What Should You Do After Your Master’s Degree?

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Once you’re in a master’s degree program, one of the most important things you have to consider is what you will do after you finish your degree (other than celebrate, possibly with a lot of alcohol).

You have several of options, including:

All five of those examples have different monetary considerations, as well as offer various possibilities for future employment (and probably your sanity as well).

Before the first year of my master’s was over, I was sure that I wanted to go on to PhD studies, although I did consider the other four options.

In the end, continuing on a path to a doctorate made the most sense for me because I actually like school, I wanted the challenge and I didn’t feel that my learning was going to be complete at the end of my MA.  At the same time, I am going to face a considerable amount of difficulties, not only as a direct result of the program, but also due to how PhD programs function within Canadian higher education institutions.

The average completion time for a PhD is over five years, with degrees in arts disciplines taking a year longer.

In Canada, they are usually composed of five major components:  course work, comprehensive exams, dissertation proposal, dissertation writing, and dissertation defense.  Not all programs follow this method, instead opting for more course work instead of comps.  As a result, the PhD is considerably more stressful than a master’s degree.

Many people believe that the only career option for those with doctorates are in academia. According to the University of Toronto, “More than half, and as many as two-thirds of all those who complete their PhD find rewarding and lucrative work outside the academy.”

The kind of work available to you of course will depend on the kind of degree you pursue and the skills you learn from it.  For example, someone with a doctorate in Engineering Physics will be unqualified to perform research on the gene expression of DNA in humans, but that is a possible career for someone with a PhD in Medical Genetics.

One thing to consider is that completing a PhD may make you overqualified for some work. Additionally, sometimes the rate of pay you receive in some areas of work is relatively low when the amount of education completed is considered.

On the other hand, if you are considering going into academia, the road to a tenure-track position has become increasingly more difficult with the privatization of universities.  The process can take several years, and there is a considerable amount of competition for the spots that are available.

The bottom line is you have to make the decision that is best-suited to yourself, your employment aspirations and any future personal goals you may have.

Graduate students: what are you planning to do after grad school?

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About the author

Danielle Lorenz is a long-time contributor to the Career Incubator. Danielle is a PhD student in the Department of Educational Policy Studies at the University of Alberta. When procrastinating from schoolwork, you will find Danielle lurking on several social media platforms and trying to befriend the snowshoe hares on the U of A campus.