Masters degree: What you should know before you begin

This is an old post from my old blog.

 

My explanations are focused more for those in engineering fields.

1. Pay attention to the name of the masters program. For example Masters of Science in Telecommunication is designed to be research-based and suitable for those in academic field (lecturers, planning for PhD, etc). While Masters of Engineering in Telecommunication is designed for engineers. But sometimes universities don’t differentiate between the two as long as you got a masters degree. Just take notice of these things, same applies for other fields of study.

2. There are generally 3 ways of doing masters.

  • By coursework+project:   Attend classes similar to undergraduates. You have to complete a project, similar to your undergrad final year project. Normally have to deal with only internal examiners. Unlikely to have any scientific grants (you know, money to buy your equipments and stuff) but it’s still possible.
  • By coursework+dissertation: Similar to the above except you have to complete a dissertation/thesis which normally requires higher quality of work. Publication in conference or journal are recommended or required. May have external examiners to evaluate your dissertation. You may have scientific grants from your supervisor to back up your spending.
  • By research:  No classes to attend, or perhaps only required to attend university/faculty assigned classes such as research methodology. Only need to meet supervisors. Requires more significant project work and contributions compared to normal project or dissertation. Publications in conference and journal are recommended or compulsory. You may have scientific grants from your supervisor to back up your spending.

3. Which is better, by research or by coursework? Both have more apparent pros and cons:

By research:

  • You’re more familiar with doing a proper full-fledged research and you’re likely to have easier time in doing a research for PhD.
  • You will be an expert in your specific field of research, but may lack the jack of all trades trait.
  • More flexible time of study and more independent.
  • Completion of study can be dragged as it is entirely on you to push your research (unless if you get a supportive and strict supervisor).
  • Tuition fee is cheaper.

By course work:

  • You get lots of knowledge if you really pay attention in class.
  • You will likely to have the jack of all trades trait. But you may lack the experience of doing a proper ‘hardcore’ research.
  • Have to follow the class schedule and therefore less flexibility.
  • Usually the duration of study is fixed so you can predict when to finish your studies.
  • Tuition fee is more expensive.

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