Nov 8, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

With your undergraduate years about to end, it’s time to think about that master’s degree you’ve always wanted.

Master’s degrees can be expensive and time-consuming—but they can be worth it, too.

What should you consider? How relevant the degree is to your career plans, the program itself, perks of the university, and of course, time.

With the right combination of questions and self-reflection, we’re confident you’ll make the right decision.

Let’s take a closer look at four questions you need to answer before going for it.

1. Is the degree necessary for the career you want?

If you want to stay in academia, then make no mistake, you’ll need a master’s degree or higher. If you want a job that pays more with a master’s degree, go for it.

If your intended profession requires it—like physical therapy, for example—then go for it.

If you want the master’s because you’re passionate about the subject, ask yourself what you want to do when you’re done. If the job you want doesn’t dovetail with the degree, then make sure you have the time and resources to commit to the degree - otherwise you might want to consider waiting.

Your takeaway? Figure out if your intended career requires the advanced degree, and make your decision from there.

2. With whom will you work?

Many graduate programs require significant amounts of research with a seasoned faculty member. You’ll probably write a final thesis or a dissertation for the culmination of the degree.

Our advice? Focus your search less on the school, and more on the program and the people with whom you’ll work.

Try to find programs with faculty with whom you want to work—and who want to work with you.

3. What kind of bonuses do the program and university offer?

An acceptance is something to celebrate, but before you accept, what else comes with the package? Any special scholarships? Are there joint programs, so that you can study abroad as a master’s student?

What about internships and job preparation for after graduation?

Does the university offer additional coursework, trips, clubs, or organizations that match your needs and interests?

You need to remember to find a program that gives you more than just the degree—find one that nourishes your spirit, too.

4. Will I have time to do this Masters?

Whatever you do, this degree needs to fit around your lifestyle.

If you opt for a full-time program, know that you’ll spend the bulk of your day attending lectures and seminars, and you’ll be dedicating at least six hours per day to studying on your own.

If you opt to study part-time, you may already have a job or a family. Part-time programs require a minimum of 20 hours per week, and lectures and seminars are typically held in the evenings.

Increasingly, part-time master’s programs offer blended learning options, where some of your coursework is in-person and some of it is online. There are also plenty of options for all online coursework.

 

 

 

 

Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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