Serious question... I'm heavily weighing the idea of pursuing a Masters Degree in Professional Studies, focused on Organizational Development. My reasoning for this is grow into new leadership roles where I can marry my design and technology background....sort like becoming a Chief Design Officer or something similar. Doing a basic Google search on benefits of a Masters degree turns up a lot of nonsense (one benefit talked about was lifelong learning...I don't need a graduate degree for lifelong learning...that's what Lynda Learning and certificates are for). So my question, especially for those with graduate degrees, is what real benefits does a graduate degree provide, especially in design? As I continue my career in design and technology I think about the how I can grow into more areas such as organizational leadership, but is having a Masters key to that success or really just a feather in the cap? Does having it really justify the expense and does it demand considerable compensation? I understand this is broad, so I am looking for your personal experiences that will help me couch my thinking.
Unfortunately, many employers still judge candidates by academic achievements and not real life experience, creativity, or problem solving skills. Personally, the latter is far more valuable than an expensive degree.
It depends on your school, but here are some things I consider invaluable about my Industrial Design Engineering degree:
- Having practiced applying the scientific method in all kinds of different contexts.
- Time, knowledge and challenges to think about design in a broader context
- Enough technical knowledge and practice to have productive discussions with engineers
- Practice with several different design methods and problem solving techniques. Being able to mix and match methods = 10x more useful than knowing only one method.
edit: I only now read that you’re considering an organizational degree. My gut feeling is that would be mainly useful but not required in large orgs. In smaller companies knowing the field in which it operates is more relevant. Unless you want to do consulting. Anyway I would only study something that I would enjoy studying, regardless of its usefulness.
As they've already said, I think the value of a degree will depend a lot on your ambitions and employers. For example, in traditional companies such as banks and insurance companies, a master degree + a few years of working experience will probably set you up for a management position.
However, in startups and smaller companies where teams are multitasking, it probably won't.
It’s easy to think that a four-year program of “superior” design education is the only way to guarantee the successful career you want. The truth is, however, that with proper motivation, the right resources, and relatively inexpensive training you can successfully make your way into the industry.
I have been a self-learner my whole life. I learned by myself how to tie my shoelaces, how to speak English (it’s not my native language), how to test software, and more recently, how UX and Interaction Design works.
That’s the reason why I’m very much in favor of what is called “Buccaneer Scholars”:
"A Buccaneer-Scholar is anyone whose love of learning is not muzzled or shackled by any institution or authority; whose mind is driven to wander and find its own place in the world."
That mindset helped me to make my way into the field of software testing. I found a lot of inspiration in James Marcus Bach, the author of the Buccaneer Scholars and also one of the promoters of Rapid Software Testing. This is as you said, the life-long learning journey.
So, long story short. There's no straight answer :/ maybe someone who benefited from a masters degree has a different take on this.