Master’s Degree: To do or not to do?

Education – Study Abroad

By Pooben Narayanen

If you are about to complete your undergraduate degree, you may be thinking: what next? A postgraduate degree? Some of you may have already applied for your master’s degree even before you finished. Some of you may be thinking about whether this is something you want to pursue. There are a couple of things you should consider when you are in the planning process.

Do your parents or you have the means to pay for another degree immediately after completing your undergraduate studies. If you studied in Mauritius at one of our public universities, then you did not pay for your undergraduate studies. Therefore, your parents, or yourself, if you are funding your own studies, may have the means to provide the financial support that you need. Keep in mind master’s degrees are not cheap, at the University of Mauritius you are looking at a minimum of Rs 120,000. If you have studied overseas this will be exponentially higher. Which begs the question: is the timing right?

Real world experience

Your undergraduate degree is one of the tools that will help you get into your desired line of work, but it may not have allowed you to get actual hands-on work experience. Let’s say you pursued a degree in marketing, and throughout the entire program you did not work or undertake an internship, you may be up to speed with the latest theories, but you lack hands-on experience.

You could try to enter a master’s degree in marketing immediately after your first degree, but you will not be as ‘marketable’ as someone who completed an undergraduate degree in marketing, worked for a year or two, then started a master’s in marketing, specialising in a specific marketing field – for example, branding. This makes any job seeker more attractive on the job market when they complete their master’s degree. The reason is that they have real world experience, their approach to their master’s degree will be different from that of a job candidate who has never worked in the field. They have seen firsthand how the theory is applied and what works. It is one of the reasons why most prestigious business schools expect who apply for an MBA to have work experience.

An added benefit to working before you start your degree is that it will help you make a better choice of what field you would like to pursue or specialise in. Working gives you an idea of where your line of work is going in the future. Let us say you completed an undergraduate degree in journalism, you start working for a radio station and find that you are best suited for digital media, then you can pursue a master’s degree in digital media. You may also find that journalism is not for you, that the administration side of things is more to your liking — then you can look into an MBA. The exposure from working cannot be replicated 100% in the classroom. 

If your interest is academia, then you will want to start your master’s degree as soon as you have done your undergraduate degree. You will be looking to do a research-based master’s degree. For example, if you have a degree in political science and would like to do research and teach the subject, then it is best advised to apply for a master’s degree that is research based. Keep in mind that academia jobs are very competitive, and it does involve teaching.

If your interest is non-academic, then you should be looking for a taught master’s degree. This involves classes like your undergraduate ones, with possibly a research paper at the end of the year. Each institution is different in how their master’s degree delivery is done. One thing that you must keep in mind, is that you will be expected to show a high level of understanding and maturity, the ability to think independently and if your master’s degree requires that you have prior work experience you will be expected to share this during your program.

Strategic options

In some cases, a master’s degree may not be ideally suited to help grow your career. Professional designations such as becoming a Certified Financial Analyst or completing a Professional Management course may be a better and more strategic option. You may also find yourself pursuing a career that is completely different from your undergraduate degree. This is also normal, for example you may have a BA in English, worked in advertising after graduation and go on to purse a master’s degree in advertising or postgraduate certification in graphic design. Invariably you will have to see what the trends are, where your line of work is going and what your interests are.

Therefore, do your research and take time to really think about what it is that you want to do next. With your undergraduate experience, you have more maturity to properly analyse the world of work, put that to use and combine these factors to make an informed decision.

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Where to study for your master’s degree

The choice of where to study for your master’s degree depends on your finances. A postgraduate degree is not cheap and naturally if you opt to go overseas then you will be looking at higher costs. It also depends on what it is you are planning on studying, an MBA at MIT’s Sloan Business School will set you back around 7.7 million rupees for two years of study, that’s only tuition fees. It is a very prestigious program at one of the world’s best universities, you have a very good chance of getting a job that will offer you a salary that is commiserate with your Sloan MBA. Even if you can afford this, getting into Sloan’s MBA program is very competitive. You must have excellent undergraduate grades; you must be in the top percentile for your GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) scores, and you must have solid work experience. There will then be the whole admission process that you will have to go through before getting final acceptance if you pass.

This is the application process and preparation for one of the world’s most in demand MBA programs. There are postgraduate programs that are accessible and not as expensive right here in Mauritius, whether it is an MBA or a master’s degree in another subject. The public universities all offer different programs, these are more affordable, and your cost of living will be much lower than say studying at a university in the United States. Keep in mind that if you are already working in a job that is in line with what you would like to do, studying in Mauritius makes things more manageable. If you decide to go overseas, you may need to take leave without pay or quit your job. You may also have to work part-time whilst you are overseas and in a ‘student’ type of job as opposed to a similar job that you had in Mauritius.

You can also pursue a master’s program with a university that offers online learning facilities such as MANCOSA. There are universities that offer partly home and in person courses. These are mainly for taught master’s degrees, if you are pursuing a research degree then your university will expect you to be there in person.

Should you make the choice to go overseas, and you have the means remember to not limit yourself to countries such as the UK, France, India, South Africa, Malaysia and Australia, countries that have attracted a lot of Mauritian students. Similarly, for an undergraduate degree, there are several non-English speaking countries that have very good English-taught postgraduate programs, such as Germany, the Netherlands, the Scandinavian countries, Spain and Italy.

Germany for one has great postgraduate programs that are taught in English and if you apply to a public university, the program might be free or you might be eligible for a scholarship. A big country like Germany means that you have a wide variety of choices in a place that places value on further education. A great resource is the following website, the German Academic Exchange Service; the institution’s purpose is to encourage international academic exchange and foreign students to choose the country for their studies.

For many Mauritians another motivating factor to studying overseas is the possibility of settling in the country where they are studying. This will of course depend on the country’s immigration laws and whether there are jobs available in the line of study that you took. However, do not be too quick to dismiss returning to Mauritius. You may find that you are in high demand at home and therefore able to negotiate your salary and work expectations.

Before selecting where you will study, you must do your research, think of your prospects, and the return on the educational investment that you are making. Whilst your undergraduate degree gave you a broad base, a master’s degree is an opportunity to hone your skill sets, to be even better at what you have chosen to do.

Pooben Narayanen has a BA in economics and a BA with honours in Political Science from McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada. He also holds a master’s in Media Practice from the University of Sydney, Australia. He returned to Mauritius in 2008, and since then he has been working in various sectors in the country. As he teaches part-time at the University of Mauritius, he has an active in interest in tertiary education and career paths for Mauritians in a rapidly changing world.

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 15 September 2023

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