The increasing number of students enrolling in master’s degree programs has been a hot topic in 2012. Several heavy-hitting media outlets – including Washington Post and Forbes – ran features in 2012 weighing the costs and potential career benefits of earning a master’s degree. Most of these contrasted the assumed benefits of getting a master’s degree with the reality of hard economic times and high unemployment. However, they consistently came to the conclusion that post-graduate credentials were still lucrative – especially in certain professional fields.

ASB Global Leaders Business Challenge

Pic: Participants in the ASB Global Leaders Business Challenge converse.

And the outlook is different still for students in Asia, where the economy is faring much better than in the West. Burgeoning growth and the rapid development of new infrastructure and industries is creating a dramatic need for qualified, well-credentialed professionals. Savvy students have been quick to respond to this. Some are continuing their studies as soon as they complete their undergraduate program; others are returning to academia after an experience-boosting professional stint.

Statistics suggest that postgraduate credentials are becoming increasingly mainstream. In the first decade of the 2000s, the number of students involved in graduate studies steadily increased every year. Once the recession set in, enrollment increased even more dramatically.

The implications are clear. Professionals who intend to remain competitive in the next decade and beyond are going to have to pursue higher-level credentials. But for students in Asia, the prospects are a bit better. While their Western counterparts are graduating and muddling through sour economic times, students in Asia will be graduating into a robust professional atmosphere primed and equipped to take on new challenges.

University of Derby Business School

Pic: University of Derby Business School.

Beyond the need to remain professionally relevant, there are several more reasons that students in Asia are looking to enroll in postgraduate programs. These are some of the most common:

Pursue a specialty
After a few years of professional experience, some people find that they could get more out of their career if they expanded their qualifications or credentials. Many graduate programs are specifically designed to add these layers to a student’s CV.

Transition between professions
This happens all too often. A student graduates with a bachelor’s degree and launches a professional career only to find that the area they majored in does not hold the promise they had originally hoped. Or perhaps their qualifications do not offer the career openings they originally expected. In this case, a master’s degree can open up new vistas in an existing career, or even pave the way to a completely new profession.

Become better acquainted with strengths
Students who pursue a master’s degree for this reason often do it on the heels of their undergraduate studies, with little (if any) professional experience. In this case, the student will be able to learn more about their own strengths and interests while adding career-enhancing flexibility and qualifications to their professional resume.

University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business

Pic: University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business

Make more money
Bearing in mind that certain fields have much greater potential than others, a master’s degree or doctorate are worth quite a bit more in the professional sphere than an undergraduate degree. In a recent article, Forbes points to a few master’s degrees that offer particularly attractive mid-career salary boosts. Among those highlighted were master’s of electrical engineering, economics, physics and business administration (MBA).

The following are among the best schools offering postgraduate programs for Asian students:

AUSTRALIAN SCHOOL OF BUSINESS
The Australian School of Business (ASB) is operated through University of New South Wales (UNSW) and remains a national leader in terms of postgraduate business, finance and management studies. Given its strategic positioning in the Asia-Pacific region, it’s also a top pick among Asian students looking to extend their credentials beyond the undergraduate level. This is a fully functional university, featuring EQUIS accreditation, solid international rankings and one of the region’s leading MBA programs. There’s an even mix of teaching and research going on here, which is part of what makes ASB such an excellent candidate for postgraduate education. In fact, just under half the students enrolled at ASB are currently earning a master’s degree or Ph.D. Read the full profile…

ASB Global Leaders Business Challenge

Pic: ASB Global Leaders Business Challenge participants.

DUBLIN INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
Embedded in the center of Ireland’s capital city, the Dublin Institute of Technology offers international students the chance to integrate with the European Union while maintaining close ties to UK business markets as well. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Ireland saw substantial business growth, particularly in the IT sphere, and this fueled the institute’s modern development. Today, Times Higher Education places DIT among the top 3 percent of global universities, and the school continues to grow, with plans to unveil a new unified campus in the coming years.

UNIVERSITY OF DERBY BUSINESS SCHOOL
The University of Derby Business School offers a balanced approach to higher education, encouraging students to develop analytic skills while mastering business theory. As it’s based in the UK, this university is particularly well-positioned as a gateway for Asian students looking to create professional inroads to Europe and North America. Programs in finance and business administration are especially popular among international students, while an MA in Leadership Coaching preps students to take on high-paying leadership positions back in their country of origin.

UNIVERSITY OF CAPE TOWN GRADUATE SCHOOL OF BUSINESS
UCT GSB is consistently ranked as the best business school on the African continent. As such, it offers outstanding value for money for international students. This is a relatively small business school, but it’s the only one in Africa that receives a top-100 mention by Financial Times. In 2012 it was ranked 54th in the world. For students from Asia, UCT GSB is especially attractive because it emphasizes developing business skills that can be applied to emerging markets.

George Mason University campus

Pic: George Mason University campus.

GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY, SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT
Based in Virginia, USA, George Mason University offers six different postgraduate study tracks through its School of Management. The regular and executive MBA programs consistently attract high Asian and international enrollment. The School of Business also offers master’s-level programs in Accounting, Real Estate Development, Technology Management and Management of Secure Information Systems. Business degrees from US schools are among the most competitive in the world.

UNIVERSITY OF WESTERN SYDNEY BUSINESS SCHOOL
The Business School at the University of Western Sydney has a three-pronged approach to graduate education – study, work and innovation. This is a top-ranking school in Australia, benefiting from a wealth of research conducted at UWS. In fact, the Excellence in Research Australia (ERA) exercise awarded the school its highest possible ranking. The Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC) awarded the school high marks for teaching excellence for several consecutive years.