There are many students who each year face the difficult decision of choosing a master’s degree to continue their university education or professionals who seek to specialize or simply improve.
Given the enormous variety of options and situations, a series of evaluation criteria must be taken into account that will help us make the right decision.
Age, personal and professional situation significantly determine what is intended to be achieved from the master’s degree, as well as the availability of time and flexibility.
For this reason, there is a very varied offer of master’s degrees in format, orientation, target audience and price. And choosing is not always easy. A good place to start may be to use an information aggregator like Universia .
When to start the search
The first thing to keep in mind is when to start your search. January is a good starting point for gathering information. It is not easy to make a decision for one or two years of our life and, in addition, the admission processes begin months before the course.
A first choice is whether to do it in person or online. Our recommendation is, whenever possible, to opt for face-to-face training, which is much more enriching. Personal experience and networking opportunity is invaluable. The online option provides flexibility and is a very interesting option, for example, when you are working.
Lately, many online training master’s degrees have emerged, some at greatly reduced prices. They are an option for those who cannot invest a lot of money. However, it is very important to find out who is behind it, what the training is like, if it is official or not …
The eight fundamental steps
But, let’s see, in addition to presence or not, the criteria to take into account to make a good decision:
- In my region, in my country or abroad? Without a doubt, studying abroad is a good option for several reasons: knowing another culture, improving the language (although it is necessary to have a good starting level), building work networks outside our country (students, teachers and even companies) and the opportunity to have an experience that will not be easy for you to consider at any other time in your life.Our recommendation? Choose a safe country with a good standard of living . Do not be carried away by fashion and try to compensate the expense with a scholarship or a job within the university itself.Obviously, you must take into account your personal situation (whether you have a partner or not, for example), your family ties (not everyone “detaches” or wants to do so). Keep in mind that it is not unlikely that if you study abroad you will end up working there.
- Prestige of the university. It is a criterion that can be easily checked through the rankings . We start in a simple way: Does the university appear in any of them? Does the master’s program appear in a specific ranking? It is also important to find out what opinions appear on the internet when we ask about the university or the program.All this will allow us an approximation to the quality of the institution. Also see the edition of the master (a second edition is not the same as the forty, for example). The second is a full-fledged endorsement, and be careful with the first editions because that is always an added risk.
- Price. We are not going to fool ourselves: cost is a determining factor. You have to include not only tuition fees, but accommodation, meals and travel (if outside of your locality).You have to make numbers and see what budget we have. Going abroad or studying abroad is not cheap, so we must be realistic with the budget. In fact, in America, after mortgages, student debt is the largest private debt .
- Official or not. It is another fundamental aspect to take into consideration. It is not uncommon to discover upon completion of your master’s degree that it is not valid for official purposes. Official master’s degrees (in Spain they include the word “university” in their names) have followed a quality evaluation process.They are the only ones that have official validity. The rest, although they are excellent, are only endorsed by the quality of the university or school that teaches them. Dismiss master’s degrees whose degree is not endorsed by a university or business school and analyze all the information with special care.
- Program. The first contact is usually the website. It is important that it allows you to clearly consult the processes, the conditions of the program, the admission and quality criteria or the cut-off marks. Also professional opportunities, entities that collaborate in the program and the teaching staff.It is essential to consult the subjects that are studied. You will find differences, even in masters with similar names. Check whether or not the contents fit what you need or are looking for.
- The teaching methodology. It is another very important aspect. Methodology is a word that comes from the Greek, Meta (point of arrival) and Hodos (path, direction). What methodology is used to achieve success? There are many options ranging from the case method to master classes. Some of them are more attractive, produce better results, or will better fit your personal learning model.
- Faculty of teachers. Who will teach the classes? What curriculum does the teaching staff have? What percentage of the total are doctors? What professional experience do they have? Make no mistake: the academy is wisdom and organized work. Depending on the type of master’s degree, the quality of the professors’ research and their professional experience should be decisive in the choice.
- Networking. One of the most important intangible values of the master will be the network of travel contacts (companions) who will be professional colleagues. To start or expand your agenda, the master is the way. In some cases it will serve as a springboard to future employment (analyze which companies are collaborating in the program), in others, to boost your career, and in all, you will make friendships that will last forever.In the case of professional-oriented masters (for example, MBAs), analyze the average experience of the attendees. A master’s degree for recent graduates is not the same as for experienced professionals. The value you will get will be very different.
In the international rankings, in addition to what was explained above, other criteria are taken into account: number of applications for each position, average salary of graduates, employability rate of students, ratio of foreign students, etc.
In short, it is an important decision and in which many factors intervene. If you don’t want to be wrong, collect as much information as you can, make a comparison table, and try to leave as little to chance as possible.
Author Bios: Fernando Díez Ruiz is a PhD Professor Faculty of Psychology and Education and Jose Luis del Val Roman is a Professor at the Faculty of Engineering both at the University of Deusto