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Nature's Survey Reports Master's Students Find Value in Their Degrees

January 31, 2023

Nature's Survey Reports Master's Students Find Value in Their Degrees

Students who participated in the latest Nature’s survey stated they were pleased with their master’s programs and their decision to pursue a postgraduate education. This global survey was conducted in collaboration with Shift Learning, a London-based research agency. Its goal is to explore the educational and career experiences of graduate students pursuing degrees in the field of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). This is the first Nature graduate student survey that includes master’s students along with PhD students. 756 master’s students volunteered to participate, originating from a wide variety of locations including Asia, Europe, North America, and more. These students made up 23% of the total sample.

The survey reports 68% of master’s students were satisfied with their programs. Although some students reported facing challenges, 79% were glad to have pursued a master’s degree and found their graduate experience rewarding. Compared to PhD students, 60% reported they were satisfied with their program and 74% were happy with their decision to pursue a doctoral degree. Over half of the master’s students responded that they were interested in continuing their education for a PhD degree. Regardless of this, it is found obtaining a master’s degree is enough to achieve a successful career.

Elizabeth Friedman, a STEM education researcher at University of Illinois Chicago, said in her experience, students are still able to find job opportunities in the STEM field whether they continued their education or not. “Master’s students learn transferable skills,” said Friedman.

In addition, the survey reported the top two elements students enjoyed the most from their master’s programs were working with interesting and bright colleagues and the intellectual challenge. The master’s students were also asked if they would do anything different if they started their program over again and 43% answered they would not. However, one-third of respondents did state they would switch institutions and one-fifth stated they would change their major. 

While responses were generally positive in the survey, there were areas of concern discovered amongst the participants. Master’s students were found to have issues regarding career advice. Only 22% reported that they strongly agreed that their supervisor scheduled time to discuss career paths. 20% strongly agreed their advisor encouraged the student to attend career training and events.

In addition, there were different career aspirations and work hours observed between master’s and PhD students. 32% of PhD students reported they would prefer to secure a job in industry while fewer than one-fifth of master’s students had this goal. 43% of PhD students also responded that they worked more than 50 hours a week compared to 35% of master’s students.

Overall, postgraduate education in the STEM field received positive feedback and the career outlook is promising. Master’s students were observed to be more content with their program and higher education compared to PhD students. It is important to include the thoughts of master’s students along with PhD students regarding graduate education.

To read the full article on this survey, please visit the following link for the PDF.

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Page last modified January 31, 2023