How can social media help you to make the right decision about your Masters
In the intensly competitive and narrow job market, prospective job seekers are increasingly discovering that a Bachelor’s degree is not enough, as more and more job profiles require you to have a Master’s (or similar postgraduate diploma/certificate). Whereas once postgraduate qualifications were reserved for the rare elite, today they are increasingly becoming the norm. With the often remarked upon generalised and broad character of many undergraduate degrees, it is not uncommon for employers to attach great importance to postgraduate qualifications. Certainly, as large and small businesses alike sort through the litany of job applications they receive, possession of a postgraduate qualification emerges as a distinguishable marker. Thus, how we choose which Masters to pursue and in which institution to enrol in becomes a critical decision as it will have long-lasting professional consequences. This article in the Guardian discusses the various issues and benefits of pursuing a Master’s, and provides helpful information with regards to how this will be viewed by employers. Here we highlight how the network of online - microblogging, social networking, social bookmarking and social curation - are creative assets in making your decision and provide an alternative to traditional sources.
When deciding what Masters to do and at which institution, there are 5 main questions to consider (in no particular order):
1) What subject, themes and issues are of interest to you?
2) Do you have the necessary entry requirements?
3) How would the qualification enhance/further your future career?
4) How much will it cost and are there funding options?
5) What is the reputation/standing/ranking of the university?
There are various approaches, techniques and sources available to gain the necessary information to answer these questions, none of them though are exclusive, and instead should be used in tandem with the others. Sources include university online/offline prospectuses, which provide detailed information about the content, structure and course syllabus, as well as information about the university itself. Postgraduate Study Fairs also provide useful face-to-face introductions to particular institutions, and are a great way to get answers to your questions. However, it should be noted that both of these sources by definition portray their institution in the most favourable light possible. In this regard, it is also strongly advisable to attend Open Days, as a way to gain a personal feel for the institution and its various departments. It is also possible to contact academics directly - lecturers and tutors - and ask specific questions about the course. However it should be noted that these tend to be rather busy, as their primary focus is on current students and not prospective students.
It is at this point that I would like to turn to social media, as arguably it presents an increasingly poignant alternative to the sources mentioned above. The various strands and outlets of social media offer a more pluralistic voice and are not necessarily anchored by the rigid biases of prospectuses and other university produced paraphernalia. In essence social media is the honest and unfiltered account of current and past students, as well as academics. Otherwise said, it is ‘word of mouth’ marshalled into digital forums and thus presents a potent aid as you try to make the right decision about your Masters. They provide first hand accounts, lived information and personal experience and as such in many ways trump traditional sources.
Institutions themselves are not blind to the power of social media. For instance, most universities have their own Facebook page, and more and more universities even have their own Twitter accounts. These serve as both a means of publicising their activities to prospective students, as well as keeping current students abreast of their activities. Besides, social media is the “voice” of existing students and can offer you a great deal of personal insights and reviews which you would not be able to receive elsewhere.
Although the educational path is littered with critical decisions and crucial intersections, choosing which Master’s you do and where you do it could prove to be the most important decision you have to make in your young professional career. If we accept that as with many important decisions, research is key, then social media offers an unparalleled tool when choosing your Master’s.