How to choose the best grad degree for you

By Kate Warren 11 November 2016

via Devex YouTube channel

From MBAs and MPAs to MAs and MPPs and beyond, picking the right graduate degree to further your global development career can be daunting. As part of Grad School Week, we brought together experts from three different programs in a special webinar to explore some of the options available and discuss how each can prepare you for the kinds of roles you seek.

Lindsay North, an alumna of George Washington University’s M.A. in International Development Studies program shared her experience pursuing what recruiters called in a Devex survey, the most in-demand degree. An M.A. program helps you to develop a holistic, interdisciplinary approach to complex problems, says North, when explaining why she chose this program. When selecting which school to attend, she sought out practical versus theoretically focused curriculum and flexible schedules that would allow her to continue working while pursuing her studies.

David Green, director of admissions at the American University Kogod School of Business, which touts a special program in sustainability management, discussed what is quickly becoming another top degree for global development professionals: the MBA. Ranked two years in a row as the second most in-demand degree by development employers, MBA’s provide great training for public and nonprofit sector management in addition to private sector careers, explained Green.

While MBA programs tend to cost more than others, salaries can also be higher so looking at the long-term return on investment is an important consideration. “On average, it takes about 3 and a half years to recoup what you’ve invested in your MBA degree, when all expenses are considered,” shared Green, though global development careers, with traditionally lower salaries than other sectors, could take longer to earn back.

Masters in public administration is also another very popular choice for development professionals. Suzanne Shende, associate director of MPA Programs at the Harvard Kennedy School, discussed the value of a public administration or public policy degree and the various specializations and joint-programs available allowing students to really guide and create their own field of study. She described the “three pillars” you can expect to study as political thought and institutions, economics and quantitative analysis, and management and leadership.

To learn more about each of these programs, what you can expect to study, and tips for applying (and getting accepted into) your school of choice, watch the full webinar above.

You know you need a postgraduate degree to advance in a global development career, but deciding on a program, degree and specialization can be overwhelming. In partnership with the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs, Duke Center for International Development, American University Kogod School of Business, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore and the MPA/ID Program at the Harvard Kennedy School, we are digging into all things graduate school and global development in a weeklong series called Grad School Week. Join online events and read more advice on pursuing a postgraduate education here.

About the author

Warren kate 1
Kate Warren@DevexCareers

Kate Warren is the senior director and editor of careers and recruiting content at Devex. With more than a decade of international development recruitment experience working with international NGOs, consulting firms and donor agencies, she has a finger on the pulse of hiring trends across the industry and insider knowledge on what it takes to break in.


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