During the 2017-2018 academic year, there were 205 049 students -20 000 more than the previous year- studying a master’s in Spain. That figure, which has not ceased to grow steadily over the past decade, means 17% of degree students, and shows how relevant this type of training is in the country. Many recent graduates ponder between the adequacy of going for a master’s or delving into the quest for their first job in their sector.

There’s no mathematical formula for taking a decision in that regard. When we finish our bachelor’s degree, we face many challenges; and even if you choose a certain master’s, when, how and when to do it are still issues to solve. When facing one or two years within a new educational endeavour, goals, expectations and circumstances vary individually. Hence, if the idea has been going through your mind lately, you should ask yourself a series of basic questions before studying a master’s:

What do I want to achieve with the master’s?

The Survey on Employability and University Employment – Master’s Degree Edition 2017, conducted by La Caixa alongside Spanish college entities, reveals which are the main motivations of those who choose to study for a master’s: extend their education (53.7%); improve professional situation (35.13%); gain access to a Doctorate (27.39%); and work in a particular profession (25.9%).

As we can see, all these answers lead to a main long-term goal: having a better chance to achieve success and professional excellence. In the short and mid term, students of master’s seek and/or achieve other objectives that are not always attainable at the very moment of finishing studies, but throughout their professional career. Here are some of the most common motivators to study for a master’s degree:

  1. Improve professional profile so as to become more attractive to talent recruiters.
  2. Change sectors or specialize in the current one.
  3. Internships that allow to make a professional debut.
  4. Get a promotion at work.
  5. Re-join the labour market after a long hiatus.
  6. Develop new academic or professional skills.

Am I sure which my specialty is?

If you’re strongly determined to do a master’s, and since the educational offer is ample, the next thing is to choose a specialty. You must bear in mind your motivations and preferences; a master’s degree requires plenty of dedication and effort to succeed. Not feeling professionally fulfilled during a master’s is a mistake, no matter how many people recommended it. Going through the subjects being taught before deciding on one or another is best.

Is it really going to be of any use during my professional career?

It is very important to consider the utility of studying a master’s program for our professional life. Earning a master’s degree diploma doesn’t provide a 100% guaranteed job, but it’s a good push. In fact, the employability rate of talent is, according to diverse studies, around 50% higher with a master’s than that of people with just degrees. The aforementioned survey by La Caixa also offers some numbers in that respect: 29.67% of respondents answered that their master’s has served them to get a job, while 15.84% said that it helped improve their job conditions, thanks to the added value professional retraining entails.

There are cases, however, in which specialization is compulsory after completing degree studies if you want to work in the field of expertise you’ve been educated into. After the implementation in 2010 of the Bologna Plan in Spain, Europe’s Higher Education Area made it obligatory to complete an enabling master’s degree in order to work in certain professions. Among some of the professional careers that need an enabling master’s degree, we find the following:

  1. Lawyer and court agent
  2. Architect
  3. Captain of merchant navy
  4. Aeronautical engineer
  5. Agricultural engineer
  6. Civil engineer
  7. Mining engineer
  8. Forestry engineering
  9. Telecommunication engineer
  10. Industrial engineer
  11. Naval architect
  12. Chief engineer in merchant navy
  13. Teacher of primary, secondary, professional training, languages and/or arts.
  14. General health psychologist

The rest of master’s degrees available, such as MBAs, Marketing, Communication or Finance, for example, are not compulsory but some of them act as a powerful magnet for companies’ talent recruiters.

Should I study for a master’s now that I finished my college degree or later?

If your profession requires studying an enabling master’s, it is a must. If that’s not your case, it’s advisable to analyze the sector in which you wish to develop your professional career in order to choose the ideal moment. By looking through selection process requirements, and even taking part in some of them, you’ll be able to monitor whether market trends are focused more on knowledge or professional skills. This will give you some tips to know when the best moment is to study a master’s.

In the first instance, going for a master’s right after the degree can indeed be interesting; in the second, perhaps it is better to wait a few years more so as to get a clearly differentiated professional profile that stands out in the eyes of recruiters. You must also take into account that for some master’s degrees it’s compulsory to have previous working experience.

Which modality is better, in-person or online?

The e-learning methodology is a trend that’s been growing steadily in recent years. The number of universities and business schools betting on online courses is increasingly high, without giving up on their traditional face-to-face master’s degrees.

Both methodologies have their benefits: in-person courses bring the chance to build a greater contact network; in the case of online studies, the flexibility they provide to reconcile them with other professional or educational activities.

What else should I take into account?

Another classification regarding master’s studies is the difference between official and non-official diplomas: the former are supported by the State, and the latter by the university or business school in which these studies are being taught. This distinction is not, however, restrictive in order to achieve professional success: there are official master’s whose employability rate is lower than that of non-official ones.

The important thing is, ultimately, to pay attention to three elements: the prestige of the educational institution teaching the master’s; the study programme; and the teaching staff.

As you can see, there are diverse factors to ponder if you’ve been thinking about studying a master’s degree. It’s a decision that calls for meditation, since it will have a great impact on your professional future.

Sources: UAB, Expansión, El País and emagister

At ACCIONA our aim is for our workforce to be made up of the best professionals around. We want people who wish to contribute in designing a better planet. Discover our job-offers available worldwide.