Changing Careers with a Master's Degree

How to get into a graduate program outside of your bachelor's degree.

March 10, 2014

So you have put in years of work into the career that you thought you were going to be in for the rest of your life. But then something changes. You find your interest in your career waning, and that your real passions lie in a completely different field in which you don’t have any professional experience. What do you do? Continue on with a career you know you don't want to keep? Or make a change and switch to a career that will make you happy?

Getting a master's degree or Ph.D. in a field that is different from your undergraduate degree is challenging, but not impossible. In most situations, it is helpful to return to school to obtain a master's degree in your new career. Your main goal during this process is convincing the admissions committee that you are committed to your new profession, as they essentially are the deciding factor in whether or not you can obtain your dream job. As with any applicant to graduate school, the committee is looking at your application to see if you are a good fit for the program. Aside from your courses, they will review your professional experience and volunteer work.

Say you have your bachelors degree in accounting, but you want to pursue a master's degree in healthcare management, it would be wise to take courses in healthcare and science previous to applying to graduate school. Having these courses on your transcripts will prove to the committee that you have done your research on the profession, and already know the areas in which you are lacking. A student who can be honest about their weaknesses, as well as their strengths will be looked upon more favorably than those who only know their strengths.

Become familiar with the professional jargon used in your prospective career. The committee is more likely to admit a student with no background in the major if they have demonstrated they have the ability to intelligently converse on the subject. When possible, include this information in your application. The most effective way to do this is through your statement of intent, or your admissions essay.

Although your old career and your new profession may differ in subject, the skills required to be successful may be similar. For example, a job that requires communication skills, written ability and organization skills, such as teaching, can also be applicable towards a job such as nursing.

It is a good idea to volunteer or get an internship in the field that you wish to switch to. Not only will this look good on your application, but it will also give you the chance to see if this is something you really want to do. You may complete an internship and come to find that you aren’t suited for the career. Or you may excel in the field. If you do, this is also a great opportunity to get a recommendation letter from a professional in the field you wish to switch to.

Related Graduate School: The World of Advanced Degrees Articles

Why Should You Attend Graduate School?
What are the Differences Between a Masters Degree and a Ph.D.?
What Is the Difference Between a Thesis and a Dissertation?
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What to Expect From Graduate School
Are There Family Friendly Graduate Schools?
Life After Graduate School
How to Juggle Graduate School, a Career and a Family

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