Pursuing higher education and obtaining a masters degree can bring personal fulfillment and new career opportunities. A higher-level degree may bring a new job, a higher salary or a completely new career. If you are thinking about pursuing a new degree, it is vital to research the options and programs while considering what you want to accomplish, which program you want to pursue, and your financial and personal situation. Here is a brief overview of masters degree programs, and some tips and advices to help you get started.
• There are four common masters degrees: Master of Art (MA), Master of Science (MS), Master of Fine Arts (MFA) and Master of Business Administration (MBA). The first two are much more common than the latter two, as an MBA is reserved for business degrees, and an MFA is reserved for art degrees. The distinction between Master of Art and Master of Science is not crucial, since they are primarily used as category headers for certain degrees. Programs in such areas as humanities and social studies tend to fall under the MA distinction, and programs in such areas as science and technology tend to fall under the MS distinction. The most important thing when choosing a degree program is deciding which area of study is the most interesting or desirable, no matter if it falls under the MA or MS distinction.
• There are many masters degree programs offered in a wide variety of fields. Degrees can be offered on university campuses, online or both. Therefore, depending on the area of interest, you can likely find a degree program that meets your needs and works with your schedule. Completing the degree program typically takes two to three years going full time, although they can take as long as eight years to complete, depending on the program and the time you can allot to your studies.
• Obtaining a higher-level degree can be costly, but there are many scholarships and grants offered through universities, private institutions, individuals and government programs. Plus, some companies offer tuition reimbursements for degree programs that enhance your job skills and knowledge.
Facts about Masters Degree Programs
• Masters level classes are similar to undergraduate classes, but they are typically structured as seminars and focus on discussion. In addition, professors tend to expect a higher level of thought, analysis and skill at this level.
• Most programs require the completion of a culminating thesis, although some programs may offer a non-thesis option consisting of a written comprehensive exam or an applied project. The thesis depends entirely on the field in which you are obtaining a degree. For example, the thesis for a degree in literature would be a long paper on a particular period and type of literature, while a thesis for a degree in biology would involve scientific experiments or examinations. If the degree is in a service-oriented field such as psychology or social work, the culminating experience will usually be a practicum or internship.
• A program may or may not require the GRE. If it does, be sure to take as much time as possible to study for the test, as the score has a high chance of impacting acceptance, financial aid rewards and scholarship offers.
Be sure to truthfully evaluate your situation to determine if pursuing higher education at this time is the best choice, as this will impact chances of success and completion of a program. Here is some advice on how to decide if a master’s program is right for you:
• Exhaustion: For someone just finishing an undergraduate degree, this is a key factor. At this point, you have been a student for several years and it is reasonable to be tired of going to school. Ask yourself if the two- to three-month summer vacation between finishing the bachelors program and starting a master’s program is enough time to rejuvenate. On the other hand, if graduate school is definitely in the future, or if graduate school is necessary to pursue a chosen career path, then it is probably a good idea not to wait.