What to do after the Bachelor’s? I know that many students – me included – struggle a lot with this question. Even if you have a rather clear idea of what you want your career path to be, it can be very overwhelming to choose which Master’s Programmes to apply to. On the one hand, there are many Programmes that are very similar to each other, so it can be hard to select which one(s) fit(s) best for you. On the other hand, Programmes with similar names can have rather different curriculums, and it’s not always obvious which one will benefit you better.
I believe that when choosing a Master’s Programme one should not only focus on the courses and curriculum, but also on other opportunities and experiences that it will give you. This gives a very long list of things to consider when selecting your favourite Programmes before submitting your applications. In this post I have put together the 10 things I consider most important when looking for a Master’s.
1 – Redirecting your career vs. strengthening previous knwledge
One of the first things I considered when looking for a Master’s was deciding if I wanted to change my career path, or continuing with what I had studied on my Bachelor’s. I decided to explore the world of bioinformatics, which was a small career change from what I was used to in the bachelor, and I took this in mind to look for Programmes that would fit my profile. Had I decided to keep doing more typical biochemistry studies, I would had look for a more specific Programme that covers the topics I am more interested in.
2 – Try a different university!
I think it is generally good to pursue your Master’s Degree in a different university from where you did your Bachelor’s, even if it’s in your same city our country! This can give you broader networking opportunities, get to know other departments or research areas and meet new people.
3 – Moving cities or countries
Studying your Master’s abroad is a great chance to get used to work on an international environment, adapt to a new way of life and accomplish new challenges. However, do keep in mind how is the climate, lifestyle and traditions of the places you are considering living in. For instance, I am not particularly bothered by Swedish cold winters, but I know some of my childhood friends would not be happy living in a country so up north.
Also, there will always be some culture shock, and it is important to expect it and be prepared to deal with it in the best way possible.
4 – Choosing the right university
Once I had an idea of what and where I wanted to study, I started to look into the universities I could apply to. I did it in the following way: I looked at how prestigious the university is in the topic I wanted to study, the type of programmes they offer (i.e. one year vs. two year Master’s) and how my life could be while belonging to its student community.
5 – Programme curriculum
After having 5 universities in mind from different countries, I checked the Master’s Programmes that they offered in the field of Bioinformatics. They all offered quite different Programmes with different focus, number of compulsory/elective courses… I spend some time in checking the courses and comparing the Programmes to rank them in a way that they would help me shape up my career.
I also gave a lot of importance to how the teaching methodology would be: I preferred something closer to a flipped classroom rather than the traditional teaching based on a lot of lectures and a huge final exam at the end.
6 – Practical knowledge is important!
For me, having lots on “hands on” assignments and practical learning was a very important aspect of my decision. Therefore, I checked how long the Master’s Thesis would be, how many practical courses we would have and if there is any opportunity to get work experience as a part of the Master’s Programme itself.
7 – Check the professors and department(s) involved
It could be a good idea to check the list of course responsibles of the Programme, since it can give you an idea of the researchers you will be interacting with. This is a great opportunity for finding out if there is a single department organising your Programme, or if it is a group of departments working together in it. Also, it can give you an idea of the strongest research topics associated to the Programme (which could be a potential Master’s Thesis topic 😉 ) and it gives a great chance to expand your work network and finding a PhD. position afterwards.
8 – Meet the students
Checking the admitted student profile (and speaking to one of them if possible) can give you an idea of how tough is to get in, which type of students are they looking for and how satisfied alumni are with the programme.
Knowing about the wanted student profile should also be easy just by looking at the Programme webpage, and do make sure you fulfill the requisites before applying, because no one wants to put time and effort on filling an application that will be dismissed in the very first step of the application evaluation process.
Knowing about how happy students are with the Programme and getting a deeper insight into it is not equally easy in all places. Thankfully, Karolinska Institutet has a great Digital Ambassador group (to which I am super, super happy to belong 🙂 ) that helps students with their questions.
9 – Job hunting opportunities
We all would like to work after graduating, and although this could be quite different from students who want to stay in academia compared to those that want to jump into the industrial world, I think it is important to consider how well do alumni of the programme/university on finding a job after graduating. Also, it could be useful if the university has some job listings from which the alumni can benefit and a career service to orientate students in their future career choices.
10 – Facilities, scholarships and others
Last but not least, one should consider and compare the facilities in different universities, as well as the price of studying the programme. It can also be good to know, before putting any efforts in applying, if there are scholarship programs that the students can benefit from (either from the university or your home country).
I hope these tips were useful for you that are overwhelmed with all the Master’s options out there. The most important thing is to take a deep breath, don’t get stressed about all the possibilities and get excited about the new challenges and adventures that will be starting soon 🙂
LinkedIn: Inés Rivero García