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Studying a master’s degree vs. having work experience

Maybe you have seen a very interesting job position but think you are not enough prepared for it. Maybe you are passionate about a certain topic, and would like to deepen your level of knowledge and understanding. No matter what your case is, many students wonder what to do next after they finish their first-cycle (undergraduate) studies: should you study a master’s degree or should you enter the labor market right away to gain work experience?

The answer to this dilemma is that you should carefully evaluate the subject area where you would like to work in and consider your own personal expectations. To help you decide which path to take, we have prepared for you the table below with some key questions you need to answer before deciding what to do next.

Master's degreeWork experience
Would you like to study a PhD? According to the degrees structure in the European Higher Education Area, you are able to apply for a PhD only if you have a second-cycle degree, i.e., you have a master’s degree If you are not thinking of pursuing a career within the field of research, you are not required to be in possession of a master’s degree
Is the labor market within your subject area requiring a master’s degree? Explore what your potential employers are requesting For some areas and some job positions, employers may be demanding candidates with a master’s degree. I have seen many companies within a specific area of expertise requiring a master’s degree, without specifying the area. This means that having a master’s degree represents a threshold under which applications from candidates without such a degree will be automatically filtered out Other areas of work and job positions may demand a more practical approach and having work experience may represent a competitive edge in this case
How passionate are you about the subject? Studying a master’s degree can be a good option to gain fresh and advanced knowledge and even gain confidence within your area of expertise. However, studying a master’s program is hard, so you should enjoy learning the subject in order to make sure you will finalize the program Keep in mind that some skills can’t be taught in a classroom and that you will learn some things only through your own work experience
Do you have sufficient funds? Master’s programs at renowned schools can be very pricey. In most cases, it is also very hard to work at the same time you are earning your master’s degree. So you should consider if you can support yourself financially while studying your master’s program Sometimes it is hard to apply for jobs that offer you a competitive salary if you have just stepped out of university. However, you can apply for paid internships and entry level jobs. Although the salary may not be as high as you would expect, it will allow you to support yourself financially while acquiring the work experience you need
Can you explain your decision? Be ready to motivate the reasons why you decided to study a master’s degree. Sometimes, students enroll in master’s studies because they can’t get a job or they want to have a better paid position. I believe they are not the right reasons to motivate your decision. Employers would like to learn what you gained from your master’s studies and if your decision can bring to their organizations some competitive edge. This is the time when you should explain why you, as a holder of a master’s degree, can fulfill their needs as a business Why did you choose to have work experience instead of further studying a master’s degree? In some cases, working instead of studying a master’s degree doesn’t necessarily mean you are not acquiring fresh knowledge to stay competitive. In some cases, you can earn a certificate for each skill you would like to strengthen. You may use each certificate to receive an official recognition on your level of knowledge

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