How to choose a Master’s degree program

You can read elsewhere about the obvious choices:  finding a university program with the right mix of reputation, affordability and convenience, to reach your career or academic goals.  But since I’ve started studying a Master’s in Design, I’ve discovered what other choices I made.  Here are the questions I asked a friend to help her choose a Master’s degree program:

Discipline

  • Do you want a professional program to advance your career, or an academic program to become a professor or scholar?
  • Do you want to study a discipline that is well-recognized by employers/academics or esoteric enough to pique their curiosity?
  • Do you want to study a topic (such as Health or Mining), or a method that applies to many topics (such as Engineering, Policy, or Marketing)?
  • Do you want to study and work in the business world, or the non-profit / public sector?  How do you feel about capitalism?

 Program style

  • Do you want intellectual challenge or an easy credential?
  • How much study time and school stress can you, your family and your employer handle?
  • How do you feel about being admitted (or not) based on test scores, an essay, or a portfolio?
  • Are marks (grades) important to you? How do the professors evaluate?
  • Do you want lots of course-work to keep you on track, or the independent creativity of a thesis?
  • Will you study full-time to get it over with quickly, or part-time to absorb the ideas over a longer period?

Studying with other people

  • Do you learn better in a classroom with other people, or via distance learning at home?
  • Do you want individual attention in a small program, or lots of course offerings in a big program?
  • Do you want to improve your group-work skills, or study individually?
  • What age range and other characteristics do you want your classmates to have?
  • Would you prefer to bond with a cohort of students taking all the same classes, or meet many students in different classes?

I hope this gives you some ideas for what to ask at the university info sessions this fall!  Please comment if you think of other questions.

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