Can masters and post-graduate courses offer you even better opportunities?

Written by: Charlotte Carter
Published on: 25 Apr 2014

Postgraduate and master degrees aren’t a regular stepping stone for students graduating from university despite the economic downturn and the associated lack of post-graduate jobs.

With many universities lacking post-graduate courses for their students, and funding hard to grasp, it’s not surprising there has been a dip in the amount of students going on to post-graduate levels of education despite the opportunities.

I am about to go into my final year and, I still haven’t received any information about post-graduate courses. However, I have already written off the idea because of my lack of knowledge surrounding the potential opportunities available.

Looking deeper into post-graduate and master’s courses, I realised I have been blind to some of the opportunities offered to graduates from a variety of universities up and down the country. Unfortunately, the stigma attached to post-graduate courses for many current students doesn’t do the opportunities justice.

With a wide range of subjects and the ability to study from home, full or part-time, means many graduates can handle the demands of studying and work. Excellent news then for those graduates who are unsure about funding another year of education, but want to gain experience in the workplace.

Recent statistics suggest that those who study for a post-graduate qualification have more chance finding work than those who just study an under-graduate degree. One of the major pro’s is that starting salaries are higher with a post-graduate degree.

Yet, whilst a master’s degree may boost pay for some, many jobs aren’t specifically looking for those with master’s, which means they would be competing for roles with first-degree graduates.

The burden of loans accumulated by students, mean that post-graduate courses are not an option for many. Indeed, the lack of funding is a serious problem.

The cost of a master’s degree - unlike postgraduate degrees - depends mostly on course type, duration and the ranking of the university. Some courses cost a mere £3,000, while others cost almost £15,000 a year, full-time. Universities aren’t keen to fund post-graduate degrees, with only a handful of opportunities of financial assistance available for a small selection of students each year.

Funding offers a small coverage of cost, ranging from £1,000 - £3,000 a year, depending again on the course and university. However, some are more fortunate and gain fee coverage from a range of companies including Sky and ITV. Those who are unfortunate enough to that miss out on grants end up having to take out a personal loan on top of their student loans.

However, with the financial burden faced by many post-graduate students, universities are trying harder to make masters more valuable. Courses are beginning to offer direct links to various sectors of employment, enhancing the experience with periods of internship and employer-set projects.

Universities aim to make themselves more appealing by offering post-graduate proper experience in reputable, well-known companies, rather than just churning out youngsters with run-of-the-mill degrees with little or no added value.

The pros and cons of going onto a post-graduate course are as complicated as the prospect of going to university in the first place. Although some industries welcome master degrees with more money, many subjects and industries look upon master degrees with the same view as first-degrees, leaving students explaining what their extra education offers employers.

Students looking into post-graduate education need to think carefully about what they stand to gain from the extra knowledge incorporated in master’s degree and how it will impact their career. Master’s degrees can be a brilliant tool in the job sector, if used correctly. Many students use it as a way to pro-long the day they join the ‘real world’, but with so much at stake- not least the extra financial burden – the decision to continue in education needs to be thought through much more comprehensively.

Charlotte Carter is a second year Journalism undergraduate from Southampton Solent.