After completing your undergraduate education, you may feel compelled to consider obtaining one of the many types of master’s degrees.
Why do people go to grad school? Some want to advance in their existing careers. Others are looking for a fresh start and a new career direction. Whatever the reason, choosing between different master’s degrees requires careful thought and consideration.
Undergraduate vs. Graduate Degrees: An Overview
Between undergraduate and graduate degrees, there are many differences to note. Typically, the classroom size in graduate programs is smaller than that in undergraduate programs. This enhances both specialized group discussions, as well as overall attendance.
Additionally, the focus of graduate degrees is often outside of the classroom. While undergraduate courses center around exams and class participation, graduate programs tend to focus more on developing research and communication skills and less on regularly scheduled lectures and exams.
That being said, depending on the types of MS degrees you pursue, your experience will differ. This is also the case if you choose to earn your master’s degree online, which is entirely doable.
A Look at Different Types of Master’s Degrees
When choosing your next career direction, consider these different master’s degrees.
Master of Business Administration degrees target those that are already somewhat advanced in their careers and looking for a professional boost. Still, some may choose to enter an MBA program before starting a career, which often leads to fields such as finance, economics, or management.
Some common benefits of completing an MBA program include:
Higher employment rates: MBA graduates enjoy greater job security by learning a skill set marketable to employers in the long term. According to a study by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), 90% of respondents reported a positive return on investment from their graduate business education; 87% reported that having an MBA impacted their employability positively.
Increased earning potential: Along with higher employability rates, having an MBA can increase your earning potential. GMAC also reported that the median salary of an MBA graduate is about 75% more than that of someone who holds a bachelor’s degree. Earning a master of business degree will signal to employers a commitment to professionalism and successful management.
Degree specialization: While MBA programs are often broad in the scope of their subject, specializations are offered as well. Courses focused on a particular industry or concentration give students the opportunity to sample possible career paths before actually entering the workforce. Marketing, innovation, business analytics, or management, for example, are common specialties students can focus on while earning their graduate degrees.
Expanded professional network: Your peers in business school will introduce you to different industries, business practices, and cultures. Expanding your professional network might present you with unexpected opportunities later in your career.
2. Master of Arts
Typically between 2 and 4 years, the M.A. is one of the most accessible degrees for students. Master of Arts degrees often cover fields of social sciences, including sociology, political science, psychology, anthropology, and can be either research or academic-based degrees.
While business degrees and more specialized master’s degrees often present particular career pathways, Master of Arts degrees nurture a broad set of social and professional skills.
MA degrees are socially-centric, meaning that from a sociological or anthropological perspective, students consider complex theories and their long-term and short-term implications.
So, how can this theoretical knowledge improve your practical career prospects?
Employers want to know why your M.A. degree sets you apart from the other candidates. During your interview, be sure to mention the transferable skills you learned, courses relevant to the position or company, final projects, and group assignments. Emphasize your will to learn and improve, and how that motivation will translate into your next role.
3. Master of Science
M.Sc. degrees share a philosophical approach to M.A. degrees, although they are typically more technical in their career orientation. A computer science degree, as an example, presents specialized knowledge related to technology and can increase your access to career opportunities and salary prospects.
For those already working in the technology sector, an M.Sc. can expand your specialized skills, for example, in the areas of artificial intelligence, network security, or software.
Among those newer in their careers, an M.Sc. provides a foundation for research and development, introducing students to various new industries.
4. Master of Education
Many current and aspiring teachers pursue a Master of Education for various reasons. Most commonly, the goals of graduate education students include obtaining official certifications, making a career change, establishing a specialty, and enhancing earning potential.
Advanced teaching degrees often attract those with a love for learning and the desire to influence and affect change.
To increase the amount of highly skilled teachers around the world, University of the People and the International Baccalaureate provide access to a tuition-free online Master of Education program.
Designed to train students for dynamic careers in education, UoPeople’s Master of Education uses a multidisciplinary approach, including human development, teaching and learning theory, behavior management, and assessment of learning.
The program offers two specializations: Elementary/Middle School Education and Secondary Education. The academic year is split into five (5) nine-week terms, and can be completed either full-time or part-time. In certain cases, students may be permitted to use an accelerated track.
Our M.Ed. program aims to develop highly developed teaching skills, equipping each student with the ability to set classroom learning goals and objectives, identify instructional needs of individual learners, create and maintain an effective learning environment, employ instructional approaches and activities, and engage in continuing professional development.
5. Alternative Degrees
While graduate school provides a wide range of economic rewards and career opportunities, there are many non-financial benefits as well. Going back to school can renew your energy to learn, offers the opportunity to finally make a career change, and expands cognitive development.
For those who have been thinking of going back to school and are having trouble choosing a master’s degree, the following programs may be of interest:
Master of Public Administration
Similar to a public policy degree, an MPA focuses on the public sector, with specialties in areas such as international administration, science and technology, and the environment.
Master of Social Work
The MSW degree prepares students for careers in political advocacy and community organizing, focusing on improving the quality of life among both individuals and communities. Here’s a look at social work jobs.
Master of Law
Many law graduates pursue a Master of Laws, or LLM, degree to narrow down their interests or to switch specialties. If you have already completed an academic degree but feel that you did not get the specialty right the first time, the LLM might be the right next step in your career!
How to Choose Between Different Master’s Degrees
Make sure to select a graduate degree that connects with your existing professional achievements and sets you up for a successful career going forward. Remember that whether you have just completed your undergraduate degree or have already advanced in your career, the decision should not be made lightly.
Ask yourself the question: Why do I want to earn a master’s degree?
Consider the length of the degree and its financial investment. Though it can seem daunting, the decision can be made easier with proper research of various programs available to you. Check the program’s requirements for admission, assess your own strengths and weaknesses, and practically assess your qualifications against each program.
From the types of master’s degrees available, you can select online, in-person, or hybrid options depending on your preference. Then, you can continue forward on your path to success!
For those interested in the Master’s in Education or Master’s in Business Administration at the University of the People, you can find out more here.