Master’s over Master’s: Yes, You Can Do It More than Once

by mba

Gain a mindset broader than any job you are likely to have

Your choice of Master’s degree will determine your future path, right? Well, not entirely. It is an experience that can lead you wherever you want to go… even to another Master’s.

By doing a Master’s, you will learn to solve complex issues and turn ideas into finished projects – skills which you will need in any line of work. If you have the tenacity and courage to complete a Master’s degree, you can design your own future.

And if you find that you love the deep learning and intense exchange of ideas that come with a Master’s degree – well, you can do it more than once!

Over the course of about five years, I completed three types of Master’s degrees, and I am now the proud owner of the titles Master of Studies (MSt), Master of Arts (MA), and Master of Philosophy (MPhil). New worlds opened up to me during my studies. Based on this experience, here is why it makes sense to go to graduate school more than once, and what to consider when taking that decision.

The jobs of the future

Today’s careers are nonlinear. Hardly anyone stays in the same field or company their whole life. New jobs are appearing all the time – for example, “virtual reality (VR) designer” – for which few degree programmes exist. Rather than preparing for a certain role, it makes sense to learn how to adapt to change. Qualities like creativity, analytical skills, and time management will serve you well in any situation.

Data from the US Federal Reserve, which tracked labour trends from 1983 until 2016, found that employment is declining in all routine jobs – roles in which people do the same thing over and over again. This includes not just manual work, but also fields like law and stock trading. On the other hand, employment is rising in nonroutine jobs, which involve creativity and innovation. A Master’s programme is a great way to develop your capacity for this kind of work. If you are one of the lucky ones able to get more than one Master’s degree, all the better. Graduate school is a place to push your mind’s limits – an excellent foundation for a twenty-first century career.

Master one thing, be ready for anything

Over the course of my Master’s studies, I noticed how diving deeper into a topic opened up unexpected new ideas. As graduate students sometimes point out, the more you study something, the more you realise there is still a lot to learn. Curiosity leads you to question your assumptions, and then innovation can happen. This is the case both in the arts and the sciences.

My topic throughout my academic journey was the history of architecture – a somewhat niche field somewhere between art, technology, and social science. I love the way it has helped me understand the complexity of today’s world.

In a Bachelor’s degree programme, you are acquiring the basic skills in your field. For me this was analysing three-dimensional structures and understanding materials. I learned the routine tasks of architectural history. During a Master’s degree in the same field you can go further. During my first Master’s, at Oxford University (UK), I conducted original research. I travelled to Germany to explore the way former industrial sites such as coalmines were now being used as cultural venues. By studying the lives of buildings, my thesis told a bigger story about a changing society and economy.

Going back to university opens new opportunities and helps you build fresh perspectives. At Columbia University, I continued to think on a macro level. I studied the way the industrial revolution has been shaping our world for the past two centuries. Since the 1800s, the majority of people have started living in cities, jobs have become standardised, empires have collapsed and risen again, and the climate has started changing. I learned to look at any building and to see in it the stories of human lives and global shifts. Finally, my MPhil degree certified that I have an independent understanding of the modern world that is not based on any textbook, but on my own research.

How multiple degree studies shape you

One advantage that stands out is that such a comprehensive experience will teach you to think in non-routine ways. I come to my post-academic work with an attention to detail and an understanding of how complex systems operate on different levels. I have a knack for finding new ideas hidden behind the obvious.

Master’s over Master’s: Yes, You Can Do It More than Once

Such a mindset will be much broader than any job you are likely to have. I now work in professional writing, but feel ready to take on almost any new field, so long as it keeps me engaged and I can continue learning. The ability to navigate change and discover yet more new opportunities is an avenue to a successful future.

Are you fit for a Master’s marathon

So, how can you decide on doing more than one Master’s? Above all, keep an open mind and find what sparks your curiosity. Maybe you, just like me, planned to study psychology as an undergraduate. Well, I took some art history courses and I loved them. Fascination with a subject and a passion for your studies will lead to strong recommendations.

This is essential for your career, but also if you plan to get a scholarship to continue your studies. I did not plan on additional graduate school, but after I had written a good thesis, faculty again encouraged me to continue. When a former professor suggested a programme in New York, I thought, why not? The beauty of a Master’s degree is that it broadens your horizons and leads you to places you couldn’t imagine before.

It’s enriching, but how to afford it?

Of course, you should be pragmatic and have realistic plans. Like many, I started on my academic path with limited resources to pay for education. Luckily my family contributed towards my undergraduate studies but, at the graduate level, I was on my own.

Many schools provide various financial aid options. You will be surprised to discover that there are so many amazing scholarships. If you have an unusual idea or passion, you can find mentors and organisations that will support you. The price tag of graduate school can be huge – but do not let that scare you off. If an opportunity comes up that excites you, try it – even if it seems like a long shot. The goal is not to get into any particular school, but to find the best option for you.

Ready to take on anything

My conclusion is that you should not be afraid to walk down a path that makes you unique. That way, you will be able to find more learning opportunities – and, later on, work that keeps you curious and engaged.

Getting graduate degrees in the history of architecture is probably not something you have considered doing – and I hadn’t, either. I am grateful that I took the leap and tried it. Although I did not know what exactly would happen after my Master’s degrees, they gave me the mindset and capability to take on anything.

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