Should I get a master’s degree?

Salman Al-Mutawa

“You only use 5 percent of the stuff they teach you in school,” is a statement I have heard multiple people from different countries say. I have had younger students ask me, is it worth it to go for a master’s degree in my major? The answer to this question is: it depends. Have you decided to spend the rest of your working life in an academic or research track? If so, then by all means yes. If you decide to get a job, like the vast majority of individuals, then the answer to that is no, with the exception of medicine. This isn’t to say that you will not learn or grow during your year or two getting your master’s, you definitely will. This issue at hand is: has the amount of time and energy spent given you it’s worth?

Think of it this way. An average apple tree takes five to eight years to bear fruit. If you decide to plant an apple tree, and put in the money and effort to take care of it for…say, 15 years. After year 15, it produces five very good apples. Was planting the tree worth it? No.

To the apple planting community, please be advised that this is purely an analogy and is in no way, shape, or form an attack on your way of life. I also have not been paid by any parties of interest to cast a shadow on any specific apples or any initiative pertaining to the planting of said apples.

The maximum a master’s degree can offer you in the job market is an interview opportunity. If that is what you wanted in the first place, then good for you. By all means make the most of it. However, do not assume that the knowledge received during your master’s degree will far outweigh your knowledge in your bachelors, this is not a PhD. A master’s degree is an incremental increase of knowledge to the base of information that was built during your undergrad. It is nothing more. Furthermore, some ask if doing a master’s degree straight out of undergrad is better than taking a few years off to work then returning to study.

For the knowledge that you will receive, and for the potential value that you can obtain, to maximize the usefulness of the information you obtain in your masters it is ultimately better to work for a year or two and then return to your studies. HOWEVER, many people who begin work with that idea experience the comfortable lifestyle and upgrade in standard of living that comes along with a paycheck. This acts as a sedative and makes leaving your job to go back to school especially difficult. Again, this is not the case for everyone. People who choose to do this have also said that the “maximum value” mentioned earlier in this paragraph is not a large enough increment than the value they would have gotten when they were fresh out of undergrad, filled with energy and still used to the study lifestyle.

It seems to be that the main issue at hand with post-bachelor’s education is the pure effectiveness of the education itself. For the most part, given the opportunities in Kuwait and Middle East, it does not seem to always be worth it. The current educational system is reaching a point of impracticality and obsoleteness that is unheard of, and I am not bashing Kuwait, this applies to western education as well. Join me next week as I analyze what exactly is wrong with the educational system from a student’s perspective, and what the results this system has produced.

By Salman Al Mutawa
salman@kuwaittimes.net

This article was published on 21/12/2017