If you’ve decided on pursuing a graduate degree, congratulations on taking a step towards self-development. Learning is a lifelong journey – regardless of whether you are an undergraduate, a first jobber or have already been working for some time, and have decided to return to the books, any time can be the right time to continue along the educational path.
According to the Department of Statistics Singapore, the number of people graduating from higher degree courses in the country have increased in all but two years in the past quarter of a century. Popular choices of academic fields include Humanities & Social Sciences, Business & Administration and Engineering Sciences.
Interestingly, Humanities & Social Sciences, which was one of the least desirable higher degree courses in 1993, was the third most popular choice in 2017. On the other hand, higher degree courses in Health Sciences, and Information Technology, which were the most popular in 1993, have a lower graduating cohorts in 2017.
This said, choosing your field of interest isn’t just about following trends. With a diverse number of graduate development programmes to choose from, you need to make the right decision as you’ll be spending valuable resources – time, effort and money – to pursue a graduate programme.
Unlike completing your undergraduate degree, where classes are typically broad-ranging, a graduate programme can be more individualised. This is meant to help you add value to the qualifications you have already attained and the experience you have already gained.
Why are you furthering your studies?
You need to assess what your goal of joining a graduate programme is. Are you doing this completely for self-development purposes? Is this a requirement for your current job or to avoid a career plateau? Do you view the graduate programme as a springboard into better job opportunities in Singapore or the region? Or are you seeking to try out a new field altogether?
One of the most common purposes of undertaking a graduate program is to gain a deeper understanding on a subject matter, which could be via a broad-based or a technically-specific programme. Look for courses that focus on the field or specialisation that is relevant to your current career path or your interest levels. If your motivation is to join a top company to work for in Singapore, then look through career portals and talk to hiring managers or mentors at your company to check if your goals, and graduate programme, are aligned to industry demand.
Research the prospective graduate school and programme
Write down a list of qualifying questions for the university or graduate schools that you are researching, whether in Singapore or overseas. Examples of important questions may include what the programme itself offers (syllabus, modules, assignments etc), class size, cost, location, flexibility in case you are pursuing a graduate degree while working full-time, and the accreditation of the graduate programme.
Read through reviews and credentials of the graduate school, and don’t forget to check for applicable scholarships and grants too. You should also take note of the professors in the faculty you’re interested to join, how it ranks amongst other top universities, and how innovative and current the curriculum is.
Go one step further by asking questions about post-graduation life. Are you confident that recent graduates have successfully received job placements upon graduation? If you have a network of peers that have recently completed their graduate programme, ask around – you may be able to find a programme that is suitable for you at a school that is reputable, affordable and relevant to your goal.
Analyse the job market
While you need to be interested in the graduate programme of your choice, you also need to ensure that you make well-thought out decisions that are going to benefit your career in the long run. If you’ve identified a graduate programme that you think is really interesting or might help with a career switch, but it might not value-add to your current career or if the job market in your preferred career is barren, you might want to do some rethinking.
Check what the current job market trend is just before applying for a graduate programme. Aside from the graduate school’s website, you can search for some of your answers via LinkedIn profiles as well. Is the market for your career of choice welcoming more talents? If it is, then are these job descriptions looking for a particular educational trajectory that candidates must possess? Does that career field place high value on a graduate programme, and if yes, is there a trend as to which programme hiring managers are looking for?
Instead of just choosing a university or graduate school that is prestigious, choose a programme that is practical and allows you to stay competitive in the job market.
Protect against the downside risks
You can guard against losing your job through your constant investment in self-upgrading. Combine your educational qualifications and work experience to give yourself that edge in a competitive and global job market.
One of your biggest assets is your ability to work and earn an income to support yourself and your loved ones. This can be taken away from you unexpectedly if you are diagnosed with a serious medical condition or get into a bad accident.
By identifying your insurance protection needs, you can be confident in pursuing the career of your choice and life you want to lead, knowing that you and your family will be taken are of regardless of what happens to you.
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