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How to Build Your Own Master's Degree Program

by Dr. Kelly S. Meier, studioD

If you are interested in pursuing a master’s degree but haven’t found a program that fits your specific career interests, consider creating your own program of study. An interdisciplinary studies graduate program offers the opportunity to take courses that fit your unique career path and explore a wide variety of academic disciplines. Some programs allow you to choose courses from any discipline, while others offer you a menu of options from specific academic areas. Consider your educational goal and create a strategic plan so that you can achieve your goals.

Educational Goal

Start by determining the career you want to purse. Consider your interests and strengths and how these match with a potential Master’s degree. If you are unsure of what to pursue, visit the career center at your college and take a career inventory. Career assessments such as the Strong Interest Inventory or the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator help you recognize your personality and strengths so that you can think more clearly about an appropriate job match. Your next step is to explore the degree program that will help you realize your career choice.

Build Your Degree

Once you have identified your career choice, begin researching the education needed to reach this goal. If you are unsure of what is best, talk to professionals in the field and academic advisers so you are certain of your plan of action. Brainstorm the classes that will best prepare you. Create an outline with the core curriculum pieces you need. Decide if you should attend school full-time or part-time and craft a plan of study. If you have a clear idea of what to include in your degree program, it is easier to discuss it with your academic adviser. Your academic adviser will have to approve your classes and, potentially, add some other institutional requirements.

Select An Institution

There are several institutions that offer individualized master’s degree programs. Some focus on liberal arts and others combine classes from several departments on campus. For example, Lesley University offers a two-year, 36 credit interdisciplinary Master’s degree program that allows you to select courses from across the institution. Indiana University Southeast has a Master of Liberal Studies that combines course options from arts and humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. Most programs integrate externships, research projects or alternative learning experiences in the final semester.

Capstone Project

As you plan your unique Master’s program, consider how you will use a capstone project to solidify your career goal. A final project is usually credit bearing and reflects the strengths of your academic program. Use this project to accentuate the strengths you bring to a job. For example, if you want to be a life coach, design a series of workshops and offer one at a community center so that you can practice your skills and demonstrate your expertise. A capstone project is a selling point as you enter the work world.

About the Author

Dr. Kelly S. Meier is a professor and college administrator for a large public institution in Minnesota. She received her undergraduate degree from Western Illinois University and her master's degree and doctorate from Minnesota State University, Mankato. She has published more than 15 books on education, group development and diversity.

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