Studying a work related master's course - things to consider

If you are considering studying a work-related master's course, you may EITHER already be working and want to stay in your current career or change careers, OR, you may not yet have started work and be considering a master's to help you enter the career you want. There are a number of things you may find it helpful to consider:

Will a master's level course REALLY help me move on in my career?

If you are working, and want to advance or change career, you may need a specific master's course to give you knowledge and expertise you don't have. See if you can identify colleagues or stories of others who have done a master's for that reason. Ask your current employer knowledge or experience you need, and whether a master's level course would help.

If you are looking to move careers, check out relevant professional related websites: they may have an education or advice section, or an online community. You can also contact the university where you did your first degree to talk to the careers service - they are often happy to help alumni and should be able to give you impartial advice.

If you are not yet working and want to enter a particular career, try talking to some key employers in the sector and find out what they think would be of most use to you. If they have employed students with work related master's, have they found it valuable? Were there particular courses they were impressed by?

What should I look for in a work-related master's course?

When choosing a course, always ask the university where alumni from the course have gone on to work, and what their job titles or levels were afterwards. They may be able to put you in touch with alumni who have gone on to interesting jobs and this can help you decide whether the course would be useful to you.

Make sure the course content covers the areas you need or are most interested in. Does the course offer an internship, and which companies are these with. Ask to talk to a current student. It's also a good idea to find out what the department or course's connections with the industry are, and what events or networks they run to help students on the course have contact with employers - universities are increasingly understanding the need to do this proactively.

What about the money?

If you are already working, you may be able to ask your employer for a contribution or to pay for the fees: think about how the course will benefit your employer and talk about that aspect first before talking about how it will benefit you. If your employer sees you are thinking about their business they are more likely to be impressed. If they cannot offer you money they may offer you time off to study. If they do offer to pay the fees, be careful to find out if there are strings attached - do they require you to stay at their company for a set time, for example?

Courses can vary in cost, even if the content appears similar, depending on the expertise and reputation of the university, its location etc.

Whether or not you are already working, you may now be able to apply for the new postgraduate loan, depending on eligibility.

Is a work-related master's worth it?

Most students undertaking a work-related master's want it to be 'worth it' in more than just financial terms - they want to increase their knowledge, exercise their minds, and gain valuable experience and contacts. If you choose a course that will help you do what you really want to do, and pursue a career that matters to you, it will hopefully be a long term investment that will be 'worth it' for many years, and in many ways.

Read our Top Tips for successful job hunting after your specialist masters study.

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