Top 5 Things to Consider When Evaluating Master’s Programs

Master's Degree

Have you been thinking about getting a master’s degree? Do you feel a little overwhelmed when reviewing different graduate programs? Many life sciences professionals believe that getting a master’s degree is mandatory for their career.  It is true that a lot of life sciences careers require advanced degrees. However, it is possible to have a successful and lucrative career without one. Recently, we covered four ways to know if you should get a master’s degree. It’s vital to determine if you should even be devoting the time, energy and resources to research master’s programs.

If you are certain that attending graduate school is the right move for you, it’s time to look into the specifics of various programs. One of the reasons many students don’t do well in a master’s program is because they don’t really understand what they are signing up for. Students begin a program only to find out that they aren’t interested in the subject matter, they don’t have the time to complete projects and/or there is no practical application of what they are learning (within their career). These are the top five things to consider when evaluating master’s programs!

  1. Type of Degree

When reviewing various graduate programs, you’ll notice that there are many different types of degrees. Master of Science and Master of Arts are two of the most common types of degrees. In addition, you’ll probably see alternate degree titles that reference the program subject matter. While many people think that the title of a master’s degree isn’t important, it can signal a major difference in the concentration and area of focus. Some employers have preferences relating to the title of degree obtained by ideal candidates.

  1. Program Schedule/Facilitation

Are you planning to continue working while pursuing an advanced degree? If so, considering your personal schedule along with the schedule of the degree program, is necessary. Can you attend classes in person, or would you prefer to take online courses? Think through the types of logistical aspects that would make attendance and studying easiest for you. Some universities offer classes geared towards working professionals and structure them to be more accessible.  Many graduate programs operate with cohorts, so you move through all of the classes with the same students.

  1. Coursework

Many aspiring graduate students don’t dig deeper into a program beyond the degree title. They simply assume that they have an understanding of the content that will be covered. This can be a serious oversight! Two universities can offer the same degree and have differences in the specific courses being taught. If you have a clear idea of your interests and what information you’d like to learn, you can quickly evaluate programs based on the course titles and descriptions found in the university’s catalogue.  

  1. Cost

The financial investment to earn a master’s degree, discourages many people from pursuing it. Have you thought about what costs would fit in with your personal budget? Are you comfortable taking out a loan to pursue a program at a specific university? Some professionals choose to pursue online master’s programs because they tend to cost less than programs that offer classes in person. If low cost is a main factor for you when comparing degree programs, it is important to weigh the distinction and credibility of the institution as well.

  1. Alumni Success

The final aspect of evaluating a master’s program involves determining if a degree from that specific institution will assist with your career goals. Many professionals have invested in degrees, that they don’t believe benefited them.  Usually for a variety of reasons, the alum doesn’t think they were able to capitalize on earning a graduate degree. Reviewing testimonials of actual alumni of a program you are considering can be helpful. Discussing various aspects of alumni success with an admissions counselor, is also good idea. The admissions counselor might also be able to connect you to alumni for more information on the student experience.

Deciding to pursue a master’s degree can be very exciting! However, many professionals soon become overwhelmed by all of the options and differences among graduate programs. It is imperative to know the type of degree you’d like to obtain, as the basis of your research. After that, you can begin the more detailed evaluation including program schedules/facilitation and coursework.  Finally, comparing costs and alumni success can help you narrow down your list and make your final selections on where to apply. What is the most important aspect for you, when evaluating master’s programs?

Porschia Parker-Griffin is a Certified Coach, Professional Resume Writer, and Founder of Fly High Coaching. ( She empowers ambitious professionals and motivated executives to add $10K on average to their salaries.

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