Education - Page 6 - The benefits of a master’s degree

- Page 6
The benefits of a master’s degree
New innovative graduate programs prepare leaders for the future

By Megan Weeden, Contributing Writer

Keeping up with current trends in graduate education requires colleges and universities to offer innovative programs that prepare leaders for the rapidly changing needs of the future.

Stevenson University Online’s master’s in community-based education and leadership (CBEL) program is designed to meet the growing demand for highly-qualified professionals to teach, lead and manage in informal educational settings like those that take place during out of school time.

Anne Davis, dean, Stevenson University Online, says the program grew out of a need in the industry for people to have options to expand their careers.

“We started thinking about a graduate program that wasn’t being met in the marketplace. The field is in its nascent stage. There’s no other program like this one,” says Davis.“Ours is unique because it brings together social work and nonprofit management and covers topics like teaching in non-traditional classrooms. Students often remark that our program is exactly what they were looking for. They didn’t want a master’s in social work or a master’s in teaching but needed something in order to take their careers to the next level.”

Practicing professionals such as those working in nonprofits, athletic coaching, youth development and higher education, gain the knowledge and skills needed to become effective educators and change leaders in their organizations and communities.

The 35-credit hour curriculum includes coursework in areas such as the cognitive, emotional and social development of learners, action research and data-driven decision-making, and innovative teaching and learning for 21st century skills. Elective courses give students the opportunity to hone their skills and expertise in areas such as STEM curriculum principles and practice, volunteer development and conflict communication and leadership.

The program started two years ago and currently has about 40 students currently enrolled. It’s offered completely online, providing flexibility for working professionals who want to enhance their existing skills within their field. There’s also a 15-credit post-baccalaureate certificate option in community-based education and leadership for those looking to expand their knowledge without pursuing the full master’s degree.

Julia Chavez, an early-intervention specialist at Kennedy Krieger Institute, is currently earning the master’s CBEL degree. Chavez, who has a bachelor’s degree in linguistics, says the program is everything she was looking for.

“I had a hard time finding a program,”Chavez says. “I was really interested in human services. Everything I found, I had to give up something. This is the only program that incorporated everything – special education, fiscal planning and STEM. It’s just as diverse as I am, and I can use it in different ways. I can use everything that I’m learning in my job and use my job in my learning.”

If it’s been awhile since you’ve walked into a library, you might be surprised to see today’s library spaces filled with dynamic programming and new technologies. Librarians are active instructors, facilitators of user services and information leaders in their communities.

The master of library and information science (MLIS) degree at the University of Maryland’s iSchool prepares graduates to be socially-engaged and technologically-focused information professionals – ready to create, educate and innovate.

With its unique location near Washington, D.C., the MLIS degree at UMD offers many opportunities to work with government agencies, non-profits, international organizations and a wide-range of world-renowned libraries, museums and archives.

Ranked as one of the top library and information studies programs in the country, the iSchool offers innovative concentrations of study including archives and digital curation, school libraries, youth experience, diversity and inclusion, intelligence and analytics and legal informatics. Students are able to attain their degrees online, in-person or through a hybrid approach.

In addition to groundbreaking course offerings, students have access to research centers and labs including the Digital Curation Innovation Center (DCIC), where students have the opportunity to work on research projects that address real archival and information management challenges faced by different organizations including government agencies, academic institutions and corporations.

Billy Frederick earned his bachelor’s degree in information science at UMD and is currently working towards his MLIS (with a specialization in archives and digital curation) at UMD. Frederick discovered his interest in archival work while working on a project, Legacy of Slavery, at the DCIC.

The project, part of a partnership with the Maryland State Archives, allows students to learn transcribing, data analytics, data visualization, database design and archival analytics.

“I started out as a computer science major, but it wasn’t a good fit for me,” says Frederick. “It didn’t take advantage of my ability to speak and communicate or to write. My volunteer work with the DCIC led me to library science – I was drawn like a fly to a flame to these data curation projects. I found my place here. The work with the DCIC is really at the forefront of archival science. It’s really progressive.”

Goucher recently launched an online Master of Science in higher education policy, research and administration program, one of just a few of its kind in Maryland.

This program is for those currently in midlevel positions – assistant directors, managers, professors – who are looking to move into higherlevel leadership positions in higher education.

With an emphasis on data, research, and analysis and the use of that analysis to inform decision making at the leadership level, the MSHE degree prepares higher education professionals to lead in a global and diverse postsecondary world.

The curriculum provides the foundation and real-world application needed to excel in leadership roles in higher education. Students can enhance their professional and communication skills, meet the needs of diverse learners, collect and use data to support improvement, resource allocation and focus in key areas such as finance, assessment, student development and adult education.

“Data has become increasingly important and every course is infused with data management,” says Kathy Doherty, associate provost/ executive director, Welch Center for Graduate and Professional Studies. “The program provides that stepping stone. Students almost a hundred percent certainly will be able to move onto the next level. It’s designed to prepare our graduates but also prepare them to go into the doctoral program if they choose.”

The 36-credit program is completed fully online and can be done in as little as 18 months. •

Is a master’s degree right for you?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, occupations that typically require a master’s degree for entry are projected to grow the fastest (18 percent) by 2022. This growth is largely due to the concentration of these occupations in the fast-growing health care and social assistance industries, which is projected to add a combined 255,000 of the 448,500 new jobs in occupations requiring a master’s degree.

Earning a master’s degree helps you gain specialized knowledge to advance in your field. As the workforce grows, a graduate degree shows you’re dedicated to your career and credibility.

Focusing on a particular field of study helps you become more competitive in your field and can help you build on your current abilities, gain new skills or even transition to entirely new field.

A master’s degree can make it easier to move into more senior positions such as management and leadership and could significantly increase your income. On average, employees with a master’s degree earn about 35-percent more than those with a bachelor’s degree. •