Time. Money. Effort.
Each of us has a limited supply of these resources and a Master’s degree consumes a lot of all three of them. Here are some things to know to make sure you are using your valuable supply as efficiently as possible.
There are two main considerations when choosing an advanced degree program. First, you must decide in which subject area you wish to pursue this degree. Second, you have to choose what institution to attend.
Your may believe choosing the subject area to be simple it is what you have always wanted; it is what your career counselor has told you suits you; it is your hobby. While for some people those factors may be enough, most of us need to explore more fully the wide variety of subjects. Due to the fact that you will be spending a lot of time, money, and effort pursuing this degree, you need to be certain that it is subject matter about which you are passionate.
Let us look at psychology as an example, noting of course that any subject can be substituted in this analysis. It is not enough that you enjoyed studying psychology in your undergraduate education. You need to want to live and breathe psychology because it will be a part of your life, not only for the course of your graduate education, but for the rest of your life. When you obtain a master’s degree, it creates an unusual situation for you. You have a niche, which is good, but you also have a pigeonhole, which is bad if you ever want to stray from your chosen field.
So, how should you choose? Find a subject you love to read about, learn about, and talk about. Then, ask yourself if you like it enough to make it a career. If the answer is, “Yes,” be sure you do not like it too much to make it a career. In other words, you do want your job to be enjoyable so you are happy, but you do not want your job to be the only thing from which you get joy.
On to the part of your decision that you knew was difficult before you began to read this article. Where should you pursue this degree?
The answer to this important questions is often difficult because it is very complicated. The good news is that it should be complicated. You will have to evaluate location. In this evaluation, consider how far you will be from friends and family, the cost of living, and the weather. You will have to evaluate the program itself. Take time to ensure that the program has exactly the focus you want (you will know this from your “what subject area?” analysis from above), that the faculty has experience and connections that will be helpful, and that the institution has a positive reputation among practitioners in your field. Finally, you will have to evaluate your time, your money, and your effort. Do you need to go part-time so that you can work while in school? If so, make certain that is an option. Do you need a full financial aid package (perhaps due to a high cost of living at the school)? If so, stay in contact with the financial aid office to explore your options. Does the schedule fit your lifestyle? Do you need a program that requires class time with little homework or a lot of online class work so you can be at home? If so, be sure to include those factors in your analysis.
After you discover your passion and have a basic idea of what you need from an institution of higher learning, visit the school. While you are there, speak with professors and students to get a better idea of what the school is like from an insider’s point of view. Perhaps one of the professors will be a mentor when you matriculate or one of the students will be able to help you with your schedule.
Choosing the right master’s degree program is a lot of work, but, if you are ready for graduate school, you had better get used to the research and leg work. Best of luck to you.