Your first impression of choosing a master degree program may seem like an easy 3 step process: choose a program of interest, apply and wait for your acceptance letter. However, there is much more to consider.
Here are six factors to keep in mind before investing your time and money:
1. Which program offers the most benefits?
Program descriptions are helpful but are generally vague tidbits of what the program actually entails. Find out if the program offers any specializations in certain areas of interest. The best way to understand what you can expect from the program is to review the graduate course catalogue for course descriptions or available syllabus. This hidden wealth of information not only verifies the type of course offerings to expect but also how frequently certain courses are offered and the course requirements. There’s nothing worse than paying for a school that only offers one class in your area of interest. Other aspects to consider are the faculty members and their accomplishments and which research institutions are affiliated with the university. This will help to confirm if the research interests of the faculty/university are similar to yours.
2. Traditional vs. Non-Traditional
In today’s career driven environment your time is invaluable. With career or family obligations you may consider completing an online master degree. While many people shy away from this approach in fear that online education is not equivalent to a more traditional university environment, there are many universities that offer a quality education catered to your schedule. A rule of thumb is to always confirm if the university is an accredited institution by the appropriate accrediting association or commission in the area. Consider using online searching tools like Degreesearch.org to help research the best online program.
3. Can you get in?
Always review the admission criteria to confirm you meet the requirements for successful entrance into your master program of choice. Many programs require additional qualifiers aside from your transcripts which may include entrance exams (GMAT, GRE, or LSAT), portfolio, recommendations, curriculum vitae or a written statement. Plan ahead in order to meet application deadlines. Remember the earlier you apply the better your chances are for receiving the financial aid you seek.
4. Financial Aid
Masters programs can cost quite a bit so your best defence is have a financial plan in place. The major question is whether you plan to pay for university yourself or seek funding? Unlike your undergrad degree where tuition was spread over a four year period, a master degree may cost you the same or more within a one to two year time span. As such you should research what the university offers in terms of scholarships, bursaries or grants. Consider contacting the Financial Support office or reviewing their website to confirm application deadlines and requirements.
5. The Program Structure
Ask yourself the following questions:
Does the university provide an option for coop or an internship?
Will you have to complete a thesis, major project or course work?
What is the length of time to complete the program?
If you don’t have answers to these questions then you need to keep digging for more information about the program.
6. Location, Location, Location!
Would you consider moving to another city, province/state to go to school? Many universities offer the same program but with some variation. As well, travelling to another university may provide greater opportunities to find work or pursue further education within a certain field.
By educating yourself on your options, you’ll be able to make the best decision for you. Remember, the best decision is always an informed decision.