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17/04/2013

Want to enroll for a Masters degree? Here are some tips to guide you.

Adapted from The Harvard Business Review blog: The importance of higher education cannot be overemphasized. But some students view postgraduate school as a panacea — a universally applicable fallback and a sure-fire ticket to promotion, the way civil servants get a mandated pay rise after serving for a number of years in a certain job group.
In a world where the value of even a college education is coming under increased scrutiny, it's worth asking: what about postgraduate school? 

There are obvious cases where a postgraduate degree is mandatory; you're not going to get very far in some science, technical, and research disciplines, if you haven't done the requisite schooling. But what about everyone else?
If you're taking the plunge, it's essential to think through how the graduate experience will benefit you, and know in advance what you hope to get out of it. In some instances, taking targeted classes or professional
certifications, like, on subjects like business writing, languages, or project management, may speak directly to your needs rather than a full scale postgraduate course.

If you're doing a graduate program just to get the degree on your wall, or if only a handful of classes excite you, it's far better (and cheaper) to consider taking the targeted classes and certifications. Here are a few other reasons why you might want to reconsider whether to take that postgraduate course:

If you aren’t sure what you want to do with your life. Yes, it's a better alternative than sitting around if you're unemployed. But it's also expensive — and that means you need to treat it like an investment, which means you've done your research and really thought about how you can extract the most learning and value from it. If you're not even sure what your ultimate goal is, you're wasting your time and money.

Remember that your career will stall as you pursue the graduate degree. It's the script we've all heard from our parents: education is the answer! But let's be clear: you won't be promoted because you have a graduate degree. You may get promoted because of what you learned in graduate school and how you apply it at work, which is very different — and unfortunately requires a lot more insight and effort.

The truth is, graduate school isn't for everyone. It's simply too expensive, and requires too much time and effort, to take a "why not?" attitude. It can be exactly the leverage you need if you're an ambitious, thoughtful learner who knows what you want out of the experience. But if you're thinking about going because you aren't sure about your direction, or because your career isn't advancing the way you'd like, it's important to realize: a master's degree isn't a magic pill that will solve all problems. It's more like a targeted therapy: it works hard (and gets results) when you do.

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