So, you graduated from college, and you are ready for more! You know you want to continue your studies, but there are so many masters programs to choose from – how do decide which program is right for you?
The most obvious thing to consider when choosing the right masters program is whether the courses or programs of study that are offered will help you prepare for your chosen career. On the surface, it may seem to be a fairly easy thing to. However, it is a good idea to dig a little deeper. It may be the case that you are attracted to a program because of a particular course or professor. Imagine your disappointment if that course is not being offered or if the professor is on sabbatical. A query to the chair of the department is always a good idea for this reason. Another point to consider is the length of the program – some masters programs are 1 year, while others are 2.
Distance vs Brick and Mortar
With the integration of online learning into higher education, it is no longer the case that you will necessarily have to move across the country to attend the school of your choice. Distance education offers several advantages – most particularly, you can study on your own time – but it can also be isolating. Be sure to consider all of the pro and cons. Many brick and mortar colleges offer some courses by distance, which can give you some flexibility. Be sure that you understand the program’s residency requirements – even though courses may be available by distance, there may be limits to how many of those you can take.
The biggest question in this context is pretty clear – where is the program, and are you prepared to move in order to attend? Moving can add to your expenses if you have family support in your current location. If you have a family of your own, moving also involves the possibility that a spouse may need to leave his or her job. Also important to remember is that the cost of living varies across the country – programs in large urban centers will likely come with higher rents and other expenses. If you are considering relocating by yourself, it is worth exploring whether there are residence options for students.
Cost and Support of Students
There can be significant differences in the cost of masters programs both geographically and in terms of the area or study or the school. Costs can be considerably higher if you will be moving away from current support systems alone or with a family. To avoid sticker shock, you should be sure you have taken account of all of the costs that must be paid. Tuition is the most significant cost, but there may be additional program fees for materials, labs, technology, or student services. Many programs offer financial support for students, including campus employment and bursaries. All of this should be weighed against your willingness to take on student loans to cover costs.
The reputation of a program is an important thing to consider. In a “big picture” sort of way, you want to be sure that institution is accredited and that your degree will be accepted. This is especially true if you are considering attending an online university. You also should investigate the reputation of graduates of the program – do they easily get jobs? Are they in demand? And you should try to find out about the reputation of the program among its students. Does it have a strong alumni association with graduates who enthusiastically recommend it? Or do present and past students grumble about the quality of the program, its professors and courses?
A masters program is an investment of time, energy and money – be sure that you do your homework before making this important choice!