Professional Courses or Master's Degree: Which is Better? - School Contents

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Professional Courses or Master's Degree: Which is Better?

What to Consider Between Masters' Degree and Professional Program as a Graduate
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Here is a new topic in town for any graduate in this country or anywhere else. What should I go for after graduation or National Service - a professional course, or a Master's Degree? 

I'd addressed a similar concern in a post where I tasked you on what to do after NYSC - business, postgraduate, or jobs. It's time to handpick postgraduate and bring professional courses into the game.

Before taking a side, there is probably a need to differentiate between a Master's Degree and Professional programs. This will help you see beyond your immediate understanding of how they're awarded and how achievable is each.

Masters Degree and Available Types

In brief, a Master's Degree is a postgraduate academic program usually run for 1 or 2 years by various universities in the country and around the globe.

Among the Master's postgraduate programs are M.Sc. degrees, M.A. degrees, MBA degrees, LL.M. degrees, M.Phil. degrees, M.Litt. degrees, M. Res. degrees, M.Ed. degrees, M.Eng. degrees, Grad. Dip., and Pre-Master's degrees.

As a matter of fact, all these postgraduate courses just complement a four- or five-year Bachelor's degree. 

While Master of Science (M. Sc.) degrees refer to a common type of postgraduate followed by Master of Arts (M. A. or Magister Artium), A Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree relates to disciplines such as finances, human resources, marketing, strategic thinking, and operations management.

Master of Laws (LL.M.) degrees is awarded by law schools while Master of Philosophy (M.Phil.) is a postgraduate research degree awarded by universities during their Ph.D.

While others are usually certificate Masters, MasM. Litt is a postgraduate research degree similar to the M.Sc. or the M.A. Master of Research (M. Res) degrees are an advanced type of postgraduate research degree while Master of Education degree (M.Ed) in education. Also, The M. Eng. or ME is a postgraduate Master’s degree that is obtained after undergoing a major in Engineering Science. 

Professional Program and Available Types

Professional courses are usually certificate programs aimed at grooming candidates for a future career. Such courses can be specific to a particular company, profession, work type, or assignments. 

Professional courses are not only designed for graduates (unlike Masters' degrees), high school and college graduates can also use them to prepare for a competitive workforce. 

Areas of focus are broad and often include social sciences, business, law, and economics. Some programs prepare graduates for leadership roles in their industries, while others assist international students who are seeking work in another country. Industry-based programs can be targeted to an individual's specific career goals; for example, professional studies courses within health care programs often focus on research and the health-career industry.

In Nigeria for example, below is a list of some professional courses you can opt in for before or after graduation - depending on the requirements.
  1. Chartered Institute of Bankers in Nigeria Certification (CIBNG)
  2. Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria Certification (CTIN)
  3. Institute of Chartered Accountant of Nigeria (ICAN)
  4. Chartered Institute of Personnel Management (CIPM)
  5. Chartered Institute of Marketing of Nigeria Certification (CIM)
  6. Certified Pension Institute of Nigeria Certification (CPIN)
  7. Center for Law and Business Certification
  8. Association of General and Private Medical Practitioners of Nigeria Certification (AGPMPN)
  9. Oil and Gas Trained Services Limited
  10. Financial Risk Management
  11. Health Safety Environment
  12. Project Management Professionals (PMP)
  13. Institute of Management Technology Certification
  14. Human Resources Management Certification (HR)
  15. Business Education Exams Council Certification
  16. Association of National Accountant of Nigeria Certification (ANAN)
  17. Nigeria Institute of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV)
  18. Chartered Institute of Bankers
  19. West African College of Physicians Certification
  20. Certified Cost Engineering Consultants
  21. Oracle certification programs
  22. HubSpot Design Certification course
  23. Google AdWords certification
  24. Professional in Human Resource International (PHRi)
  25. Digital Marketing Certification

This list is endless as daily business and organizational challenges usually give birth to some of these courses. For instance:

  1. Digital Marketing Certification Training (DMCA) provides advanced skills to help modern marketers succeed.
  2. HubSpot Design Certification (which is likely FREE) teaches inbound marketing techniques that range from content creation to social promotion to converting and nurturing leads and beyond.
  3. Oracle Certification (which is IT-related) certifies candidates based on skills and knowledge related to its product and technology such as Java and so many others.
  4. CCNA (which is a product of Cisco Systems) imparts in a candidate the knowledge and skills required to install, operate, and troubleshoot small-medium size enterprise branch networks. CCNP is much deeper as it validates the ability of a candidate to plan, implement, verify, and troubleshoot local and wide-area enterprise networks.

Whereas, professional programs such as:
  1. Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN/ATS) is a professional course offered by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) to both graduates and undergraduates of Accounting. Applicants from any other discipline or related are equally accepted for the program and certification.
  2. Chartered Institute of Personnel Management (CIPM) certifies people who have successfully enrolled in its professional personnel management training programs thereby adding value to certified candidates and intending personnel managers.
  3. Center for Law and Business Certification prepares and certifies people to become business managers, business layers, and business leaders.
  4. National Institute of Marketing of Nigeria is the body for professionals engaged in marketing and related fields as marketing practitioners, sales and marketing directors, customer relationship managers, media planners, channel developers, creative directors, value builders, trade marketing managers, commercial managers/directors, brand builders, entrepreneurs, enterprise builders, corporate and institutional governors, transformers, marketing and mass communication experts, general managers, and Chief Executive Officers.
  5. Nigerian Institute of Management certifies managers after acquiring the required professional skills and standards and offers courses leading to diplomas in Management.

In brief, these sets of professional courses are usually restricted to people with certain qualifications and former academic exposure. And when done learning, candidates become recognized and registered members of those bodies.

What to Consider Between a Master's Degree and Professional Program as a Graduate

Back to the question at hand. As a graduate, you're divided between the two advanced courses. You want to be sure you make the right decision if you must acquire further certificates after your BSC, B.Ed, B. Eng. B. Agric, B.SN, etc.

Below is my professional look at things using Nigeria as a case study - while factoring in personal experience and that of others.

You should note that your decision depends so much on yourself and what you intend to achieve in line with your career. You'll also be guided if you have a focus for a particular establishment or you intend to be opened to any possible offers. It may also matter if you intend to change your discipline at this juncture of your academic or career journey.

1. Consider Master's Degree If You're Academic Focused

If you're focusing on becoming a teacher/lecturer, Masters can be ideal for you. Various academic and non-academic positions usually require holders of Masters's Degree. Going for professional courses can be an added advantage though. Yet, it won't as relevant.

For instance, checking various vacancies recently published by Landmark University, almost all the positions (academic and non-academic) required a form of Master's Degree i.e MSC, MBA, Ph.D., M. Ed, etc.

Other vacancies published by the University of Ibadan testified to the need for a Master's degree if you must work in any university, polytechnic or college of education in Nigeria.

NOTE: The two universities are meant to show the positions of both private and public institutions. Other higher institutions require the same.

2. Consider a Master's Degree If You're Government Jobs Focused

Just like the cases of academic and non-academic vacancies, most government jobs require a Master's Degree instead of a professional programs.

If you take time to see the requirements of various government-owned parastatals such as Nigerian Army Direct Short Service, INEC, Federal Civil Service Commission, Federal Teachers, etc, a Master's degree is always added advantage if not strictly required.

3. Consider a Master's Degree If You Target International Establishments and NGOs

Most often, bodies such as WHO, similar organizations, and Foundations require Master's degrees from their prospective applicants. These bodies are usually researched-based. Hence, require the services of candidates who had carried out a series of thesis, academic, and filed-based studies.

4. Professional Program is Better for Membership

You're not an accountant unless you're chartered. You're not a banker unless you're chartered. If you don't know that yet, why chasing the wrong courses?

Some university courses are professional in nature with specific bodies in charge. Unless you're a member of that professional arms, you as worst as still in class. This is why, to be recognized to practice, you must register with them, study for, and passed the prescribed exams/interviews. 

ICAN is for accountants, CTIN for taxators, NIESV for surveyors and valuers, AGPMPN for medical practitioners, etc.

If you should consider Masters for any of these courses, you can be the right candidate for any of the organizations earlier mentioned. Yet, most employers will prefer certified members.

5. Consider Professional Program If Already Employed

It's perfect if you're already working in an organization. Here, you may need promotion or upgrading. Professional program can help you to be fit for certain responsibilities within your existing company. If there is an opening to be filled with a qualified person with certain certifications, you can obtain those certificates through professional programs. 

A company that needs candidates for the post of Backend Developer wants a person with knowledge of SQL (MySQL/PostgreSQL), NoSQL (MongoDB/CouchDB/ElasticSearch) and/or DevOps processes like CI/CD. 

Some establishments may demand candidates with certifications in database and accounting packages. Some will demand competence in the use of standard MS Office applications (Word, Excel, Access, and PowerPoint).

6. Consider Professional Program For Consulting Services

With the rate of unemployment in countries across the globe, people are turning to self-employment as a lifesaver. If you think of possible self-reliance in the future, going for a professional course can be more ideal.

Organizations in need of consulting services usually outsource instead of employing permanent staff. In this case, your professional knowledge/certificates can add feathers to your cap. Advanced certificates in specific fields can come handy when chasing local and international consulting offers. 

Advanced Certificate in Management and Marketing of Fashion and Luxury, Advanced Certificate in Terrorism Studies, Advanced Certificate in Professional Photography, Google AdWords certification, etc may come to help if you're chasing a company's position or you decide to be independent as a consultant. 

ACCP (Aptech Certified Computer Professional), for instance, is a complete career-oriented program to prepare students for today’s I.T. Industry Recognizing the wide range of technologies, students have a choice to choose their specialization from .NET, Java, Oracle, or Networking.

7. You Can Independently Pass Professional Knowledge to Others

In most cases, organizations that offer professional programs are usually past learners of the same courses. After the acquisitions of your certificates, you're qualified to establish yourself as an institute to teach others the same. 

Possessing two or more certificates and bringing in more tutors on board can be a starting point to a multinational Professional Programs Institute.

Conclusion

As earlier said, it's not a decision anybody should make for you. You can decide if a Master's Degree is better for you than a professional program if you should examine yourself first and revisit your career or professional goals.

As obvious as this post has detailed, either path is walkable. If you should make the right based on what's working well in your country, you'll love that decision eventually.

Best of luck!

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