A Master’s degree is a graduate program of study in the US, the most popular destination sought by international students for higher and professional education. Students opt for a Master’s degree for one of many reasons.
One, it is a gateway to a doctoral degree sought by anyone who intends to carve a career in academia.
Two, a Master’s degree can significantly improve your career prospects in the corporate world, as your enhanced qualifications will probably earn you a promotion or get you into a higher pay grade.
The third reason some seek a Master’s degree is that some jobs, like that of a school principal, require the degree as an entry-level qualification, leaving you with no choice but to sign up for a graduate program.
Typically, a Master’s program lasts 18-24 months and there is a wide palette to choose from, unlike undergraduate programs, which are more limited.
This also means many Master’s courses are niche. This is a boon for individuals interested in deepening their knowledge and expertise in a limited area, like, say, Non-Profit Management, Public Policy, Dispute Resolution or, believe it or not, Divinity!
The Master of Business Administration (MBA) is by far the most sought-after Master’s program in the U.S. and in other countries as well, while a plain Master’s or MS in domains such as Accounting, Finance, Management, Economics and Mathematics are hotly pursued too. Master’s programs in Information Technology, Engineering, and Law are also among the top choices.
Breaking down these domains reveals some interesting, niche areas that are trending in 2015.
According to careers site, PayScale, a Master’s in the following areas are most popular: Biostatistics, Human Computer Interaction, Telecom Engineering, Applied Math, Statistics, Computer Science, Software Engineering, Business Administration and Information Science.
Before we discuss the U.S. MS degree in further detail, let us touch upon the difference between a Master’s degree and a Master of Science program. While both are graduate programs, the Master of Science (MS) degree is a research-based course that requires students to write a thesis as opposed to a Master’s program, which is more course-work oriented.
As an international student, before you apply for a Master’s degree in an American university, you should study the application process before jumping right in. So what are the basic requirements you have to meet?
Not necessarily. Usually, students elect to do a Master’s in the same area as the one that gave them their Bachelor’s degree but switching domains is not unusual.
Proficiency in English is another basic requirement and the two most oft-used tests to assess candidates are: TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and IELTS (International English Language Testing Service).
You would also have to take one of the following exams to qualify for a Master’s program: Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). There are other, more specific standardised tests for the legal and medical domains.
Most American universities demand 16 years of formal education to be eligible for a Master’s program. Since a Bachelor’s degree in India is a three-year program (B.Sc, B.Com, B.A etc), that adds up to 15 years (including 10 years of schooling plus 2 years’ junior college).
Here’s some good news, though. Lately, some American universities, including some elite business schools, have begun to accept 15 years of formal education, instead of 16, if the rest of your application package is especially strong.
That’s because they view each applicant in their entirety, as a whole package, when they evaluate applications. Thus, while some students play safe by doing a year’s Master’s course in India, to tot up 16 years of education, you could save a year and work extra hard on getting excellent GRE/GMAT scores that would be hard for any university to resist.
For this reason, it’s best if you check the website first to see if the university has clearly mentioned their stand. If there’s is some uncertainty about it, reach out to the admissions team and find out directly.
Many Master’s programs, especially in the fields of medicine, education and technology, require practical experience or internships. So, apart from group discussions, writing a thesis and, of course, attending lectures, you may be required to have actual professional experience.
If you are an international student signing up for a Master’s course, you will not be employed while studying, and a student internship will suffice.
Some of the other parameters a U.S. university will judge you on are your academic record; the college/university you attended; your recommendations; research work and published work; extracurricular activities and work experience, if any.
You’d need to submit a Statement of Purpose (SoP) as well, which is among the most important parts of your Master’s application. Read this post on how to write a good SoP.
Finally, it is imperative that you draw up a shortlist of universities that maximises your chances of securing admission to a good college. It’s a complex and delicate yet scientific process.
Get this. If your application package is really good but you’ve applied only to mediocre universities, you could be in for a shock. Just when you thought getting admission was a cinch – you didn’t apply to the top universities in case the competition was too stiff and you didn’t make the grade – you could end up with rejections all around.
So, unless you have a profile that can command a red-carpet treatment from an American university, you might want to consider getting professional help to navigate the admission process.
Also, here’s another perspective to think about. Just as you are anxious about securing admission, universities too want to close the deal on sure-shot candidates. They don’t have the time and resources to invest in accepting a candidates who will eventually reject them for a better option!
Be aware of your strengths and highlight them well in your application.