The pandemic has brought about great changes in work and study. For many of us at the beginning to the year, that brought with it an awareness about what we are doing, and questions about its long-term value. “Am I fulfilled in this job?” we asked ourselves, or “Can I aim higher?”
Naturally, questions about studies arise alongside questions about occupation. In particular, a student may deliberate their educational path after A-Levels. Does he or she intend to study a degree and then begin working? Or follow his or her academic pursuits up to master's and above?
On paper, a master’s in your field seems like an excellent opportunity for developing yourself. However, there is no simple answer to whether you should take the plunge and commit to three to four years of study.
As you plan and browse universities, there are probably many considerations in your mind. But these can be distilled into three main questions:
Will the qualification get me what I want?
Consider what you want from the master's, as well as the reality of your abilities. Many people have the misconception that a master's will net them a higher pay – which is not true. Increasingly, organisations are looking for work experience over paper qualifications, and that has become even more prevalent during the pandemic than ever.
On the other hand, a master’s degree can help you become a recognised expert and thought leader in your field. It provides credibility and assurance that your experience is applicable to multiple industries. Also, Master’s programmes incorporate significant management and leadership training, which could open the door to a world of new professional opportunities such as public speaking, mentoring, and publishing. You may also find yourself branching into consulting or freelance work as a result of your learning.
Do I have the resources to commit to it?
Assuming the answer to the above is “yes, a master's will take me closer to my goals”, you can start considering whether it is feasible to undertake one or not.
This is the logistics question. Do you have the funds, time and interest to see it through? A master's is a big commitment that comprises at least three years of academic study and substantial tuition payments.
While you cannot plan for everything, we suggest having the resources for at least half the costs in hand (or in the bank) before starting. This will give you some buffer should unexpected emergencies arise.
Also, when searching for a suitable programme, make sure to note down their policies on deferment, late payment of fees, and other such matters. Based on this information, you can decide on whether a programme is suitable your life path.
How much longer to I plan to stay in the workforce?
Alternatively, “How much longer do I plan to stay in this industry?” If you are not sure of your path or just "trying out" a degree, then we do not recommend thinking of a Master's. After all, we never know where life takes us. For example, you may be making plans to start your own business. Then, it is rarely worth the cost because you will not have the time to recoup the money in your earnings, even if you do get a promotion or pay raise from the qualification.
We hope this article has been useful in laying the groundwork for whether a Master’s is what you need. At the end of the day, it is just one out of many paths to learning, and both practical and emotional considerations need to be weighed before such a big commitment. Choose wisely!