Can A Master’s Degree in the Philippines Help? Here’s What Real Employers Say!

Can A Master’s Degree in the Philippines Help? Here’s What Real Employers Say!
Jobstreet content teamupdated on 13 April, 2022
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Settled into work and planning your next steps? You may be considering taking your master’s degree in the Philippines.

It’s a good option. After all, the right master’s can vault you up the career and salary ladder. Use it to upskill to stay competitive, change lanes from college, or up your credentials to work abroad.

Clearly these benefits appeal to many Filipinos. Numbers from our Commission on Higher Education (CHED) place nearly 232,000 students in master’s programs throughout the Philippines for the academic year 2019-20, with over 36,000 graduating the year before. (Data as of October 2020)

A masters’ degree is different from a professional certificate. It involves one to three years of focused study with a CHED-accredited university. Many require a thesis, major project or exam to graduate. The MBA (Masters in Business Administration) is widely known, but many technical fields require specific MA or MS degrees for senior positions.

Sounds good? Read these tips to help you choose the right post-grad program.

Choosing your master’s program and school

A master’s degree is a big decision and a bigger expense. Think of your research as your first grad school project. Look beyond school websites. Consult graduates, recruiters, and senior industry people. Ask around online, and attend open house events.

Most importantly, be honest with yourself about the time and work you’re ready to put in.

Do you really need a master’s?

It depends. In some fields, it’s a must for senior jobs: corporate banking and economics, finance, top engineering roles at the likes of Globe or Google Philippines. College professors, clinical psychologists, hard scientists, number crunchers (data scientists, actuarians, etc.) and environmental or urban planners also need MA/MFAs or MS.

But many other careers value on-the-job experience and industry certifications (like the CFA for investment advisers) over classroom knowledge. You can enter the foreign service or be a successful entrepreneur without a master’s degree. The BPO industry hires many Filipinos even without bachelor’s degrees, as long as they pass training and probation.

(Search BPO Jobs here)

We spoke to four Philippine employers: a software company, accounting- and health-related BPOs, and a large food manufacturer. All four prioritize job experience over degrees. The software company requires master’s degrees only for director level roles and above.

“We look for job experience, connections (for sales and such), attitude and expertise,” said the food manufacturer’s owner. “For MBAs, most of the personal contacts you really want are studying abroad.” In these fields, a master’s degree doesn’t hurt, but it’s not required. Take it because you love learning or to fulfill a dream, but don’t borrow money for it or expect to change your tax bracket.

Research the schools and specific programs.

In a few clicks, you’ll find international rankings of Philippine postgrad business programs. But whatever your field, don’t be swayed by big names or low costs. Are the professors and graduates doing exciting work? Does their learning method fit your needs? Can you stay focused without dropping out?

Full time or part time? Prepare to study for one year or more.

Traditional postgrad programs take two years, but many schools offer options. Aside from class time, expect heavy reading, papers and group meetings. Don’t rush, and remember that an easy master’s will probably not yield the ROI you want.

Pre post-grad: what to prepare

Requirements for a master’s vary. Carefully note all prerequisites, formats and  deadlines. Here are some typical requirements:

  • Your bachelor’s degree and certified transcript
  • Two or more years’ work experience. Many schools require this before you can apply. Why? As a fresh grad you’re still gaining work experience. You just don’t bring much to the table! Fortunately, you can fulfill this while researching schools and saving for tuition.
  • Entrance exam and/or interview – Some local business schools also accept results from NMAT, an international admission test for management schools.
  • Reference letters from employers or professors
  • Pre-master’s courses – If your undergrad is unrelated, you may need prerequisite subjects (for example, programming, stat or accounting). Most schools will help you arrange these.
  • Non-refundable application and admission fees

Paying for your master’s degree

The Asian Institute of Management, Manila’s top-ranked business school, listed its 2022 MBA tuition at more than PhP1.4 million. Fortunately, most Philippine master’s degree programs cost far less.

For a full-time program, your cost includes the salary you’re not earning (opportunity cost), plus daily costs like transport or lodging. Many Filipino grad students choose part-time master’s programs so they can still work while earning their degree.

Whatever you choose, here are some ways to afford it:

  • Check with the school—Most offer financial aid, payment plans or low-interest loans.
  • Scholarships from government agencies, corporate foundations and other countries
  • Employer funding. Some Philippine employers will sponsor or reimburse your tuition, in exchange for a binding contract for a number of years. Ask your company if they offer this. Make sure you clearly understand the contract before signing.
  • Student loans. Consider CHED’s StuFAP/UniFAST loans, via government agencies. You can also try private companies like Bukas or InvestED. As with any loan, read sample computations and be very clear on interest rates and payments.

Master’s degree ROI: earn from what you learn

Fortunately, global research suggests that MBA grads earn back their tuition within four years. These are based on US schools, but it’s a useful reference for Philippine schools too.

For other degrees, ROI depends on the industry. Salaryexplorer.com reports that master’s degree holders earn 29% more than bachelor’s degree holders, while Emolument.com lists Master of Management, law and Masters in Finance as the best-earning Philippine degrees. For its part, Payscale suggests average salaries for different master’s degrees in the Philippines. (These sites are based on self- declared salaries, and do not disclose their sample size.)

Want to find more information about average salary ranges across various industries? Download the JobStreet salary report today.

How a master’s degree resets your work life

Many employers recruit directly from graduate schools. Here’s what they’re paying for:

You’re ready for senior jobs – Your master’s implies technical skills and readiness to lead, even with limited industry experience. You use complex tools to tackle real problems, plus you work better in teams and have learned to handle tough criticism.

Mental agility – Smart classmates and professors force you to level up daily. You ask better questions and become a constant learner. You’ll see how little you know—and how to move forward anyway.

Professional network—A grad school’s prestige comes from its network: alumni, professors, mentors, employers. Your profs can refer you to prime jobs, because they’re in the industry and know your strengths. Your classmates will compete with you for jobs and clients, but they can be great allies too.

Confidence – Even a degree not directly related to your work brings benefits. You made your dream happen! Knowing this, you’re more assertive, know your worth and stand your ground—actions that will get you promoted and earning more, even in an unrelated field.

Quote: “MA degrees are great leverage in any career, because specialized knowledge makes a difference in [the] rat race “¦[An MA] shows that you’re willing to invest in yourself, and do the heavy lifting to become an expert. It means you’re willing to be challenged “” to keep your ego in check, to unlearn in order to learn.” —Michelle, financial services marketer and MA in Communications

The bottom line

For an elite corporate job, a foreign master’s is ideal. When shifting careers, or joining a specialized field like data science, getting a master’s degree in the Philippines can be a smart way to boost your expertise.

In other areas, local post grad studies show drive and passion to improve, but they don’t always guarantee a higher salary nor do they rank as high as experience as far as what individual employers look for.

Nevertheless, if you can manage your expectations, the time commitment, and the cost, a master’s degree can be a smart bet on yourself.

While still studying, be sure to regularly update your Jobstreet profile with your new skills.

Then get ready to search the right job for you here or through the JobStreet app. Download today on the App Store or Google Play.

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