Maximizing your ROI will rely mainly on choosing the right program and in the right school. Yet, even within top institutions like ESSEC Business School, there is a wide array of programs to choose from. Looking at the Financial Times or QS rankings is one way to decide, but here are some questions you can also ask:

How Intense Is the Program?

The ESSEC Master of Management (MiM) and the Master in Strategy & Management of International Business (SMIB) may have similar offerings. However, the former will span an average of two years, the latter only for around half that time.

“MIM candidates tend to be recent graduates with little to no work experience, and want to take the time to explore the different industries, sectors, and functions before deciding their career pathways,” says Professor Xavier Pavie, Associate Academic Director of MiM in ESSEC Asia-Pacific.

The cost is balanced by the benefit of flexibility, as with over 200 modules to choose from, students can carve out a learning journey unique to their needs and dreams.

SMIB, on the other hand, is more suitable for career switchers with clear career aspirations. For instance, they might come from an engineering background and want to acquire a general business degree.

Given that the opportunity cost of a master’s program is high—simply because each day in school is a day out of work—maximizing your ROI might mean picking a program with a structure that balances costs with benefits.

What Transferable Skills Will You Acquire?

The Institute for the Future ranks cross-cultural competency among the ten most essential skills for the future workforce, partly because research has long shown how diversity can drive innovation.

This holds true even in Asia. Larry Medina, Head of Career Services, Alumni and Corporate Relations from ESSEC Asia-Pacific, has found that employers in the region “like students who have lived, worked and studied abroad or in various countries.”

So, a good ROI for you is to move to a different country for work. In that case, you need a program that offers abundant global exposure, whether in terms of study trips, exchange programs, or, like ESSEC’s MiM, bi-campus mobility between Singapore and France.

Also, with employers on the lookout for digital skills, search for opportunities to boost your digital capabilities, no matter the industry you want to be in.

Programs like ESSEC’s MSc in Marketing Management and Digital (MMD) program specifically focus on digital skills for those interested in the sector. Other programs from the business school also have courses and workshops geared at helping you pick up digital know-how.

Will it Connect You With Industry Leaders?

Not being active in the workforce does not preclude you from building the industry connections you need for the future. The ESSEC SMIB program offers a six-month Asian Strategy Challenge (ASC) for students in Singapore to work closely with businesses as consultants.

A testament to its success, QS Management Masters Rankings has rated SMIB third globally, based on criteria like employability.

The MiM, which holds the third spot in the Financial Times’ Masters in Management 2020 ranking, offers a Chair system, a professional track sponsored and co-designed by an industry leader. Notable ones include the Luxury Chair by LVMH, a Future of Finance Chair by AXA Insurance, and a Strategic Business Analytics Chair by Accenture.

Nelberto Nicholas Quinto, who entered the ESSEC MiM program in 2018, benefited from joining the Digital Disruption Chair by BNP Paribas.

“I was able to learn from executives in companies such as Microsoft and Carrefour, as well as founders of leading startups in Paris. It was instrumental for me to land internships in Palico, a leading private-equity fintech, and in Amazon’s EU headquarters in Luxembourg. It also helped me discover the culture of BNP Paribas, which led me to work there today,” he says.

Is There a Strong Alumni Network?

Sometimes, it’s who you know and not what you know that counts—a program that will help maximize your ROI is one with a strong alumni network. The ESSEC network runs both broad and deep across the globe and is especially useful for candidates entering the hyper-competitive finance sector.

“Our Master in Finance alumni work at various big institutions like Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and Barclays. They return to ESSEC as guest speakers and introduce students to various internships. These internships often lead to long-term work opportunities,” Medina says.

Ultimately, a master’s degree is a valuable career investment. As it is for all assets, research and choose wisely to find one that maximizes your rewards.