I’m well into my 6th year in my career and unbeknownst to readers, I’ve been thinking of going back to school to upgrade and specialise my skill set over the past year.
The whole thought experiment culminated recently when I accepted a place in a part-time Masters of Science in Accounting (Data & Analytics) (MSA) programme at SMU. As such, it felt like a decent time to document my thought process and hopefully 2 years down the road, I can look back at this post with pride at achieving what I set out to do.
Or at least don’t regret my decision ?
Choosing the field of study
I started as anyone would – thinking about what to study.
As an accountant, there are many pathways you can take to upgrade your skills and expand your knowledge. In fact, you don’t even need an accounting degree to become a qualified accountant. All you need is to pursue the myriad of professional qualifications out there according to your own needs and aspirations.
As a result, there are limited areas that make sense for accountants in a Masters degree. After some soul searching, I narrowed it down to 3 prospective areas:
- Masters in Business Administration (MBA)
- Masters in a Finance area, like Financial Engineering, Applied Finance, etc
- Master in Data Science, Business Analytics or Data Analytics
MBAs are the generic choice for most people, as it is generally valued by employers and is applicable to any profession. Unfortunately, this broad demand has resulted in MBAs being one of the most expensive Masters programmes out there.
I ruled out MBAs as I feel the content and skills taught there are actually pretty similar to basic business modules that I took back in Business school. The main benefit from MBAs are more of the interactions and connections with other professionals, which I am not sure is worth the MBA premium.
Masters in a Finance area
The range of programmes in this area can be extremely technical (Financial engineering) to more generic (Wealth Management). The main objective of these programmes I feel tend to be for people who are interested in working in the Finance industry.
This is where I struggle a bit. As you know, I enjoy managing my investments and portfolio. However, in a scenario where I handle others’ funds and face performance pressures, I wonder if I’ll still enjoy the process.
Which is why I eliminated this area of study.
Masters in Data Science / Business Analytics
Big Data and Data analytics are one of the buzz words in every company. The possibilities of using data to understand and solve business problems is endless and it is an area that is probably not going to go away anytime soon.
The interest in this area initially was born out of my day to day work. I saw my department collaborating with third parties to analyse data to mixed results and I thought, why can’t we do it ourselves?
This thought led me to sign up and attend all kinds of data analytics courses out there. Unfortunately, whatever I came across was either too technical or too elementary. That was until I came across a Masters programme that coincided with my personal and professional interests.
Studying local or overseas
Having chosen my field of study, one of my next considerations was whether to do it locally or overseas.
Overseas studies is potentially more prestigious and unique in experience. This is also generally more expensive. On the flip side, local studies are cheaper and gets the job done.
I decided to study local due to price and for a topic like data analytics, I don’t think prestige matters.
Studying part time or full time
Another consideration was whether to do it part time or full time.
The main debate here for me was whether sacrificing 1 year of salary is equivalent to having 2 years of extra stress.
I ended up choosing 2 years of extra stress by doing it part time, hopefully I’m not overestimating my abilities.
Choosing the specific programme
As mentioned earlier, I struggled with finding a programme in Singapore appropriate for me as Data analytics is fundamentally very technical. Reading some of the Masters in Data Science programmes out there made for grim reading for someone with no Mathematical / Programming background.
General Admission Criteria:
Masters no. 1: A good Bachelor’s Degree in a quantitative discipline (mathematics, statistics, engineering, computer science etc.) is preferred.
Masters no.2: Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Software Engineering, Information Systems, Information Technology or Electrical Engineering.
The majority of Data Science / Business Analytics programmes out in the market are geared towards training data scientists, which wasn’t really what I wanted for myself. What I was more interested in was a hybrid role – someone who was connected with the accounting world, with a good understanding and skill in data analytics.
So it was quite timely that SMU read my mind and launched the MSA programme last year. It is a Data Analytics Masters tailored to Accounting professionals, which ticked all the boxes for me.
After coming back from my travels last year, I immediately applied, cleared all the testing and interviews, before ultimately accepting the offer.
Naturally with doing something new, I do have some concerns:
- As the degree is a niche and first of its kind, there’s concern that the programme does not have the necessary rigour and one of those “cash grab” degrees
- Doing the course part time might affect my work performance and stress levels
- 2 years is a long time and I may be wrong about skill demands 2 years down the road.
I’m actually quite excited about taking this step and investing in myself for the future. Can’t wait to get started in August and see where this Masters programme takes me.
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