How to Choose the right Masters Degree Program

How to choose the right masters programme
Introduction
The masters programme are variously designed in the universities round the globe. A common feature is that the prospective student usually has obtained an acceptable first degree.
Some universities indicate that such a bachelor’s degree must be from an institution recognizable as competent for that purpose.
Perhaps, there is a hint of arrogance or exaggerated self-esteem in this approach. Other universities may be more liberal and accept a student in this category provisionally, implying that the same would be tested for competence one way or the other before embarking on the masters programme.
A graduate from an university may not commence programme unless a stipulated level of competence was demonstrated at the end of the first degree programme.
Another provision which should be of interest to prospective students is that by some remedial’ activity one could carry out a masters programme in a subject which was not the core of the first degree programme.
The degree obtained after a masters programme are described in a number of ways by universities e.g. MSc, M.Phil, MBA, MA etc.
The master of philosophy degree may be in a separate league. A student may be expected to use data, reason and argument to develop an idea or reach a new conclusion.
Some parameters are important in choosing the right masters programme.
The key ones include the purpose or objective, ability of the prospective student and appropriateness of the programme in the Department/University being considered.
Masters programmes
Universities in addition to undergraduate programmes may make provision for studies and/or research. Research involves systematic investigations and study of materials, sources among other features aimed at establishing facts or reaching new conclusions.
The M.Phil programmes probably represent the commencement of organized research. The research components in some master programmes are limited or absent.
I am aware that some MSc programmes besides the taught course involve projects which are detailed review of previous work.
Masters programmes may be available in liberal arts, social studies, studies in economics, pure sciences, applied sciences, engineering, environmental studies among many other areas of study. sometimes highly specialized subjects are tucked’ away into a broad family’ group.
For example, architecture has been placed in the Faculty of Environmental Science, studies and research in the mining sector have also been placed in Faculties or Schools of Environmental Science or Environmental Science and Mining.
Masters programme in science and engineering may require substantial laboratory or other equipment. Laboratory facilities (especially availability of current journals and other literature) are of critical importance.
Some programmes require field programmes which may involve substantial expenditure.
Another important parameter for a good programme is the staff disposition i.e. staff who have the potential for effective direction or supervision of the programmes.
Fiscal issues must also be considered. Sponsorship by government or industry are generally in subjects that is judged to be potentially useful to the body in question. In this regard industries tend to be more restrictive in areas of interest than the government.
In some cases, some departments in the universities are able to obtain research grants and then seek students to undertake the programmes- such students are usually regarded as being potentially capable in that regard.
Another important feature is that some universities (Departments) have developed masters programme following a detailed market’ research of the specific demands of key industrial establishments.
For example, programmes such as petroleum engineering, basin configuration and reservoir modelling/dynamics have been introduced for two key objectives:
a) Attraction of research grants, endowment of chairs etc.
b) Provision of career opportunities for prospective students and hence incentives for prospective students.
Parameters for making a choice.
There a number of parameters which may be important in making a right choice for a masters programme. These include:
i) The objective or reason for wishing to have a master’s degree.
– Improve your knowledge in a particular aspect of a subject.
– Increase your potential for future lucrative career
– Give you a good chance of obtaining a job especially where jobs may be few and competition for them very stiff.
– An masters programme may be ready-made’ and suit well the knowledge or research ability you require for a more effective performance of duties assigned to you by your employers. E.g. oil and gas industry an employee may be sent to undertake a masters programme in aspects of reservoir engineering or the Government an employee in the Macroeconomic Planning Unit may be sponsored for an MSc programme in Econometrics (branch of Economics)
– Aesthetic reasons. Entre nous I used to consider it unthinkable for one to undertake a masters programme for no other reason than unadulterated aestheticism. I changed my mind during my long academic and consulting sojourn in Great Britain. By chance I had an acquaintance of a retired specialist physician who enrolled for an MSc programme in micropaleontology. Reason? During his long practice in one of the islands in the Pacific, he was introduced to and became fascinated by the protozoan, Foraminifera. Consequently, on his return to Britain (about the age of sixty-five) he decided to carry out a systematic study of the organisms- just for their apparent beauty.
– Omnibus parameters several reasons for making a choice are put under this category. For example, a prospective student may choose a master’s programme because he or she anticipates that it would be in the near future increase the employment potential.
– The students capabilities or abilities
ii) Fiscal issues:
The availability of funds is necessary. Programme is an overriding parameter a limiting factor. A painstaking study of the world of learning or publication may provide you with enough favourable parameters for you to choose a masters programme in a university in Australia in an aspect of mining for example. Unless, sponsorship or funds are available, the effort will have been wasted.
Further comments
I will use three broad areas or sectors to stress the need for a careful choice of a subject/department for a masters programme.
These are:
a) Engineering
b) Mineral Development (oil and non oil minerals)
c) Management and Social studies
– Engineering
The major areas include
Mechanics
Materials
Civil
Electrical/electronics
Computer/information technology
Chemical/industrial
There is substantial disparateness in these aspects of engineering sector to be a discentive to a hurried choice. Take for example a masters programme in Chemical engineering the student may spend most of the time in aspects of the design, manufacture and operation of industrial chemical plants
or Civil engineering; in which the studies or research focus on aspects of design and maintenance of roads, bridges, dams etc
or Electronic engineering in which the student concentrates on the behaviour and movement of electrons in a vacuum, gas, semi conductors.
The foregoing indicate that a careful study of the requirements of relevant industries will be necessary before a choice.
b) Mineral development
The extractive sector of the minerals industry engage geologists, geochemists, geophysicists, mining engineers, hydrogeologists, water engineers among other professionals. The key activities involve mineral exploration and exploitation.
A prospective student interested in obtaining employment must study the nature of the relevant labour market. In countries with oil/gas resources some aspects of geophysics may be in high demand e.g. seismic surveys. About ten years ago the emphasis was on 2 D field seismic data acquisition and interpretation. However, technology is evolving rapidly and the current interest is on 3 D techniques aided by computer technology. A careful choice is once again indicated.
c) Management and Social studies
These sectors are characterized by job opportunities being far less than the number of prospective employees. It is therefore important that the manpower needs of potential employers are carefully evaluated. Masters in Management Sciences which embrace aspects of professional administration of business concerns and public undertakings have employment criteria which may often change. Social studies which deal with aspects of the development, structure and functions of the human society may have limited job opportunities when compared to the number of previous seeking employment.
The choice of a masters programme in these sectors must include the usefulness of the programme when completed. In management sciences, the increasing importance of the nature of markets, marketing and merchandising should be noted.
Market theories are many, but in terms of employment the following may be given special attention.
– Markets for primary goods
– Consumer markets
– Futures markets
– Financial markets
– Hedging
Masters programme in pure’ sociological studies may have limited job opportunities. Prospective students may benefit by taking on hybrid’ programmes such as socio-economic studies. These studies are related to or concerned with the interaction of social and economic factors.
Conclusion
The right choice for a masters programme depend on a number of parameters, the key ones including the objective of the prospective student, suitability of programmes for the said purpose, abilities and fiscal issues for persons who wish to increase their earning power, the relevance of available programmes to the needs of prospective employers must be carefully evaluated.
For example, undertaking a masters programme with the objective of staff requirement for the present and in the foresable future.