Tomorrow we’ll welcome hundreds of prospective students onto campus for our postgrad open day. There are lots of different reasons why people consider postgrad study, but one question that comes up time and time again is this: will it improve my job prospects? Particularly:
· Will it give me a competitive edge in the job market?
· Will it help to further my career?
· Will it boost my future earnings?
And the honest answer is that it will very much depend on what you’re studying and why. In some cases, it’s a requirement of the job and you can’t apply without it (e.g. teaching, social work and academia). In others it’s seen as an advantage (e.g. Marketing, HR and the media), but you may be competing with applicants who have more relevant experience, so it’s not a guarantee.
However, the fact remains that around two thirds of graduate jobs are open to students from any discipline or level of study. So if you’re not sure what you want to do afterwards, is it the right option for you now? It’s not that employers don’t value the skills and knowledge that come from postgrad study, but that applicants often fail to show how it makes them a strong candidate for the job. If you can do that, then it will give you that competitive edge.
And what about furthering your career? There is evidence to show that people with a postgrad qualification progress to higher level jobs more quickly than those with an undergraduate degree. Postgrads are also more likely to be in a managerial or professional position six months after graduation, which could have a very positive impact on your income. Again, this may depend on what you studied and the industry that you go into – with jobs linked to STEM subjects (aka science, technology, engineering and maths) often paying larger salaries than those linked to the arts and humanities and social sciences.
One word of warning though – your starting salary may not be significantly higher than someone who has just finished their undergrad degree. Recent data shows that, on average, taught postgrads earn £2,500 more than undergraduates six months after graduation. This often comes as a bit of surprise, particularly after all the hard work and commitment that comes with postgrad study.
So what does this all mean for you? If you’re choosing further study with a particular career in mind, then it’s very likely that it will have a positive impact on your job prospects. However, if you’re not sure where it might take you, then perhaps you need to take a step back and really think about what you’ll gain from it before you make the decision. What skills, knowledge and experience will it give you that will be attractive to future employers? Is it really needed for what you might want to do in the future?
It’s important to ask these types of questions now, rather than towards the end of your course or research project…
Sarah Bows, Careers Service