Why did I pursue a Master’s Degree?

Opening up Google Reader this morning and a new post from Brazen Careerist caught my attention: Why a Master’s Degree is More than an Escape from a Crappy Job Market?  The author details several reasons why this might be a good time to go back to the ivory tower:

  • If you are looking for a job, going to grad school can help you fill the gap while expanding your professional network.
  • A Master’s degree allows you to better brand yourself
  • If you are thinking about switching areas of expertise, grad school is definitely a must to help you establish credibility in a new industry.

Last night, I helped a friend from China to proofread her personal statement for applying graduate school. The essay question reads: what are your short-term and long-term goals? Why do you think our program will help you achieve those goals? What do you expect to get out of the program?

These are the most common questions you find yourself faced with when preparing a graduate school application, and indeed they are essential to think about before you invest money and two years of your life (in some cases more than that) in grad school.

Then I started to think:

why did I go to grad school in the first place?

What did I expect out of it two years ago when I put in my application? What were my goals?

And most importantly: Did I fulfill my goals?

Fortunately, the answer to the third question is  YES.

  • As an international student from China, a Master’s degree in the US is a stepping stone if one would like to work here. I am not saying that it is impossible to work in the US without a degree from an accredited American university. I have friends who graduated from college and started working for American companies which have local offices in Beijing or Hong Kong. Then through some training programs, they were transferred to the US office. However, most foreign students would pursue an advanced degree before they land a good job in the US.
  • If you would like to pursue a career in other areas which is different from what you’ve learned in college, a MA degree is a good two-year time to make that transition.And that was exactly what I did. I was trained to be a journalist back in undergrad, but after some internship experience with the top news agencies in China, I decided that was not where my passion lay. In my junior year in college, I did an internship with Weber Shandwick, the top PR firm not only in China but worldwide. The two-month internship opened a new door for me. I found myself a better fit to work in PR/marketing industry. How can I enter the PR/marketing industry? If I wanted to, I could have worked for Weber Shandwick right upon graduation. The drawback would be working long, long hours with little salaries. What else can I do? How about getting a degree in PR/marketing and then work in the US where the most advanced ideas of PR/marketing originated? That was exactly what I did.

May, 2010 Graduating from Beijing Foreign Studies University with a BA in International Journalism and Communication

  • Another reason why I choose to get a MA in the US rather than China? It is because I’ve been learning English for about 10 years and it is a pity if I never get to live in a English-speaking country in my life. Studying abroad is a great way to make friends, accumulate into the culture and further improve English.

In the hindsight, I made the right choice two years ago. With a full assistantship, I made it through the two years in Villanova University, graduating with a MA in Communication. One month after graduation, I was lucky to find a job in Marketing.

Three years ago, in October of 2009, I was still preparing my applications for grad school, not sure if I will be accepted into the programs. Well, three years later, here I am: graduating from Villanova and doing a job that I like. Life will come together somehow. I’ll have it figured out.

How about you? What make you go for an advanced degree? Or what prevent you from doing that? Feel free to share your opinions in the comments:)


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