Tola Onayemi | Things to Consider Before Embarking on Getting A Masters or Ph.D Degree

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It is important to note that most of what a post-grad offers can be achieved without a post-grad.

First, if you’ve fully considered it and decided it’s the principal way to better your skill, then kudos for thinking of the importance of improving your skill set. Truly commendable. This post is simply to make you think again and if you still think you need to go ahead with your postgraduate study plan, then you’ve passed the test. Please proceed.

Now, what exactly does a Master’s degree/PhD do for you? To my mind, 5 things:

1. A way to bolster your career or personal pedigree

2. A great way to network with leaders in your field & expand your circle

3. A way to change career direction – launch into a new career path.

4. Increase your competence in a certain field.

5. Remedy a weak first-degree grade

6. Well, a last plausible one: a way to escape your country. If you know you know.

It is important to note that most of what a post-grad offers can be achieved without a post-grad. Career pedigree? Become an authority in your field Societal pedigree? Go make money networking? Go to conferences and write on your subject Increase competence? Online courses?

A masters/post-grad degree, particularly outside your country is expensive, in money (plenty $$$) and time (it’s the year you could have spent getting experience otherwise). It’s even more expensive if you’re targeting a big school. If you’re not sure of the career direction, or that you want to pursue a career in that field, a Masters may be a waste of resource. Makes no sense to spend $60,000 on a degree to return to look for capital for your business. Why not invest that money in your business?

Once you have decided the field/area in which you actually want to obtain the postgrad, here’s an important question: is a post-graduate degree required for one to become a leader in this field? How to know? Just examine the leaders in your field in your country and globally. Is it very degree focused? For example, if you’re in tech (say programming) a degree isn’t the biggest priority. More about skill & proficiency. Same applies to commercial/litigation lawyers. The biggest ones built a name from practice. Means years spent pursuing a post-grad is time you could spend getting experience.

On the other hand, if you want to be an academic, God help you if you don’t have a Masters, Ph.D and Post-doc as well. Those are requirements in that field. Now you see why, you must know what career line you want to pursue? I’m not saying don’t pursue knowledge, but remember knowledge has been “democratised”. You can study online courses and materials and get all the knowledge, and even get certifications, so a masters doesn’t have an upper hand for giving knowledge.

Also, businesses are quickly shifting towards competence. Many of the big tech firms hire people without degrees. Several people have done masters and then returned to a similar job with no pay raise or role increase, and are just burnt. Some can’t even get jobs on their return.

If you’re an employer and you have between a person who has a Masters degree and a person who is a top leader in his field. Who are you hiring? Who are you putting in charge? And if a masters is just a way to leave the country, don’t forget that immigration rules are tightening world over, so be sure that it is a worthy cause or even plausible before you jump in.

If you’re one of those who just like books, and just want to amass degrees, I apologise. This post is not for you. Also, if someone just wants to pay for you to do a masters. Free money. By all means, do it. As long as you’re not sacrificing your time (a.k.a life). But if you have to scrap resources (money and time), then think well and be sure it is the path you want to go.

Let me add, there are cases where you need the extra degree to move up in the career progression. Then by all means do it. Point is, be sure you require it and don’t just do it because that’s what people do next after a first degree. Don’t let your family or friends pressure you into another degree. Life’s journey, my friend, is personal.

If you have decided that you need a Masters degree, then stay tuned. Soon, I would share my thoughts on how best to maximize your post-graduate years.

Let me know what you think in the comments section below!

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