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Saturday, Dec 14, 2019

Master your post-graduation with these niche new courses

Post-grad courses are more specialised than ever, with options in fields like disease biology, data study and ecosophical aesthetics.

education Updated: Nov 06, 2019 19:02 IST
Jessica Joshi
Jessica Joshi
Hindustan Times
(Shutterstock)
         

Why bother with a master’s degree? Across India, the post-graduate course has earned a slightly odd reputation. It’s the scholar’s stepping stone to a doctorate. It’s lucrative in a handful of streams like business and development studies. But for much else it’s seen as dated and out of touch with the job market.

Now, niche, post-graduate courses are fighting back. They offer interdisciplinary studies and specialisations in new domains that might help you get hired or get ahead. Industry professionals are included as faculty, and the curriculum is geared to provide hands-on experience. These are making a master’s in law, arts, data analytics, data science and information technology (IT) especially productive.

THE SCIENCES GET A BOOST

Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB) recently launched its first masters programme with a specialisation in disease biology. The institute’s director M Radhakrishna Pillai says most pharma, bio-pharma and biotech industries are typically unwilling to hire masters’ level students. “The companies have to invest at least two years to get them job-ready,” he says.

At the institute, most master’s students “come from colleges and institutes that teach in an old fashioned way, with no access to modern technology,” he says. They’re not prepared for the research-oriented programme and the chance to work with India’s top scientists.

So at RGCB, students actually work in the labs for their MSc programme. There’s a large diagnostics facility for infectious diseases and a DNA fingerprinting facility. The institute’s business-development incubator, BioNest, in Kochi, has 26 start-up companies and students intern with them. “There is high demand especially in the health industry, for trained people to work in advanced clinical diagnostics labs in the hospitals. And that is exactly what we are providing,” he says.

J Irene Infancy, a first year student specialising in molecular diagnostics and DNA profiling says the facilities are a boon. “Not many institutes in India offer specialisation courses in biotechnology. It’s one of the main reasons I chose to study here,” she says. “The MSc biotechnology course has increased my scientific temperament and critical thinking.”

By 2020, India estimates that we’ll have over 364,000 new jobs in data science. But a third of our top 400 companies lack state-of-the-art data analysis tools and personnel. At IIT-Madras, efforts are on to tackle this shortage with an Inter-Disciplinary Dual Degree (IDDD) programme.

Here, data science students have a bachelor’s degree in the major they opted for when they joined, as well as a master’s degree in data science, enabling them to apply those additional skills in their parent discipline. B Ravindran, head of the Robert Bosch Centre for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence, says, data sciences impact every discipline. “Graduates of this interdisciplinary programme are equipped to be leaders in a digital world,” he says.

INROADS INTO ARTS AND BUSINESS

At the Gandhian Centre for Philosophical Arts and Sciences, a constituent department of Manipal Academy of Higher Education, there’s a new MA programme in ecosophical aesthetics. The two-year course incorporates journalism, philosophy, ecology, arts and sciences.

The aim is to give students a philosophical appreciation of music, dance, literature, theatre, cinema, painting and other arts, with a focus on writing. There’s a mandatory internship, and elective subjects are as varied as yakshagana appreciation, folkloristics, society, history and polity, Gandhian studies and peace studies.

Director and professor Varadesh Hiregange says, the programme combines the essence of Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore, predominantly the ethical and the aesthetic. “The purpose is to explore and offer resolutions for contemporary crises with alternative world-views and knowledge-systems. One may not find a similar combination of courses in an MA programme anywhere.”

First year student Subramanya Kini K says he never experiences monotony as there is always something new to comprehend.

“Two months into our first semester, we did a series of radio shows for AIR Mangaluru. We have a series coming up on a local channel by the next month. The subjects that we have as part of our curriculum will offer a plethora of opportunities for me and my classmates,” he says.

Indian Institute of Management-Bangalore (IIM-B) is introducing a two-year MBA in business analytics next year. The course covers functional areas of management and analytics-related fields.

Students also have an eight-week summer internship during which they create solutions based on analytics. U Dinesh Kumar, chair of the programme says that analytics (including artificial intelligence and machine learning) will drive the future economy. IIM-B aims to address the supply gap for skilled professionals with the course.

EXPERT OPINION

Tripti Singh, educational counsellor for post-grad services at The Red Pen, says there’s scope for such courses picking up in the future. Recruiters prefer professionals with hard skills, creating a demand and supply for niche programmes.

“The salaries are often higher than for a generic degree,” she says. She also cautions that overspecialisation might be professionally limiting.

“In today’s economy staying relevant is the priority, a super specialisation might make professional transitions tougher. If a student with a broad-based undergraduate degree has clarity on what they wish to work towards, then a highly-focused master’s programme makes sense.”