Options. That’s one of the most popular themes for 2020. As we work to figure out our futures, we look for options in our careers and training/education. People across the United States are being faced with making the best of a bad situation. For potential students, this can include taking on new job responsibilities due to corporate downsizing, rethinking recent career decisions, and starting over completely. For adults who already hold their bachelor’s degree, graduate programs can seem promising. That has meant a noticeable increase in first-generation graduate students.
Like any continuing education, graduate programs require some preliminary research and strategy, by the student, to best figure out which path to take and which school is the best match for them and their wallet. Because some job markets have gone from bad to worse during COVID, universities have had to revisit and reallocate resources into programs that are needed now. Dealing with that delicate balance, they still must address the new needs of their students, what’s happening now, and preparing them for the dramatic changes taking place in business and across industries.
One recent article at chronicle.com suggests that graduate programs that encourage their students to work and live outside the classroom will accelerate.
“Faculty members and administrators, you can make space for this kind of career reflection by encouraging students to lead balanced lives. One way to do that is by asking questions — from the earliest stages of graduate school — making clear that it is a good and normal thing to have commitments outside of the department.”
It may seem challenging to create the same hands-on approach for research, faculty assistance, and professional development in a virtual world; this is where all schools are NOT created equal.
Dominick F. Peruso Jr. Ph.D., CPA, CMA (Professor & Chair- Department of Accounting, Business, and Economics), shares “Juniata College has a long history of delivering engaged, enthusiastic, and high-quality teaching in a liberal arts environment. Faculty bring this same teaching excellence to our flexible and convenient online graduate programs.”
Potential graduate students are researching how long schools have been providing virtual learning; if that extends into their community partnerships, research and intern partners, and networking opportunities with other students. The belief may be that the longer a school has been providing virtual learning, the more apt they are to be slightly ahead of the game. But potential students should also remember that quality is the standard to measure against. May schools are developing quality online programs to meet the needs that arose in 2020. Students should not be afraid to broach these tough subjects when inquiring about graduate programs. Ask for examples, and talk to current students.
“I was on a budget and needed a program where I could work during the day, yet stay on track for earning my MBA. I am goal-driven and that was important. Juniata provided not only the option to advance in my career but to earn my MBA. I was able to apply some of what I was learning to what I was actually doing, and vice-versa. I wouldn’t do it any other way, even if I could attend in person.” stated recent MBA graduate, Bryce Walter.
And finally, programs do matter. Schools like Juniata are growing their graduate departments thoughtfully. That means paying attention to which careers are thriving not just during COVID but, based on research, expected to thrive regardless of the outcome of this pandemic. No one should be establishing a career and advanced degree choice solely on the new normal. However, some patterns will continue. For example, many large corporations have already decided that virtual work will extend regardless of COVID- 19. With that, specific careers have begun to thrive as well.
“We believe our Data Science and Master of Bioinformatics are two such degrees,” states our Assistant Director Nicole Bopp. “According to Volt, a global workforce solutions provider, The Bioinformatics market has been a vibrant place for some time – even in 2017, it generated $6,389 million on a global level. Forecasts for the next decade were positive, with predictions that this sector would grow at a CAGR of 13.8% from 2018 to 2025. And that was before COVID-19.” Bopp goes on to share, “ Juniata is invested in growing these programs, and being a leader in providing advanced virtual education, at the lowest possible cost to students.”