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Wana Wana: I Have No Clue, I Just Want to Get a Masters Degree

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6 (1)During our last Inspire Series ‘Redefining Finance’ event, a lady from the audience talked about how bored she had gotten with her job and wanted to take off to do a Masters degree. I know a lot of people who feel that way but are never bold enough to really say that they just don’t know what is next. So taking a year out ‘in the abroad, studying a programme you aren’t sure will be any use to you, would be the next logical step – miraculously, it would all work itself out. Sometimes it does and at other times, the pile of confusion you left behind will be waiting for you at that exact spot.

You know we Nigerians, admitting that you are experiencing a moment of cluelessness about your own life is quite the task to admit. We would much rather copy and paste someone else ambition blueprint than admit that we are still discovering ourselves.

The post graduate degree conversation is one of those subjects I am a bit hesitant to share my thoughts on as I don’t posses a second degree myself. No, I’m not bitter or being a cheapskate; I just think education is such a big investment that it really has to count. I was one of those people who believed that a post graduate degree would really be critical for people trying to specialise in a certain field, go a step further to advance certain skills or those switching careers and to a great extent I still feel that way.

However, I am becoming more aware of other reasons. For instance the minimum entry requirements to work in certain companies would be a masters degree. We can’t pretend to be unaware of the prejudices and restrictions people encounter with a degree from a Nigerian university, thus causing many to acquire a post graduate certificate from anywhere possible – as long as it isn’t Nigeria. The collapse of the educational sector is a conversation for another day.

That said, I have seen a lot of people, come back to Nigeria with their fresh new certificates languishing and gathering dust in a drawer somewhere as they go back to their old jobs. Sometimes they earn less in newer jobs they don’t enjoy, and sometimes they just take whatever it is they can get.

I suppose what I am trying to say is that, a masters degree isn’t a rite of passage the way we make it out to seem. It is something that requires thinking and deliberation. So these days rather than give an answer, I just give people a few questions to ask themselves and hopefully they can deduce whether or not it would be that vital to them.

Why do I want to do this? Is it essential to my personal growth and career?
Whether you are saving up to finance your post graduate education, or you intend taking out a loan or maybe your parents are gracious enough to pay for it, there just needs to be a reason to doing this. At least, it should be one that you can justify to yourself, even if not anyone else.

The fact that all your friends are going out of the country to pursue a post graduate degree is sustainable enough a reason. It could also be that your parents just demanded you to (well… fear of a Naija parent is the beginning of wisdom). The truth is, there are many reasons that may or may not have to do with the degree programme itself.
Some people want to be exposed to another way of learning. Some need to network with certain kinds of individuals from certain kinds of schools. Some seek a specific type of training, and others are looking for a new cultural experience.

I actually know people who just wanted a break from working life and some just want to move away from home to experience some kind of independence. Whatever the reasons are, be it switching careers, seeking new experiences, specialising in a field or advancing your knowledge or even using it as a bargaining and negotiation tool, I just think it is important to know why you are doing it in the first place. I think it’s important to find at least some level of rhyme and reason to making the decision.

What am I hoping to get out of this?
A lot of people romanticise and idealise the proposed outcome of a master’s degree. I have watched how it has lead many friends of mine to a deep and dark depression. After paying for an expensive MBA or post graduate programme, you expected to be hot cake in Lagos. Maybe three or four job offers in toe, needing a special prayer session imploring the spirits to come down and help you make the right decisions… as you are too spoilt for choice.
That is usually the dream; but sometimes it doesn’t quite work out that way. Rather after waiting for two years because you haven’t gotten any call backs from your interviews, you take up a role at your cousin’s uncle’s friend’s office – which was lobbied for you… just because you couldn’t take any more Mexican soap opera’s on TV. You just know that the pay package doesn’t include a company car or driver and neither was there a fully furnished flat on Banana Island.

Be realistic about what it is you are hoping to get out of it. Sometimes what is important is that it equips you to be able to create your own opportunities, and not necessarily open a faucet of big money gigs that you expect. Other times it’s about added value. I know coming from me this is a bit of a cliché, but just manage your expectations and stay grounded in reality – at least the Nigerian reality.

What if I change my mind and I later find other things interesting?
People never want to admit it because they fear they will look flakey, unserious or unfocused but a lot of the time, we do change our minds. At first you feel very certain about all the things you want, and how you want them to be. A lot of the time, it is only when you get really entrenched in the system do you realise that you may not want all those things after all. It is also a scary thing to have made all these plans and put in so much work, to wake up and realise you don’t want it anymore.
This for me is the reason I think it is important to give yourself some time and space to learn first before deciding to take on a post grad because if done right, that second degree could be your joker to an easy transition into that next phase of your life.

What other options and opportunities are open to me?
Certain industries are changing and some are growing at an incredibly alarming rate. This is the same for consumer tastes and trends. This is not to say that some careers are becoming out dated or obsolete; but you are going to constantly need more than a one year programme to stay on top of your game. My point is that, your post graduate certificate may just be, the very beginning or in no time, somewhat inconsequential to your learning journey. Some industries require more innovation and disruption for you to thrive.

Short courses, workshops, apprenticeships, conferences, seminars, training programmes and fellowships are also options to explore – especially when you are in a place where you are still discovering what it is you like and where you want to be. Some of them don’t require the same level of financial and time commitment as a full blown masters degree.

Feel free to share your experiences about pursuing a post graduate degree programme and some of the questions you wish you asked yourself.

35 Comments

  1. Jagbajantis

    June 17, 2015 at 1:03 pm

    Nice article Wana on a very important subject. Here are my 2 kobo:

    1. People leave their jobs to go pursue a Masters Degree abroad, in the hope that it would help them a better job. That shit don’t make sense to me (excuse my French). Why would you forgo valuable work experience to go get a Masters so that you can find what you already have? A Masters without experience is like drinking garri without sugar. You cannot jump above entry level with a Masters and no experience. The days when Nigerian employers were bamboozled by your Masters Degree from University of Brixton (made-up name) are long gone. I know people with Masters from LSU and Imperial College who could not find a job in Lagos. See number 4

    2. I find that many people see getting a Masters from abroad as a rites of passage or a badge of honor. Some people see it as an escape and a chance to live abroad for a while legitimately while they see if an opportunity can jump off after graduation so that they can stay behind on a work permit.

    3. Some people go to 3rd rate universities or glorified polytechnics abroad (especially in Jand) which after graduation they find they are not able to secure a job, as the Masters degree they get is not worth the paper it is printed on. Frustration kicks in. They return to their old job in Nigeria, where their former boss now has the upper hand as the boss realizes their desperation. That Masters Degree ends up wrapping groundnut or suya somewhere.

    4. A Master’s degree is more worthwhile if you have risen up the career ladder and want to go to that next level of expertise by either specializing in a field or furthering your knowledge. Then if your company either sponsors it, or gives you the time off, it is more worthwhile. That way you have a job waiting. Or if you do the Masters Degree because you intend to go into business for yourself. Other than that, doing it for doing sake is not economically wise.

    Be a Master of the game.

    • nonye

      June 17, 2015 at 1:24 pm

      you couldn’t have said it better!

    • peyton

      June 17, 2015 at 4:40 pm

      God bless you jababjantis. This article was for me, I just started working and the Masters pressure has come. I am in a field were experience counts. A senior colleague spoke to me yesterday and he said the same thing get the experience you need and then determine where and what you intend to do.

    • Temmy

      June 18, 2015 at 1:51 pm

      Jagbajantis!!!!! Waaawwuuu!!! Did you just say 2kobo? This is £2,000,000,000. If you’re not in the education sector, you need to begin to think about it ooh!!! I know schools that pay like banks and oil companies….see me in camera? I liked this your comment 1k times in my mind, see your likes!!! You couldn’t have said it in a better way. If Nigeria had teachers like you…..mehn, students will not be failing. Wait ooh!! I’m meant to be commenting about Wana’s post, but I just love Jagbajantis…..P.S I’m a teacher and when I mark my students’ work, I mark the sense and not necessarily the right answer, because many of you know how to copy and paste….*tongue out. To Wana’s post, chei!!!! I’m still paying the debt in £ for my Post Graduate Degree in Education because I KNOW why I chose to be a teacher….Why? We have many wrong people in the education sector and that’s why we’re where we are today, some teachers are meant to be farmers or even fishermen sef…lol. After I finish my Masters in Educational Leadership eehhhnnn!!! Wait is that’s the bell I hear, hmmm, guys, apologies I have to prepare for my next class. Will you be quiet! I told you I was a teacher so leave me alone ooohhh!!

    • T

      June 29, 2015 at 11:49 am

      Jagbajantis, this is the second time I’ve read your comments, I like your thinking. I was on the ‘I must do my masters now now train’ but I’ve calmed down, especially after Unilag didn’t accept me, I felt useless, hurt and burnt and decided to re-evaluate myself. I’m currently practising (law)and learning from my seniors as an associate, taking one step at a time. Thanks for this write up Wana, wise woman.

  2. abby

    June 17, 2015 at 1:21 pm

    Dis is just wat I need…will be bak to read it well and assimulate,even take down notes…I am in such dilemma….I need to upgrade, not getting younger too…wanna study abroad but no money, but I MUST study abroad…was up last Nite just searching for a cheap university(any ideas pls?) Meanwhile,lemme continue with my now-oh-so-boring job and professional exams!!!

    • info

      June 17, 2015 at 3:21 pm

      Schools in Europe- Germany, Finland, etc- offer either no-fee or relatively low fee options, including for international students. Might be worth a look.

  3. yrimu

    June 17, 2015 at 1:21 pm

    I also don’t have a masters degree,my bachelors degree is in Engineering.
    I fell into the same trap- was bored with my job and didn’t know what to do.
    then I decided to follow my dreams and start my own business. I am very happy now, content and I wish I started earlier.

    If I am to get a second degree now, it will have to be in Entrepreneurship.

    • Juggo

      June 18, 2015 at 4:53 pm

      Lagos Business School offers that

  4. Naomi

    June 17, 2015 at 1:43 pm

    I beg to disagree. Student loans are piling up everywhere, UK, US…education is becoming more n more expensive, and if the only reason to get a goid job or high paying job is to pay of student debts, they r justified for seeking high paying jobs. Even in Nigeria schooling/education isnt cheap at undergrad level so its not a crime to seek further education.

    • Dee

      June 19, 2015 at 3:51 pm

      I agree with you people can not afford to go to uni anymore in the U.K to study a basic degree it will cost you 5 grand then masters depending can cost you 8 or more
      If you are an intentional student ..then wow your father must be rich cause its about 10 grand. Plus when you finish now you have to go back.
      UK is messed up right now

    • Dee

      June 19, 2015 at 3:53 pm

      *International student

  5. Tosin

    June 17, 2015 at 1:44 pm

    wonderful stuff by Wana the Greatest.

  6. Naomi

    June 17, 2015 at 1:46 pm

    I beg to disagree. Student loans are piling up everywhere, UK, US…education is becoming more n more expensive, and if the only reason to get a good job or high paying job is to pay off student debts, they r justified for seeking high paying jobs. Even in Nigeria schooling/education isnt cheap at undergrad level so its not a crime to seek further education. Yes masters doesnt guarantee success, if u dont act entitled because of the masters degree but instead channel the extra knowledge gained into something productive and profitable, why not?

    • Dee

      June 19, 2015 at 3:55 pm

      LMAO LMAO LMAO …..most of them are sorry to speak ..its true

  7. Blossom

    June 17, 2015 at 2:58 pm

    Nice writing style, Wana. However, your article, to me, suggests a few things:

    1. Shortsightedness- going back to a job you previously had as soon as you get back is not an indicator of the lack of usefulness of the degree. To think that a Master’s is something that should pay off right-now-right-now is an indicator of short-sightedness of the value of education.

    2. Misconception on the value of education – the reasons you give here make it seem like you think going to school is about getting a piece of paper that will help you get a job. Today. Period. I truly think that if you’ve experienced true quality education, you would never make that assumption.

    3. A wee bit too much angst on your part – certificates ‘gathering dust’ and having to ‘lobby for a job in your uncle’s firm’ is just a bit too negative and intentionally shaming for simple things that really are not true indicators of success.

    I wish you success in all you do.

    • babe

      June 17, 2015 at 3:55 pm

      Dear Blossom,

      This unfortunately is the reality for many people whether you like it or not. Employers in Nigeria are becoming wiser and are starting to understand that it isn’t really about the paper but more about the experience. An option is to do a long distance masters/second degree if you really want that paper.

      It works for some, it doesn’t work for others. Just make sure you count the cost wisely.

    • wana

      June 17, 2015 at 5:14 pm

      i think the there is no discrediting the value of a masters degree or the value of education. It is a beautiful thing but that being the next thing because you are bored requires a bit more time to think through. It also means that when you are taking that plunge, it would be valueable to you in the long term and you can get the best out of it.

  8. Blue Eye

    June 17, 2015 at 3:00 pm

    And why, please, is Wana giving career advice?

    • Tiwatope

      June 17, 2015 at 5:27 pm

      It’s not career advice, it’s common sense. Something some people CLEARLY lack.

  9. nene

    June 17, 2015 at 8:36 pm

    “education is such a big investment that it really has to count”. gbam! i advise people to work for a few years before pursuing their masters degree, not just rushing into it, but the nigeiran employment scheme is very unfair, they rarely take people over the age of 25, yet they expect graduates to have post work experience after NYSC. bullshit! entrepreneurship is the best thing if you have the funds, energy, and passion.

  10. drummer girl

    June 17, 2015 at 10:22 pm

    My friends had gone for obodo oyinbo masters. I was bored and had income from this new job so off I sent to Lag for Masters. A bloody waste of my time and still keep regretting whybibhsdnt gone to learn professional sowing or Events Mgt with less than half of the Investment.

    • Eehh yahhh

      June 18, 2015 at 9:16 pm

      Pity. You went for your Master’s degree and you still can’t spell sewing. Pity!

  11. Mary

    June 17, 2015 at 10:35 pm

    Writer has a few points but on the other end, I do not regret my postgrad study because it got me an opportunity of getting work permit in the US and it gave me time to get a professional job that pays $112,000/annum in the US and you can ask, that’s a good pay for someone who just moved to the US less than 4 years ago. The essence of post grad may not be in getting a new job but in mingling with sharper minds and expanding your thought process. Sometimes, it’s about fulfilling your dreams which may not necessarily translate to money but a settled spirit of having achieved most of the things you wanted as a kid. So in essence, if you are bored of your job, you can take a plunge and try that route, who knows, you may discover yourself while studying again and don’t forget that everyones path is not thesame in life, Some have PhD’s yet no fancy pay check and some had basic study in polytechniques and are employing the most academic brains.
    #myopinion #feelfreetoshareyours #noinsults

  12. #SEEKGOD

    June 17, 2015 at 11:28 pm

    I have only one advice to give.

    Before you take any step or make any decision which will in the short or long term affect your life, SEEK GOD. PRAY TO GOD about it and KNOW HIS WILL.

    I wish I knew this earlier in my life. If I did, I won’t have spent 5 years of my life getting a law degree (even with a 2.1), 1 year in law school (with a Pass *the most depressing stage of my life*) and then 1 extra year getting an LLM in a top university ‘in the abroad’ and then end up not practising law for one single day ( The excuse I used to give myself was, ‘maybe it’s the ‘Pass” in law school). However, i later got to find out that ‘Pass’ was God redirecting my step to where he wanted me to be.

    I eventually found myself working in the financial sector, doing a job I loved, was getting well paid for, and did not have to wake up any day regretting doing the job. Did my Masters give me leverage? NO. I had no experience, so I had to start from entry level with those who got no Masters. Did i wish I had garnered more experience before proceeding for my Masters? Yes. Would I have done a Masters in the legal field? No, I would have done an MBA instead.

    Summarily, ASK God for his will and work with his timing. A postgraduate degree may be right for you and it may not.

    • Juggo

      June 18, 2015 at 5:09 pm

      That’s why I am apprehensive of pursuing a PG along my Bsc line. What if it isn’t the Will? It is well.

  13. le coco

    June 18, 2015 at 8:55 am

    @SEEKGOD… i totally get you.. it happens.. bt nigerians and a lot of Africans tend to feel tht masters degree is the answer to everything nd nowadays we see tht it isnt. i know a lot of people in nigeria with foreign masters degrees but unemployed. why? no work expirience.. nd that is unfortunate.. me i am taking as many small jobs and internships as i can. because ultimately that is what will count especially since i dont know anyone who cld help me out.

  14. sussy

    June 18, 2015 at 10:37 am

    Thank you so much wana, I finished nysc recently and everyone is talking about “go for masters” you’re smart. Facing the leave a job with good prospects Vs. go for masters and hope for a good job when I get back. The thing is I have an idea what i want to do but am not sure, so I am going to work for some years and really know what I need to take me to the next level in my area of specialization/interest. One thing I know for sure is that I will go eventually for masters not just for its sake, but I want to experience a new culture/way of living even if its for just one year of my life.

  15. sussy

    June 18, 2015 at 10:39 am

    *or do an MBA

  16. whiny

    June 18, 2015 at 11:24 am

    Work experience is vital! That is what I picked up from your article. Even with a first class degree here in England, you chances are still slim if one has little or no WE.

  17. Juggo

    June 18, 2015 at 5:06 pm

    I had believed that my going for Masters was to gather exposure from another school. But wasn’t under any pressure. Currently an active executive in the family business, I feel .that my experience working there is highly sufficient for applying for another job. But That’s not the case as I see the Masters as an avenue to open the mind and have a leverage when pushing company policies for approval. My bosses and parents are not even realizing this; they are walking with this mentality that Wana talked about. “He wants to go abroad Co’s he doesn’t like the business” or “He just can’t go and waste his life” have been their views. I’m at a crossroads: whether to go work somewhere else or stay and hope they think along my line. Any ideas, guys?

  18. wanawana ore mi

    June 19, 2015 at 10:48 am

    Your are spot on Wana. You are actually talking to my situation. Seriously thinking of a PHD after MSc with distinction in top UK university has refuse to deliver the golden eggs. I’m not better off financially 7 years after my ‘prestigious master degree’. My sister it is the blessing of God that maketh rich and add no sorrow. My conclusion is that divine direction is key in taking decisions that affect one’s future.

    God bless you omo aye…………..knock out!

  19. Dee

    June 19, 2015 at 4:02 pm

    Gosh people need to allow it and stop watching peoples spelling jeez blimey.

  20. HELP

    June 19, 2015 at 11:23 pm

    I am 22yrs old and presently have a B.ENG. I wanted and still want to get a masters degree abroad because i thought it would lay the foundation of getting a good job abroad. Now it looks like that plan will not work out and right now I am scared of having to stay home after nysc. People keep asking where will you be after nysc and i keep getting questions about marriage. I decided long ago that no marriage with me working first. Right now I am just confised and depressed

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