Deciding on a graduate program is a tough decision. Going back to school is a huge commitment and you want to ensure that you choose the right program for you—one that aligns with both your career goals and your personal goals.
There are a lot of benefits to doing a graduate degree. Graduate school exposes you to different types of knowledge, specialized training and education and inter-disciplinary thinking. It also exposes you to a variety of people who share a common vision but think in different perspectives. In the Master of Digital Media program, for example, you may have a problem as a programmer that a designer can help you with that you would only realize in a graduate school setting.
If you’re thinking about applying to graduate school, here are some helpful tips for choosing the best masters degree program for you.
7 Steps To Choosing the Right Graduate Program
1. Ask yourself what you want to do after grad school.
The best way to start is to think about what kind of career you would like after you’ve completed your masters degree. Where do you see yourself after grad school? From that, figure out what kinds of knowledge and skills you need to get that job. For example, does your dream job require hard skills (software skills, coding, design, etc.) or soft skills (communication, listening, management, etc.)?
It’s also important to think about your interests. Do you want to do a research-based degree where you spend the majority of your time writing a thesis or do you want to do a professional degree, where you spend most of your time on real-world projects? With a researched-based degree, you will most likely be working on the academic side of things. With a professional degree, you’ll more likely be working in industry.
2. Have a clear idea of what you picture yourself doing at grad school.
Know what you want to be doing while you’re at grad school. For the Master of Digital Media program, this means knowing of what type of role you’d like to have on a team. Are you going to be the programmer, artist, designer or project manager?
Picturing what you’ll be doing at grad school will help you to better focus on what programs you’ll be most happy in.
3. Talk to people in the industry.
It’s important to talk to people in the industry to get an understanding of what skills and experience you need and to also get a sense of how they view particular graduate programs—what are the reputations associated with each program?
To find the right people to talk to, attend networking events for your industry or talk to industry associations.
Here's what the digital media industry says about the MDM program:
4. Figure out what skills you need to succeed in the program.
Figure out what skills you need to succeed in the program and whether or not they fit your interests or skill set. Do you need editing skills? Design skills? Do you have these skills or should you take a course to improve them?
5. Talk to alumni.
Most recruitment staff will be able to put you in touch with alumni from the program you’re interested in so that you can ask them about their experience in the program and what career they’re in now. Alumni will be one of your most valuable sources when researching grad programs.
6. Explore other options.
Sometimes grad school isn’t the right option. If you’ve done your research and discovered that you only need a few additional skills to get into the career you want, look into online courses or certificate programs. Masters programs aren’t the perfect fit for everyone.
7. Be realistic.
A final piece of advice is to step back and be realistic about grad school. People often have perceived notions that masters degrees immediately give you prestige and, with that, your dream job. While this may have been the case in the past, unfortunately, it isn’t like that anymore. With more and more people getting masters degrees, companies don’t care as much what your credentials are—they care about your skills and what you can do.
Make sure that the graduate program that you choose will give you the skills that you need to be able to prove yourself and get your dream job.
See where MDM alumni are working:
Note: This post was originally published in April 2014 and has been updated for accuracy.