Postgraduate study - is it worth it?
Be the master of your career
The benefits of a master’s degree – the first step in postgraduate study – have been the subject of much debate recently. With many employers placing higher value on experience over qualifications, will postgraduate study help you get that dream job?
A master’s degree could certainly mean that your starting salary is higher and your progression faster, but the benefits of a master’s extend beyond improving your earning potential. Demanding motivation, organisation and commitment, a master’s can provide you with personal and professional skills that support your development and is also an opportunity to distinguish yourself from your peers in the job market.
With more people obtaining an undergraduate degree than ever before, a master’s degree is a method of standing out from the crowd in the job application process and can provide strong evidence for many attributes required for your chosen role.
Rachael Farley, postgraduate and EU recruitment manager at Edge Hill University, agrees: “In today’s competitive graduate job market, a postgraduate qualification is often considered the norm rather than the exception in some fields of expertise. Postgraduate courses provide you with advanced transferable skills and give you the edge against those without when it comes to securing that all-important dream job.
Although postgraduate study is not for everyone, it often translates to higher starting salaries than those without as well as a quicker career progression in your chosen field. Furthermore, undertaking a postgraduate qualification gives those who have a burning desire to change career the keys to re-route their career plan.”
Transferable skills that can enhance your employability include communication, project management, data analysis, IT, independent thinking, critical thinking and problem solving.
There are many reasons for taking up postgraduate study. Gaining an extra qualification can aid employment, conducting research can allow you to specialise in a particular field, a conversion course can alter your career trajectory from your undergraduate degree, and completing a master’s is a vital step if you want to pursue a career in academia.
Sylwia Jarmondowicz undertook an Engineering and Management MSc at Coventry University and is now working as a production engineer at a local manufacturing organisation – doing exactly what she wanted to do.
Sylwia says her master’s degree prepared her for the working world: “The projects at postgraduate level were bigger than during undergraduate and were also very practical. I’m applying skills learned from these in my current role as well as some of the theory I learnt.”
“The teaching staff at postgraduate level expect more from you in terms of how you apply your learning than at undergraduate level and it is more intense, but I think it is worth it if you’re specialising in an area you enjoy. This particular course was flexible so I could focus on the engineering side.”
Sylwia continues: “Before you apply for a master’s, do your research and look into funding options. A master’s is a way of expanding your knowledge and helping yourself get a better job. Plus, it’s good to be a student for an extra year too!”
Sam Spence is currently a PhD student and associate lecturer at Lancaster University, having completed a Master’s by Research at Edge Hill University. Sam had previously studied law as an undergraduate, coming out with a first, and then worked as a solicitor for a year. “My heart wasn’t really in it,” she explains. “I think most people go into study law assuming they’ll be solicitors, but there was always a bit of doubt for me. I wanted to say I’d tried it, but I knew it was research I was passionate about.”
Sam returned to Edge Hill to do a Master’s by Research – a course that will assist her in her dream of becoming a university academic. She specialised in cultural violence against women, and has since chosen to focus on some of the less common crimes – witch-burning in particular. Sam has now been awarded a scholarship to do a PhD at Lancaster University, focusing on witch killings, and will also be teaching some English Law modules there.
Sam is working with two organisations: the Witchcraft and Human Rights Information Network, where she has an internship, and the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales, with whom she is going to Nepal to present a report into witch killings.
“Doors are really opening for me,” Sam says. “My master’s degree has given me opportunities that I never would have dreamed of.”
Whether you are a current undergraduate looking to spend another year at university or you are aiming to return to studying after a period of time away from education, the decision to do a master’s degree needs to be given much consideration – but it could also be the key to success.
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