Postgraduate and Professional Development - Creating The `Niche' That Is You

EMPLOYERS and employees alike are looking for continuous improvement in their business processes and operational standards as modern management concepts evolve.

MBAs have always been valued by corporations and businesses, as they produce excellent managerial candidates who are able to lead and innovate. It used to be driven by North American business schools, which had made a mark for themselves in the field, churning out graduates that were snapped up even before graduation.

Demand was such that some of the best business schools like INSEAD and Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University opened campuses and formed collaborations in Asia to tap into the Eastern market.

Then there was the flexibility, brought about by the Internet and growing partnerships with local universities in Asia that revolutionised the industry and fuelled demand.

On the not-so-positive side, there has also been a wave of so-called valid institutions offering MBAs at cut-rate prices that have, to some extent, saturated the market and made `MBAs' easily obtainable - and less credible.

Against this backdrop we see the new trend - specialisation and relevancy emerging. Master's programmes - MBAs included - have moved towards making themselves complementary and applicable to specific fields of study. This move has enabled these fields of study to expand in themselves as well as produce a host of individuals who have a niche and are geared to the challenges their respective industries are facing.

Still, individuals looking to improve through professional certification or postgraduate study should ask themselves some crucial questions on what would suit them best. Would the course help in the work they are doing or would it help in the areas they would like to pursue? Would the study hours suit? Would the price fit? The next step would be to look at institutions that offer the courses. Are those institutions leaders in particular sectors? Are they accredited? Is there industry involvement in the university and its curriculum?

With the advent of the Internet, distance learning has taken on new legs. These days, so much can be done and earned from credible institutions across the globe, without having to take time off or spend exorbitant amounts of money to be physically present at classes. With teleconferencing, email, web forums and online library access, distance learning is the answer for many individuals who have the commitment and desire to improve but may lack the opportunity.

Postgraduate study was given a big boost by the government recently as one of the responses to a slowing global economy. Aid in tuition fees and research grants were mooted as the way to get more Malaysians to pursue master's and doctorate programmes. For those who are unemployed or are looking to move up the career ladder, postgraduate study is definitely the best step forward, more so now with government help.

Professional certification and postgraduate study are also evolving with the times as pertinent global issues begin to change how things are done. In light of the credit crunch, many institutions are offering master's courses that cover alternatives to the "usual" choice of subjects, incorporating Islamic finance theories and Eastern values into their programmes.

Even as areas of science and technology expand, so do the specialisations that can be ventured into at the level of master's - from the likes of Master In Urban Design to Executive Diplomas in Drug Abuse. The trick, if there is one, is to know what would interest the individual the most and to go for it.

If one is not sure, in terms of employment, if a particular area or subject is skewered toward individuals with professional certification or postgraduate degrees, the best thing to do would be to approach employers and ask them or to flip through the wanted ads. Are there people out there who are better qualified, who are monopolising all the great jobs? If yes, then it is time to improve your own standing in the job market.

For individuals already equipped with master's degrees, the next step would be to mark themselves as experts in their field. Doctoral dissertations do require time and much research, but it is through the experimentation and quest of many that discoveries were made and technologies evolved. Doctorates are the ideal way to carve a niche and make a stand in the world's knowledge and expertise.

The world is in a time of knowledge and know-how. It's time to make that choice for continuous professional development. Flip our pages for some of the best options in and out of the country.


Master's - An academic degree earned after at least one year of study and undertaken upon completion of an undergraduate degree. A master's qualification symbolises expertise in an academic discipline or professional area, as well as a higher order of thinking skills.

Master's (Coursework) - A postgraduate degree that is taught in a similar way to first degrees and does not include original research. Some comprise a combination that includes research, culminates in a dissertation.

Master's (Research) - A supervised postgraduate research which requires a student to submit a dissertation based on independent research.

Doctorate Any research degree which requires a student to master a specific subject and extend the body of knowledge about that subject. Students must submit a thesis for assessment by a panel of examiners.

PhD : Doctor of Philosophy

DPhil : Doctor of Philosophy (another term for PhD)

DBA : Doctor of Business Administration

Higher Doctorate - A degree awarded after a PhD, in recognition of a scholar's substantial and original contributions to a particular discipline.

Dlitt : Doctor of Letters

DSc : Doctor of Science

DEc : Doctor of Economics

DEng : Doctor of Engineering

LLD : Doctor of Laws

Postgraduate Certificate - A PgCert can be pursued after an undergraduate degree. The number of course modules taken are fewer than that of a Postgraduate Diploma and Master's.

Postgraduate Diploma - A PgDip can be pursued after an undergraduate degree. The number of course modules taken are more than that of a Postgraduate Certificate and fewer than a Master's. Both a PgDip and a PgCert are suitable for working professionals.

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