills, which can come in handy if you ever find yourself in a situation where you are  trying to change jobs or switch from one career path to another. Some jobs also require one to have a Master’s degree. As such, you stand a chance of landing them with a qualification.
  • To network: School offers you a rare opportunity to meet with people you are in the same field with as well as interact with them. This grows your networks, which can come in handy when you are trying to grow in your career.
  • Enables you to change careers: If you are tired of pursuing a seemingly dead end career and you want to switch gears, taking up a Master’s degree will equip you with the skills you need to pursue a career in a related field. You get to gain specialised skills, which enable you to make the transition smoothly.
  • To become an expert in your field and gain credibility: An advanced degree is an opportunity for you to sharpen your skills and become an expert. Your views will also be respected in your field as you are considered an authority in your field.
  • Higher salary: If all else is not motivating enough, then more zeros on your pay cheque should be able to give you the drive to finally enrol for the Master’s degree. With the right skills, experience and graduate qualification, negotiating for a higher salary becomes easier. Higher education means more skills and better performance, which can help you make a stronger case when negotiating for a pay rise.

When should you pursue your Master’s degree?

There is no right or wrong time to look for more qualifications. However, it is not advisable to enrol for one immediately after completing your undergraduate programme. Instead, take the time to actually put the skills you learnt in your undergraduate years to use. Gain some industry experience and then pursue your Master’s degree to sharpen these skills. Such a move will allow you to understand the career you trully wnat to pursue before specialising in it. Below are some of the instances to consider enrolling for that extra qualification:

Master's degree

  • When it is a requirement to get a promotion: No one wants to be stuck in the same job role all their lives. As such, when you have learnt as much as you possibly can and you now want to move to the next level, then it is a prime time to actually go back to school and expand your knowledge, in readiness for the promotion.
  • When you have gained the necessary work experience: Some graduate studies actually require you to have work experience for a certain period of time. If you have been planning to go back to school but the little matter of experience has been holding you back, then this is the right time if you have actually attained that requirement. Additionally, once you have sufficient experience, you are now a good candidate for a managerial position and a Master’s degree will furnish you with advanced skills for the next position.
  • You have defined your area of specialisation: Graduate studies are instrumental in equipping you with specialised skills in a certain field. As such, if you have clearly defined your area of specialisation and are ready to take pursue a long and fulfilling career in that field, then you are ready to take up a Master’s degree and sharpen your skills.
  • When you are considering a career change: Most people never had a clear vision of what career they wanted to pursue while taking their undergraduate studies. However, with time, you may discover that your interests pan towards a different field. This would be a prime time to enrol for the Master’s degree, to gain the practical skills you need in your preferred career. However, having a master’s isn’t always sufficient when changing careers, especially in careers that are extremely specialised like medicine, you will need to go back to the very basic level.
  • You need some stimulation in your career: Sometimes, you feel like you are stuck in a routine. Like you are just bored and you can do your job with your eyes closed. Well, this would be a good time to go back to school so that you can recharge your career. You will gain more skills that can help you restart your career and probably help you get another job where you are more challenged.
  • You have the financial muscle to afford a Master’s degree: A Master’s degree is expensive. As such, you need to have the financial backup to pursue one without draining yourself financially. There is no guaranteed immediate return on investment or pay rise simply because you have a Master’s degree. It is, therefore, important to ensure that you can afford the huge financial cost that comes with this additional qualification.

Ultimately, a Master’s degree is a great tool for career growth through improved skills and knowledge. It should be pursued to increase your ability to perform your job better. Do not pursue a Master’s degree to get a raise or to be more competitive when looking for your first job. Instead, focus on gaining some experience first and by the time you enrol for that Master’s programme, you will be clear about what exactly you want to gain out of it.

Is a Master’s degree something you would be interested in this year or do you already have one?

Choosing A Suitable Master’s Degree Program

A master’s degree program is meant to help you expand your knowledge and improve your skills. Most people would like to pursue a master’s degree at some point in their lives as this improves their career prospects. However, most people go with what is trending and what is readily available in the market. Suffice to say that this is often not the right thing to do, as different career paths require different skills. Additionally, there are many universities both offline and online offering various courses and advertising the most popular ones and this can lead you to make the wrong choice. Therefore, given the number of choices available, it can be hard making the right choice.

Consider this, a master’s degree is quite costly and you, therefore, do not want to invest in something that will not yield any results. To help you make the right choice, here is a guide;

  1. Determine Your Career Objectives

career objectives

Most people choose to pursue higher education so that they can be able to move up the career ladder or change careers. Whichever the case, the right master’s degree sets you on the path to that career you wish to have now and in future. When selecting a master’s degree program, do not settle for what is popular as it may not always be in line with your career objectives. Ask yourself where you want to be in the next 5 years and how can the preferred master’s degree program help you get there. What path would you like your career to take? Would you like to change careers? All these questions will help you crystallize your goals, and guide you towards the right master’s degree.

  1. Determine the Number of Options Available

Choosing between options

In most careers, there are several specializations and there may be several master’s degree options available. Once you are clear on your career objectives, analyze all the options available, and match them to your career objectives. This will prevent you from picking a wrong degree choice just because it is the latest shiny thing in the market. Weigh your options carefully and settle the one that will bring you closer to what you are working towards.

      3. Determine the Mode of Learning You Want to Use

Modes of learning

Based on your schedule, will an online program or an on-campus program be effective? Additionally, after determining which skills you want to acquire, can you find these from local or international universities? These questions help you determine whether an online or classroom learning program best suits your circumstances. If the preferred master’s degree program is not available, is there a suitable substitute? This helps you settle for one that is in line with your career objectives, even if it may not be the exact fit.

  1. Availability of Resources

Learning resources

Resources are important as they determine how quickly you can complete your master’s degree and whether you will acquire the right skills. First, do you have the financial resources needed to complete the course on time and without too much financial strain? If you do not have the right financial resources for your preferred course, can you get a scholarship or can you settle for a similar but cheaper option? Secondly, does your preferred school have the resources needed for your course? Will these resources help you achieve your goal? On the other hand, does your preferred master’s degree program have the right courses to help you gain the skills you need? Take these issues into consideration before settling for a master’s degree to help you find the right one and set you on the path to achieving your career objectives.

  1. Determine Your Existing Skills

Skills and competencies

In most cases, people pursue a master’s degree so as to enhance their skills. However, you may be in possession on some skills already and as long as you can demonstrate an ability to use them, you will not find it hard to move up the career ladder. In such a case, analyze the available degree programs to ensure that they do not teach what you already know. Settle for a degree program that will actually add value as opposed to just teaching you what you already know. If you must take a certain degree course that will have elements of what you already know, then settle for one that will sharpen your skills.

Simply put, a master’s degree program is like a long term investment so ensure that you invest in the right skills to help you progress in your career. Do not be tempted to jump onto the most popular program, as this may not be helpful to you in the long run.

WRITTEN BY
BrighterMonday
Brighter Monday is East Africa’s #1 job site, keen on promoting its users’ Career Progression and providing Recruitment Solutions.
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