Returning to university to complete a masters degree is a popular choice. Whether we’re recent graduates, or if we’ve already spent some time in the world of work, a masters degree is an enticing option. Further study can enhance your CV, allow you to develop specialist expertise and skills, and even provide you with the opportunity to switch careers or go on to study a PhD. But there is a huge range of different types of masters degrees available ranging from MBA, LLM to MSc and M.A. So much variety can be confusing – how do you know which masters type to pick?
MastersAvenue have surveyed more than 7.5 million professionals around the world, asking them about their careers and educational backgrounds. The results show that your career prospects are strongly influenced by which masters degree you choose. Degrees that have a clear professional applications – like Business or Economics – offer a tremendous variety of career options, while masters in disciplines like Geology or Art relate to narrower professional fields. Drawing upon our research, and in-house expertise, we’ve drawn up a straightforward guide to help you through the process of choosing a masters that is right for you. If you don’t know your MEng from your MLitt, read on!
Research masters versus taught masters
You can divide all masters degrees into two, broad categories, depending upon the structure of the course they provide – taught (or course-based) masters, and research masters. Taught masters consist of seminars, lab work, lectures, distance learning or workshops, much like an undergraduate degree. As with an undergraduate degree, a taught masters has the primary goal of providing students with a theoretical and practical grounding within a specific area of study or expertise; acquiring existing knowledge here, is key. A research masters, on the other hand, is built around a project involving original research in a specialised field, conducted by the student themselves. The course exists to guide the student’s research activities, and to provide them with appropriate methodological training. Both kinds of masters degrees may also include secondary opportunities – such as industrial placements or career development training.
Taught masters are more suited to preparing students for specialist fields of work or study, or deepening their existing knowledge within that field. As such, they’re frequently chosen by those seeking to augment their CV with expertise relevant to their career path, or by students who wish to switch from one related field to another (such as a person with an undergraduate degree in Chemistry who wishes to move into Biomedical Science).
A research masters, meanwhile, is geared towards preparing students for a career in research. This can mean a PhD, but it can also lead to jobs where research plays a major role – such as in product development, pharmaceuticals companies, consultancy, and think tanks.
MA, MBA, MSc… Masters according to subject
In addition to classifying masters degrees according to the way the course is structured, universities also divide up the masters courses they offer by the content of the syllabus. This is indicated by the names (and abbreviations) by which these degrees are known.
The conventions of naming vary from country to country, and from institution to institution, so it’s well worth inquiring about any courses that draw your interest, to get a sense of how they compare to the others on offer.
Beyond these categories, there is a broader set of factors to consider regarding how to choose the masters degree that’s right for you.
No matter which masters degree you choose, the research shows that it is a sound decision in almost all cases. A new study from the OECD revealed that the benefits of a good education remain significant; including a 10% lower risk of unemployment, earnings 56% higher than they would be otherwise, as well as a lower risk of depression. With findings such as these in mind, money and time spent engaging in further study represents an excellent investment, that will continue to pay dividends throughout your career.