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Monthly Archives: January 2017

4 Top Emerging Fields for Post-Graduate Studies

1. Biostatistics

A master’s in biostatistics will earn you a median salary of about $113,400, according to Fortune, with at least a 20 percent projected job growth by 2022.

If those statistics aren’t enough to motivate you, how about this: biostatisticians help save the world.  Your ability to make lasting, positive changes in public health, clinical medicine, genomics, health economics—and the raw field of mathematics is essentially limitless.  So: if you have the science and math savvy, want to save the world, and live a pretty comfortable life on top of that, consider biostatistics.

Learn more about biostatistics and biotechnology.

2. Human-Computer Interaction and Artificial Intelligence

Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the study of how people interface with computers.  From algorithm science to information science, psychology to anthropology, you could work on anything from projects related to design guidelines for all types of software to academic research to figuring out the best interface for human-robot interaction.  With humans interacting with mobile and touch devices, you can also delve into the intricacies of human-computer interface.

3. Homeland Security and Cyber Criminality

If current world events don’t have your head spinning, imagine how experts in homeland security and cyber criminality feel.  Cybercrime is relatively new specialty—and one that will continue to see nearly exponential growth in the coming years.  Cybercrimes involve computers, networks, and the intent to harm individuals, systems, national security, and financial markets.  These crimes cover the spectrum of identity theft to election hacking.  Sounds relevant, doesn’t it?

If you opt to study Homeland Security, you can bet that cyber warfare will be an intrinsic part of your training.  The graduate program in Homeland Security at San Diego State University, for example, focuses on prevention, deterrence, and response to instances of terror and espionage on national and international levels.  A cornerstone of their program?  Cyber security.

Five Differences Between Grad School in the US and Grad Schools in the UK and Australia

1. Duration of Study

While the typical master’s degree in the US takes two years, master’s degrees in the UK and Australia can be completed in a much shorter amount of time — many in as little as a year. A PhD, meanwhile, takes around three years in the UK and Australia — compared to five in the US. Not only can trimming time off your degree amp up your earning potential by getting you into the workforce sooner, but you’ll also save money on tuition and living expenses due to the shorter duration.

2. Flexibility

Because US degrees graduate degrees are spread over two years, they are often broader in nature — at least in the beginning. This can be an advantage for students looking for the freedom to explore different specializations and areas of research. In the UK, meanwhile, degrees are more specialized and self-directed. Students who already know what they want to focus on can immediately begin directing their efforts into this area and finish up sooner.

3. Cost

Not only will you pay less due to the shorter degree duration, but tuition fees in the UK and Australia are usually lower than those in the US, too. According to Investopedia, the average cost of tuition for a UK Master’s degree is $20,700 for American students. While tuition for a public US master’s degree is much less at an average of $14,537, the cost of an elite, private school graduate program skyrockets to more than $40,000 a year. One caveat? Funding is plentiful in the US so students may find it easier to offset the high cost.

When every penny adds up, even small savings add up to big ones: Many schools in the UK and Australia don’t require students to take standardized tests like the GRE and GMAT so you’ll also save on test and test prep costs. (A handful of UK universities do have GRE and GMAT requirements, so be sure to check into the admissions requirements for each prospective school.)

4. Term Structure

While most university terms run from mid- to late-August through mid-December and early- to mid-January through May with a lengthy break over the December holidays, academic terms in the UK and Australia may be different. While most schools also rely on a semester system, some UK and Australian universities use trimesters and quarter semesters, instead. They may also start a bit later than US schools with classes continuing into June. In general university, university schedules in the UK and Australia are much less standardized than in the US so will also vary more from school to school.

5. Teaching Approach

While countries all over the world aspire to the US higher education model, a recent article in The Guardian proposed that UK universities — where the focus is on “seminars, not stature” — have admirable qualities of their own, especially when it comes to teaching. While US undergraduate lectures are large with discussion groups typically run by postgraduates, in the UK “the focus is still on small-group teaching, and much of the undergraduate degree is conducted in seminars of 20 students or less.” Further, proposes The Guardian, “These seminars are taught by full-time staff who are experts in their field and have undergone extensive training in pedagogy.”

The good news? This is not as much of an issue at the graduate level where students in the US have more direct access to professors. However, it’s still important to remember that you’re dealing with two very different education systems and will need to adjust your academic expectations accordingly. According to US News and World Report, these differences can open up new opportunities for American students abroad:  “U.S. students are often not only exposed to new material, but also a new way of thinking and learning. Varied class structures, teaching styles and interactions between professors and students can enhance the experience.”

Why You Should Study What You Love

1. Money ≠ Happiness

A 2010 study by Tim Judge shows what we’ve heard all along: money doesn’t buy happiness.  If you study something that you don’t enjoy in the hopes of getting a job that you don’t enjoy, but that pays well, there’s a good chance, you won’t be happy.  You’ll just have lots of money.  The results of that study show that the correlation between salary and job satisfaction is weak.  Corollary: if you want to engage with your job, money isn’t the answer—it doesn’t buy engagement (see #2).

2. Engagement

You can go through the motions of a job or course of study for which you don’t care and do just fine.  But why would you want to?  You can pursue something you love and have a job you like less—but the ideal?  Pursue something you love, engage in it, and let it drive your job search and your life.  Studies show that to be engaged in your work, you need to find something that gives you meaning and that you enjoy doing.  The desire to do what you want will allow you to engage in your work and feel inspired (see #3).

3. Inspiration

Not only will you feel inspired by engaging in meaningful work that you’re passionate about—you’ll inspire others, too.  When you’re excited about what you’re doing, your co-workers will benefit from your positive energy.  People who see you doing something you love for work will feel inspired to do the same.

Consider Nikki Lee, of Sydney Australia, who quit her corporate job to follow her dream of becoming a baker—and succeeding.  She says it’s “one of the most satisfying things” she’s ever done.  Feel inspired?

4. Doesn’t Matter What Others Think

Study something you care about, learn everything you can, do your best work, and don’t waste your breath on people who try to bring you down.  Typically, humanities majors face the brunt of criticism from parents, friends, and even some professors.  While their intentions may be kind (or maybe not), what you choose to study is yours—make sure you care about it, and don’t get too wrapped up in any hot air others might feel the need to share with you.  A polite, “Thanks, but I love it,” will usually do the trick.

5. University ≠ Job Training

Learn lots at university and worry about job training later.  Do a summer internship, if you’re that worried.  The key is to engage in university in subjects that tickle your brain—and take that passion with you when you look for a job.  The purpose of a university education, once upon a time, was to give you the time and space to study something that interested you—and learn how to read, write, think, and talk about it—all skills that you need to have in the workplace anyway.

University time is one of the few in your life when you have unrestricted time to delve deeply into subjects you love—and new subjects about which you know nothing.  It’s a time to learn and figure yourself out—inasmuch that’s possible.  Enjoy it.  Get the job of your dreams later.

6. Opportunity

Studying something you love can open doors.  You may not realize that by studying English literature as an undergraduate could lead you to a career in medicine.  If you love drama, study it—you can act, teach, write… or even work in a lab.  Employers want to hire employees who are passionate about what they do.  As your passions evolve, so will opportunities.  Cast a wide net, study what you love, and you’ll find opportunities—some might even find you.

Of course, we realize that there are plenty of stories of passions gone awry.  Things go awry for different reasons—loss of focus, settling for mediocre.  If you stick with something that you love and want to learn more about, do your best, strive for excellence, and have integrity, studying what you love may just translate into a job that you love, too.

Four Things You Need to Know About Making a Career in Comedy

1. You don’t need a degree in the field.

Degrees in comedy are few and far between. And while the value of programs like the University of Kent’s MA in Stand Up Comedy is undeniable (any working comedian will tell you that practice makes perfect), there are also plenty of ways to get the experience you need on and around campus. In fact, taking different coursework — for example, political science studies — can give you upper-level insights….and plenty of fresh material.

But even if you don’t do any of these things in college, you can still pursue a career in comedy.  Rodney Dangerfield, Ricky Gervais, Phyllis Diller, Larry David and Lisa Lampanelli are just a few examples of famous comedians who started late.

2. Extracurriculars can pave the path.

Joining a college sketch group, taking an improv class, and attending comedy performances can all help you start creating and honing your craft. If your college doesn’t have a sketch or improv group, consider starting your own. In addition to building your skills amidst like-minded comedy lovers, you’ll also score extra points for leadership.

An added bonus? As Matt Lappin, segment producer on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” and “Strangers with Candy” writer, told Writer’s Digest, “Getting noticed is a bit of a crapshoot. A lot of it is being in the right place at the right time.”  The takeaway? Because there is an element of luck when it comes to getting discovered, the more you put yourself out there, the more your work will be seen, heard and eventually noticed.

3. Critical thinking and writing skills matter.

According to the website Creative Stand Up, a flexible range of writing skills is essential to a successful standup career.  Also imperative? The ability to think critically, and write well. Creative writing courses are a great place to start, especially if they’re geared towards comedy like the Writing and Producing Comedy course offered by NFTS.

According to humorist Mary Hirsch, “Humor is a rubber sword – it allows you to make a point without drawing blood.” The best comedy isn’t just funny. It also serves a higher purpose in becoming social commentary that makes people think. A recent piece published on the website Humanity in Action highlights the role comedy plays in “holding up a mirror and forcing us to confront realities that we would often prefer to ignore.”

This is evidenced no more clearly than Octavia Spencer’s recent opening SNL monologue about the confusion between her award-winning movie Hidden Figures and two other films, Fences and Moonlight: “So many people have been coming up to me saying, ‘I loved Hidden Fences!’ … I get it, there were three black movies at the Oscars this year. And that’s a lot for Americans. So if you’re going to get confused anyway, I thought I might as well make some money off it. That’s why I produced Hidden Fence Light.”

While these kinds of jokes may seem breezy and off the cuff, this type of comedy writing is actually an intensive and reflective act. Consider this explanation of joke-writing from The Science PT podcast: “Many jokes are based on observational humor. The first thing a comic will do is make observations about the world around them and common life experiences….Then they will examine one of those observations and think about the common ways that most people intuitively interpret that observation (the more universal the better)….At this point the comic must look for alternative interpretations that no one else has considered but are just as true, if not more so…The more the alternative interpretation is unintuitive yet true, the funnier it is.”

4. A writing buddy will make you better.

Many working comedians swear by the value of collaboration. As Comedy Workshop Productions president Judy Carter said in an interview with Experience, “People who just write material at a computer sound too literary. You want to create material in the presence of another human being, so you can see it on his face when he’s bored.”

Former staff writer for “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” and multiple Writer’s Guild Award winner and Emmy nominee Roy Jenkins echoed the sentiment, telling Writer’s Digest, “When you’re writing around a table, you hope you’re not in an environment that’s totally competitive; that you’re all pulling on the same oar. There’s always going to be an element of competitiveness. When it’s friendly, it’s fun. The idea is to go back and forth to the point where it’s hard to say who came up with what in the script. Everybody pushed and pulled it. That’s the best, when nobody is keeping score. You’re just having fun.”

One last thing to keep in mind? Thomas Edison’s famous saying, “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration,” absolutely applies to the world of comedy.  In other words, making it in comedy isn’t all laughs; it also takes a huge amount of work, persistence and perseverance. The truth is that all comedians fail before they succeed, but that’s part of the process. As John Friedman, producer and host of the cult-hit “The Rejection Show” and author of Rejected: Tales of the Failed, Dumped and Canceled told Writer’s Digest, “Trust your own instincts and take risks. It’s OK to write something that doesn’t work and, when you do, try to think of it as one step closer to writing something great.”