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Adedoyin Owotomo: Do You Really Need A Masters’ Degree?

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Getting a masters’ degree is a big deal. Well, it is supposed to be a big deal. The decision to go for a masters’ degree is a life-changing one. It is a major commitment that requires a huge investment of your time and money; a decision that one cannot take lightly, and most importantly should not be done emotionally or out of desperation. Things need to be put into perspective in order to try to ascertain a realistic expected outcome.

In Nigeria today, quite a number of college graduates are masters’ degree holders or even more are working towards one. There are very many reasons that have motivated the need to pursue one. However, masters’ degrees holders, especially those with degrees from foreign institutions, who are hoping for a career advancement (professionally and financially) sometimes find themselves in job positions that are not really a major ‘career upgrade’ from where they were before their masters.
They do not get the corner office, nor the senior management position or the company car and driver or connections and open doors that they hoped the degree will get them. At the end of the day, the degree just seems a waste of precious time, a drain of brainpower that was already dusty (as you struggled to ensure you passed) and depletion of funds you probably did not have in the first place.

So the main question to ask yourself is “Is a masters’ degree necessary?”

Here are a few ways to know if it really is.

Why Do You Want A Masters’ Degree?
The first goal is to be sure of the reason for embarking on the journey to graduate school. Is the motivation due to an interest in a new industry, financial rewards, or relocation (perhaps to a new country)? Knowing the objectives for getting a masters’ will help to set realistic targets and also plan for certain expected outcomes from getting the degree.

Is School Really Meant for You?
You need to be sure that you are school material. Doing an advanced degree entails a lot of schoolwork and hence the use of brainpower for studying, group projects, presentations, exams and dissertations. Mentally, it is not an easy endeavour. If you do not think you can cope, then by all means do not take it on. Never forget, a masters’ degree does not guarantee success in your professional career.

What Grade Did You Finish With for your First Degree?
Your final grade for your undergraduate degree can play a role in determining when you should pursue a masters’ and the type of school you should or can apply to. This is because your grade and work experience are major factors to get into a certain caliber of graduate schools. For those who finished with a 2:2 and above, getting into a good and/or top tier graduate school, depending on your area of concentration, budget and objective, should not be a problem.

For those that graduated with a third class or pass grade, getting into the more competitive graduate schools will be a challenge, although not impossible. In addition, it is more advisable for a third class or pass grade graduate to get a masters’ degree as soon as possible in order to increase your chances of getting good-paying job opportunities especially in Nigeria.

Can You Afford it?
Affordability is a major consideration for people looking to get an advanced degree. Today, masters’ degrees cost $30,000 per year on average. This is not inclusive of living and travelling expenses. Getting a graduate degree should be considered a major investment with a proper financial analysis done. It is also important for future graduates to take time to explore scholarships and grants that are open to African nationals. This can also help to greatly reduce the financial burden of getting an advanced degree.

Will you make more money?
For most people, they expect that the completion of a masters’ means…ka-ching….more money in the bank. At least in comparison to your current job, you will most likely get a slight salary raise and a promotion. However, this isn’t always true especially when you are doing a career change or changing your employer. In this case, experience can sometimes trump an advanced degree. Although it is difficult to answer this question, it is guaranteed that the caliber and type of school you go to, will determine the value that employers place on you. This is will then translate into dollar bills (Naira in our case…:-)

In essence, do all you can to make sure your masters’ degree a SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely) goal that will definitely give you a high return on your investment.

Photo Credit: Candace Beckwith | Dreamstime.com

Adedoyin is the founder of the Greenhorn Career Network (www.greenhorncareernetwork.com), a career platform that aims at providing young Nigerians with positive and practical approaches to educate them on taking ownership of their future, setting and achieving their career and life goals early in life and most importantly, developing a positive mindset to help them navigate the real world. She is very passionate about seeing young Nigerians succeed in their chosen career fields and living their dream life. You can connect with Greenhorn is on Instagram: @greenhorncareernetwork; Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/greenhorncareernetwork

22 Comments

  1. 5masters

    May 19, 2017 at 3:37 pm

    “Education is very important” that is what we all grew up hearing from our parents. Having several degrees is like added shoulder lapels which adds a dignified stand among your peers. However in the Americas here, CERTIFICATION in what ever field you are is the selling point today. I am not stopping any one from pursuing any advancement degrees but I stand by this fact based on what the business and work industries are demanding today. If you look at most job descriptions today, they require Java expert, Oracle expert, networking expert, security expert, software application expert…… etc, just to mention a few. I will advise anyone looking to grow and advance in their career , do a thorough research on the necessary certification that would be a leverage to your job and possible advance in your position. certifications are more hands on and it is becoming a global recognized degree.

    • Degrees are very important too

      May 19, 2017 at 4:59 pm

      “Education is very important”…. Degrees do count. You should have mentioned “IT” or “software” when you highlighting importance of Certificates. In my company (Energy Technology Industry), the minimum qualification to get in is a Masters. It is that way for a reason. We do not do much research in Nigeria, hence we see those doing Phd.s as doing too much. When you are seated with people developing technology you will see in 5 years, you will know why they recruit people with Phds and advanced degrees. “Degrees are very important”

    • Adedoyin Owotomo

      May 19, 2017 at 7:01 pm

      Thanks 5masters for your comment.
      As a developing country, Nigeria hasn’t really gotten to the specialty level in most fields, which is required in the US, so a masters’ degree is still quite useful for career advancement. However, it is very important to be sure of the value of any advanced degree and how it will be applied in the real world towards career progression.

    • Jay

      May 19, 2017 at 10:45 pm

      “However in the Americas here”
      Nigeria isn’t America, Ghana/SA/UK/ aren’t America. Different career policies for different countries.k

    • Becca

      May 19, 2017 at 11:14 pm

      @degrees are very important.
      If any UK company operated under that premise ‘masters minimum’ they’d struggle HARD to fill any post in the tech sector! Some developers don’t even have formal education, others are even employed after doing 12weeks intensive courses.

      Casepoint – the british guy Marcus Hutchins that stopped the recent global malware virus – no formal education in IT, even failed his IT gcse but he’s self-taught as many techies are. his grades were not even worthy of a place in uni so he never bothered applying. Now he has goverments all over the world seeking his help and tech companies throwing money at him. If he’d sought work at your company he wouldn’t get a look in cause he no get masters!?!

      Paper is really holding many back. In the UK it is not necessary to be collecting degrees upandan unless you’re going into research/academia. I know a number of naija phd holders who stuggled to find work & those that did, started at the same level as recent first degree grads. Some even had to remove their phds from their CVs to find work. If you have more that 3 degrees, employers class you as ‘professional student’ & reluctant job seeker. One mate read law undergrad, did LLM, then another masters in another field of law to improve his chances of getting a contract. In interviews they kept asking if he initially wanted to go in academia and why he’s now seeking a career in law? He wasn’t able to secure a training contract & is now doing compliance.

  2. Adunmola

    May 19, 2017 at 3:39 pm

    if you’re going to work in Nigeria. DO NOT GET THAT DEGREE ESPECIALLY FROM A UNIVERSITY ABROAD. BETTER STILL USE THE TUITION TO OPEN BUSINESS IN NIGERIA, OR TRAVEL ROUND THE WORLD WITH IT.
    I HAVE AN MBA FROM UK AND WITH MY OTHER CO MASTERS HOLDERS. IT HASN’T SERVED ME ANY PURPOSE.
    ok now that i’m done shouting. seriously i’ve been working in the bank for a year now after two years of searching, this job even came with man know man and i’m on the same level as those i left to go do the masters. i have some of my mates that are not doing too well either.
    still waiting for someone to tell me the something helped them.

    • Adedoyin Owotomo

      May 19, 2017 at 7:32 pm

      Dear Adunmola, I understand your plight and a lot of people that pursue masters’ degrees always fall into this trap. The job market especially for high-level jobs is extremely competitive in Nigeria and yes a lot of ‘man-know-man’ situations that occur in the background. However, you will find that a certain percentage of people in these senior positions always get hired based on merit. So I always advise individuals interested in a post graduate degree abroad or overseas to do the following (this is based on if they had good grades as undergraduates and have a decent job prior to the masters);

      1. Work for at least 3 to 5 years before considering a graduate degree (except for some fields such as education)
      2. Always, And I mean Always ensure the school you choose is one among the top 10 to 15 in your chosen field
      3. During your degree, you have to make sure you get relevant work experience especially at a recognized company.
      4. Get involved in some extra-curricular activities. This could be an joining a student organization, supporting an NGO, or even volunteering. This would help to show your versatility especially during interviews.
      5. Get hired before coming back to Nigeria. If you attended an unpopular university, once you come back to Nigeria, it is harder to get a high-level job because of over saturation of the job market with people that have post-graduate degrees.

      These are a few things that can help to guarantee a senior-level position in your field.
      I hope these help.

    • Lewis

      May 19, 2017 at 8:08 pm

      With your MBA knowledge, can’t you start a business? Consult?
      This job-seeker mentality should change.
      Create something!

  3. Naina

    May 19, 2017 at 3:54 pm

    Interesting piece. I have a few MSc holders from foreign institution as friends. Not all of them are happy with where they are.
    I also have a few MSc holders from Nigerian Universities who are not doing so badly.
    The school is key as well as the choice of course.

  4. i love my husband

    May 19, 2017 at 4:16 pm

    I’m never doing a masters degree, left Uni 10years ago, all my friends have a masters degree, but I don’t need one, I don’t follow status quo, the vision I have for my life, I don’t need a masters degree to fulfill it, plus a masters degree in Nigeria now does not even hold water. I tell people, if you don’t need it, don’t do it because everyone is, so many masters degree holders are jobless, and would not even pass a test to get into an organization. However, I would do certain courses that fit into my goals

    • Adedoyin Owotomo

      May 19, 2017 at 7:37 pm

      Dear I love my husband, this is fantastic. Once you are sure of what you want to do and understand what is required to advance in your career, then that is all you need.

  5. Ngozi

    May 19, 2017 at 4:27 pm

    I’m a lawyer with two kids. I want to change careers to education and ultimately run my own school. Im confused really. I don’t know whether I should pursue a masters in education course in Nigeria. I would prefer a foreign masters degree (i have my reasons) but I can’t because the costs are high and so im considering a long distance masters degree. Do you think that’s a good idea ? Any advice from anyone? Or should I just take some courses?

    • Adedoyin Owotomo

      May 19, 2017 at 7:48 pm

      Dear Ngozi, I truly understand how confusing this might be. If you do not mind, can you send an email to [email protected], so that we can discuss better? Looking forward to hearing from you.

    • Jay

      May 19, 2017 at 10:47 pm

      If you really want a masters degree and you’ve stated you want it foreign, given the circumstances you narrated above; you can do it online.

  6. Tee

    May 19, 2017 at 7:29 pm

    @ilovemyhusband, well said. I took short courses here and there to run my business and the thought of going for a masters degree has never crossed my mind. At the same time, it’s not bad in itself just like the people above in engineering field stated.

  7. Adedoyin Owotomo

    May 19, 2017 at 11:40 pm

    Dear Lewis, not everyone is mean to be an entrepreneur. Some people will be great at creating things, while others will be great at managing it for them. As you know, people like Dangote, Tony Elumelu and Femi Otedola have people helping them to run their businesses and successfully too. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

    • Adedoyin Owotomo

      May 20, 2017 at 9:21 pm

      *meant

  8. simply_seun

    May 20, 2017 at 8:12 am

    i have asked a lot of my friends this same question, what are you Mastering on?, Job seeking?. we college graduate do fall under this master degree rush soon after graduation, i usually tell who cares to listen, Get certified first!. our dear country has been tagged “The Developing nation”, let us all help push it forward. lets get our hands dirty first before we all start scrambling for those ‘Vacation” jobs. Be wise!

  9. Ola Deji

    May 20, 2017 at 1:06 pm

    No knowledge is a waste !!! an MSc may not be immediately relevant to your career now but it may become handy in near future when you change jobs in a few years or even when you start your own business.
    Furthermore ,the career path one chooses sometimes times necessitates the need to demonstrate competency through structured education like an MSc or professional certification or other continuous professional development courses in addition to professional work experience. For example, an education at MSc level is required in some fields like Engineering to demonstrate the required technical deepening to satisfy requirements for professional Chartership in some countries. Being chartered shows your skills have been benchmarked against a global standard, which gives prospective employers, clients and business associates increased confidence in your ability to perform/deliver on expectation.
    One must therefore be able to demonstrate professional competency in order to attract the right audience(employer or management attention), associates and investors or right funding especially for entrepreneurs.One should also understand current industry trends and requirement for a particular career path before embarking on an academic exercise….it may be wise to also speak with mentors in such fields .
    In as much a masters of bachelor’s degree may not be required in some career path, one must maintain an attitude of continuous self improvement as most successful people never stop learning .

  10. Nammy

    May 20, 2017 at 3:17 pm

    Nice one.
    I am working on my certifications now not masters but the points you raised are valid points for anyone who is considering a Master’s degree.
    Thanks for this article

  11. Udegbunam Chukwudi

    May 20, 2017 at 4:14 pm

    Is School Really Meant for You?

    I’ve always known it isn’t but chose to ignore it (peer and parent pressure) and jumped into an online masters program which by the way, I had to let go off eventually mainly because the school’s methodology wasn’t working for me at all and Buhari’s recession. I lost money but I did learn a few things that I wouldn’t have known had I not joined the program.

    Thanks for this article

  12. obi

    June 1, 2017 at 3:27 am

    Lol well I want to leave this sh*t hole of a nation so yeah masters is necessary. If it wasn’t for that reason then I won’t even be doing it but how else does a man move and live legally in the obod’s.

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