Micro-Masters and Immersion Programs: Effective Tools for Career Survival

Stable jobs are no longer taken for granted as millennial professionals are constantly hopping from jobs to jobs, companies are looking for people with diverse experiences, and willing to hire those who are interested to learn new skill sets. But major career change is not as new as touted in the lives of many accomplished people. One such person is Jim Simons, a graduate of MIT and a PhD from UC Berkeley.  He famously worked in topology, an abstract field of mathematics. But later in his career, he cracked the mathematics of the Wall Street better than anyone else. He ran his hedge fund management firm with hundreds of PhD graduates from different specializations. His yearly salary crossed over $1B for many years, the highest in the hedge fund history. Many top business professors put him above Warren Buffet’s acumen, well known for his strategy of keeping all the eggs in one nest with care, rather than diversifying the risks. Aside from such superstars, let’s get into the real talk that can connect you to your life.

The recent advancement in machine learning is one of such burgeoning fields where different backgrounds are intermingling. At first, the cosmologist, statistician, and PhDs in genetics started to flock in with the rapid improvements of the computational power, and used their programming skills on big datasets for marketing and optimization. That was not a surprise to many as, in the early days, Wall Street used to appreciate physicists beyond their loud trading floors. But what is more inspiring in machine learning is that people from different liberal arts backgrounds are now taking part in it. I have a friend who is a dance major in undergrad but came to Washington DC to get her masters in machine learning. She secured a high paying job in a defense contract firm before her graduation. In fact, there is a high demand in cyber security, IT, cloud platform-based systems like Amazon AWS, android apps market, and Microsoft certifications, partly because of the complications in the foreign hire and national security concerns. To avoid cyber warfare and hacking, government contracts are coming with conditions to employ only US nationals and often discourage subcontracts.

cute cat near open laptop with software in house
Photo by João Jesus on Pexels.com

Another good news is that universities are now offering micro-masters and 5-9 months certification programs parallel to the industry, and open to students from different academic backgrounds at a relatively low price. In many cases, these programs are called immersion programs for PhD scholars and professionals, who are willing to switch their fields. Fintech, project management and marketing are the few names in the long list. Instead of having admission into expensive Master programs, get enrolled in these programs if you want to switch careers, or feel that your English or Psychology major was not the right decision for you.

Here is the list of the few things you need to keep in mind before enrolling:

1.      Are you interested in working in the industry you are choosing in the next 5-10 years? Frequent hopping will cost you money before you reach the full income potential.

2.      Will it give you work-life balance? While high paying jobs may sound tempting, ask your friends about their experiences working in law firms and financial sectors.

3.      Is the program you are enrolling from a reputable brand like Google, Microsoft or Amazon, or top-ranked schools? Many small fishes are getting into this by showing the success of the big ones but finally fail to meet the expectations of the candidates.

4.      Does the host organization or program facilitates a pathway to jobs? Many companies have already made agreements with the competitive programs to recruit graduates-, a path to a job once you graduate successfully.  Generally, these programs are selective about admitting new applicants.

5.      Have you thought about the cost and benefit of the programs? Compare the fees since there are many options. Talk with others who already went through such programs and try to verify whether the job they are bragging about really exist with the credentials you are going to earn with certifications. Reputed programs come with hard numbers of success, not just vague statements of hope.

A few weeks ago, someone with a great resume in nonprofit organization management and the paralegal background asked me about enrolling in an MS program in social work. I suggested her to get a certification either in finance or IT related topics. The return on investment in her career with her experiences and tuition fees for social work masters will not be impressive. Now, nonprofits and social work agencies are looking for people with advanced data analytic skills and IT supports. So, she can also be a part of the mission to uplift others without getting into a financial burden.

That is one of the many stories– what about you? Tell us more about you and your dreams. Best career options often come up with transferring your current skills in a new field so that you can become invaluable to your organizations.