Master Your Career: Is Postgraduate Study Your Key To Success? Or Is It Just Not Worth It?

Since 2009, when the current economic downturn began, competition within the job market has been increasingly fierce. In recent years, possessing a degree has, in general, become the rule as opposed to the exception. Other factors such as work experience, internships and healthy portfolios are now also more highly valued than they were previously.

As higher level education is now largely the norm, young career women like us are being forced to find other ways to stand-out from the masses in the quest to place a Louboutin onto the career ladder. In 2009, when the recession began, University College London saw a 21% rise in postgraduate applications, along with a 36% increase in traffic to its online Master’s prospectus. This trend has continued. So, it seems that a natural step for many is now post-graduate study, particularly Master’s degrees. But how much can they benefit your career prospects?

Your reasoning behind taking up a Master’s degree is key to unlocking potential success. If you are simply choosing to stay in a University environment because you love the student lifestyle, then perhaps a Master’s isn’t for you. Parties and duvet days which many students come to enjoy during their undergrad years aren’t the ingredients for success in a Master’s degree. These types of qualification require passion and determination in order to come to fruition. They don’t guarantee a graduate job, either. A survey by the Association of Graduate Recruiters found that only 30% of employers believed that further study would give graduates an edge in the job hunt. Two-thirds of those surveyed said that temporary paid employment was a better option.

It’s also important to consider that postgraduate study is often only required in specialised fields. For example; on-the-job experience is often far more valuable to a budding young fashion designer or Journalist than a Master’s qualification. Whereas, working in the sciences, the finance sector or PR often required a more well-honed skill set. This is where extra hours in the library will pay off in your job hunt. In fact, some sectors will see a shortage of fully qualified candidates. A report-titled “Pathways to Graduate School and Into Careers,” found that the amount of jobs requiring a master’s degree will increase by about 22 percent between 2010 and 2020.

Each career is different, so it’s important to assess whether a Master’s is worth it for you. This is best done by talking to people who are already in their chosen industry and the good old PR favourite; networking! For many, they will tell you that they were simply in the right place at the right time when they got into their chosen field, so the decision will lie largely with you. A good tip when considering various master’s degree courses is to research the employment rates of course graduates. You can also contact the department and ask about what kind of jobs their students got afterwards. This will help you to understand the value of each particular path. If the course has strong industry connections, this can be a big selling point, as it can guarantee recognised industry experience, which will eventually scream “hello, paycheque!”

For any postgraduate study to be beneficial at all, you must know where you’d like your career to be headed. Many undergraduates take general degrees which are unspecific to any particular job type, simply because they don’t know what career they want to take. This is usually fine, but when it comes to Master’s, you need to be very specific. It isn’t worth taking a Master’s in Design if you want to be a Statistical Analyser, and vice versa. But if you want to take Master’s in Education for your teaching career, then you should consider taking a Master’s Degree of Education in Teaching.

Remember that a Master’s isn’t a one way ticket to a graduate job. You will need to prove the value of your degree for it to give you a head start over the competition. It’s also important to note that in basic terms, postgraduate study does prevent you from getting on the career ladder for at least another year. It will also push you further into debt. Masters-level graduates face the same competition as thousands of first degree graduates, but their chances of success can be increased as employers look for the transferable and technical skills gained through specific Master’s study.

In all, there is no solid piece of advice on postgraduate study for everyone; you must take into account which facts apply to you and make an informed decision. Remember, though, that although it is likely to improve your chances, a Master’s degree can’t guarantee that you will enter a job at a higher level or on a higher salary than an Undergraduate, so it would be unwise to celebrate the start of your course with too many cocktails and oysters!

Xenia Rimmer

Xenia is a writer and blogger, currently based in London. She has had lots of experience within the media; spending time at places such as The Sunday Times, The BBC and S Magazine. Writing for YCB is something that she loves, as well as blogging for her own site; Follow her on Twitter @XeniaRimmer !