Advanced degrees are all about specialization.

So once you’ve decided to move beyond a bachelor’s degree, you’ve got to grapple with the question of what kind of degree to get. Assuming you ultimately want to use your degree to land a job, the focus is especially important. Employers looking to hire candidates with advanced degrees tend to be particular about the degree content. They want the focus of the degree to align closely with the skill sets needed on their team.

So how should you determine the specialization of your advanced degree? Here’s what some Capella University experts have to say.

1. Start with Research.

No decision regarding the focus of your next degree should be made without research. What’s the industry standard? Does it vary by job? To get answers to these questions, talk to people in the field. Or snoop through some resumes on LinkedIn to see what kind of education experts in the field have gotten. The subject matter of your previous degree (or degrees) is less important than simply making sure you’re focused on the right topic for your new degree. “Open up your field of vision and look at the range of possibilities,” says Curtis Brant, associate vice president of doctoral affairs. “For example, if you want to get into business or marketing, an MBA might be good, but a psychology or counseling degree might also work and will give you a different perspective and perhaps a competitive advantage.”

2. Inventory Your Interests.

“You really need to choose something that you’re excited about,” says Brant. “That may be a continuation of your field, or that may be a course or topic you encountered in your undergraduate experience that got you excited, but you weren’t able to pursue it in the way you wanted.” Think about the topics you found interesting in your previous studies. Do any of them match up with the degree options before you?


3. Don’t Be a Slave to Money.

Yes, money is important. But don’t make your decision solely on what degree is going to get you the job that pays the most. “If you’re not passionate about the topic, the chances of your finishing are going to diminish greatly,” Brant says. “You need to be clear on what your end goal is. What is your overall aim? What do you want—professionally, personally, as well as financially–at the end of this process?”


4. Consider the Long Road Ahead.

Before you settle on a topic, consider its depth. You will have to immerse yourself in your chosen topic day in and day out for a year or more. Think about subjects that never fail to catch your interest on the news or in conversation. Make a list of books or articles you’ve read and connect the dots—if any, between them. These foundational topics should be woven into the degree you choose, Brant says. “Take a step back and make sure you’re really ready to commit to the topic.”

The Career Center’s mission is to empower students and alumni to proactively manage their careers and make meaningful, and effective, career decisions.