Choosing the Right Graduate Degree
It is important to establish a baseline of criterion to guide your decision-making process. This will help ensure your research has the proper focus. Below are 3 questions that will help serve to establish your degree sifting criterion.
1. What is your goal?
2. Does the degree require experience to leverage?
3. Can you complete the degree/program in your current situation?
What is your goal?
This question is the most fundamental of them all. It is important to identify where you want to
go so you can map out how to get there. So where do you want to get to? You may break this
down into increments. What are your 5 year, 10 year, and lifetime career goals? The concept of beginning
with the end in mind is important in your graduate degree research process.
Once you have your destination clearly identified, then consider what graduate degrees line up with your career goals. For example, if you want to be a fire chief, then a Master’s of Business Administration or even a Master of Science in Emergency Management would not be great choices, a Master’s of Public Administration, however, would be an excellent fit as it is inline with a high-level administration role in the public sector.
Does the degree require experience to leverage?
If you are fresh out of college this is a particularly important question. Some degrees, such as
mechanical engineering or nurse practitioner, have very specific higher level jobs one can
expect to be a leading candidate for upon completion. Other degrees such as a Masters of
Business Administration or Masters of Public Administration require experience to leverage
beyond entry-level positions. After college, these can make you a leading candidate for entry-level
positions, however, it is important to have the proper expectations.
If you are already established in your career, a very specific degree is usually only a great option
for a career change or a specific position that is already lined up for you. If this is not the case
and you are pursuing a degree for advancement within your current career path, a broader
degree such as a Masters of Public Administration is a great choice. A broader degree will
provide you with the higher level administrative training you need to leverage your experience
to be a cutting-edge candidate for higher level positions, and also to thrive and continue to
advance once you have attained them.
Can you complete the Degree/Program in your current situation?
Once you have identified your goals and considered whether you need a specific degree or a
broad one, it is important to take stock of your current situation. As you look at the programs of
study involved with different degrees, how do they line up with your current situation? Will you
be able to complete them without major changes? If you have just graduated college will you
be able to continue not working in your career area for an extended period of time to pursue a
master’s degree fully or partially on campus? If not, you’ll want to consider a fully online
program. If you are established in your career, are you willing to do a fully online program in order to accommodate your work schedule and other responsibilities?
These factors come into play once you know what degree(s) you should be considering and will likely be the final deciding factors between a few select programs at the end of your research.