How to Choose a Master's Program: Research Process Tips
Here, you’ll learn important information and helpful tips on how to choose a master’s program.
Consider which master's degree type is best for you — Master of Science, Master of Education, Master of Art, Master of Fine Arts, Master of Business Administration, Master of Engineering, or something else.
After that, research different job descriptions to help you decide about choosing a specialization.
Master’s degree programs usually finish in two years, but the length of each one depends on the program and the school.
The average cost of a master’s degree in a private school is $87,950, while in public colleges and universities it’s $59,060.
Research and compare accredited programs, consider your interests and experience, and choose the right program well in advance of the application deadline.
Did you know that a master’s degree is the most sought-after degree? Students usually apply to master’s programs in order to have a higher salary, find a better job, gain knowledge and skills, and expand their professional network.
In this article, we provide necessary information and tips on how to choose a master’s program so you can research and compare different schools and programs to find the best fit for yourself.
Asking Yourself, "What Master's Program is Right for Me?"
If you’re not sure which program is right for you, here are a few tips that can help you.
- Think about jobs you’d like to do. Research the responsibilities of those job titles and find the programs that will prepare you for them.
- Watch interviews of professionals in the industry you want to work in to learn more about the skills and knowledge you’ll need.
- Look at different career options for different specializations in order to find the one that resonates with you.
How to Pick a Master’s Program
Choosing a master’s program is a big decision, and you should consider all your options. To help you out, the sections below list some of the types of master's degrees and specializations you can choose. Make sure you research only accredited graduate schools and compare their programs to find the right one.
Choose Between Different Types of Master's Degrees
The following master's degrees provide specific knowledge and skills that can prepare you for advanced roles and career opportunities within specialized fields:
Master of Business Administration (MBA) — In MBA degree programs, you’ll study business and management principles and hone leadership skills. Upon earning an MBA, you can pursue a career in management, consulting, entrepreneurship, finance, etc.
Master of Science (MS) — In MS programs, you’ll focus on research and data analysis and develop problem-solving skills. With an MS degree, you can work in roles such as biomedical scientist, data scientist, computer engineer, research scientist, etc.
Master of Arts (MA) — In Master of Arts programs, you’ll focus on research, critical analysis, and creative expression. In these programs, you’ll expand your understanding of cultural or artistic disciplines. With an MA degree, you can have a career in cultural institutions, media, publishing, etc.
Master of Fine Arts (MFA) — In Master of Fine Arts programs, you’ll learn about creative and artistic disciplines such as visual arts, creative writing, theater, film, dance, and music. After earning an MFA degree, you can become an artist, writer, actor, etc.
Master of Education (M.Ed.) — In Master of Education programs, you’ll learn about educational theories, curriculum development, classroom management, assessment strategies, and psychology in education. With an M.Ed. degree, you can work as a teacher, a school administrator, a curriculum developer, an educational consultant, etc.
Choose a Specialization
After choosing the right type of master’s degree, you should also think about your area of specialization. You should carefully consider your interests and work experience.
There are various specializations within MBA programs, such as accounting, business analytics, finance, entrepreneurship, international business, operations management, marketing, human resources, etc.
Master of Science programs offer the following specializations: computer science, information technology, data science, information systems, technology, electronics, psychology, biology, etc.
Master of Arts programs cover topics including journalism, social work, anthropology, and archeology, while Master of Fine Arts programs allow students to specialize in painting, sculpturing, interior design, etc.
Master of Education programs feature specializations including curriculum and instruction, elementary education, early childhood education, educational technology, and educational psychology.
Check the Program’s Cost, Length and Format
There are programs that last 18 months, two years, or three years. The length of each depends on the school and the specifics of its program. Be sure to research the curriculum at each institution to ensure it suits your interests.
When considering the program's cost, you should account for whether you would be an in-state or out-of-state student, which may affect your tuition. Also, tuition can vary significantly between public and private schools. The average cost of a master’s degree program in a private college or university is $87,950, compared with $59,060 at a public school.
Research and Compare Accredited Graduate Schools
After determining what type of master’s degree you want and thinking about your specialization, you can compare different schools and their programs to find the best one for you. When researching schools, you should only look for accredited schools with good reputations. Consider choosing one with strong connections to the industry in which you hope to work after graduation. To determine whether the program you’re considering is accredited, search for it in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.
When comparing schools:
- Evaluate different programs’ curriculums and choose the one that fits your interests.
- If you’re a working professional, determine whether the schools you’ve selected have a part-time as well as a full-time option.
- If you’re interested in attending online courses, check for schools with good reviews for their distance learning offerings.
- Check resources, including the schools’ websites, to learn about professors and their reputations and to discover what other students have said about their experiences in the program you plan to apply to.
- Evaluate the lengths of programs and pick the one that is more convenient for you.
- Find out how much each program costs to determine whether you can afford to attend.
How to Choose a Master’s Program Conclusion
Determining which master’s program to apply to isn’t a simple choice. You have to consider which type of degree you want to earn — such as Master of Science, Master of Art, Master of Fine Arts, Master of Business Administration, or Master of Education. Then, you should consider your interests and background in order to choose a specialization.
Usually, students need two years to complete a master’s program, but that may depend on whether you go part time or full time.
The cost of a master's degree can vary by school and program. On average, public school tuition is $59,060, while private school tuition is $87,950.
Once you consider all these factors, research your options, and compare accredited master’s degree programs, you’ll be ready to find the best one for you.
It matters where you earn your master’s degree. Employers generally want to know that you’ve obtained the degree at an accredited school. So whether you plan to study online or in person, finding an accredited program and school with strong resources and faculty is crucial. To learn about a school’s accreditation, search the U.S. Department of Labor’s Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.
Earning a master’s degree generally takes from 18 months to two years. However, the length depends on the program and curriculum and whether you go on a part-time or full-time basis.
When choosing a master’s program, you should consider all options. Talk to professors from your undergraduate school who know you. You can also discuss options with career counselors. Consider your bachelor’s degree, personal interests, and career path.