Traditionally the end of an undergraduate degree has meant a seamless transition to the start of a lifelong career. But with increasing numbers of students entering higher education, coupled with the ongoing challenges of a subdued labour market during times of economic uncertainty, this picture is one that increasingly features in the yearbooks of yesterday’s alumni. Consequently an option for graduates which is becoming more popular is to continue in higher education and to enrol on a postgraduate course. While the option of further studies may not be for everyone, there are undoubtedly many key benefits to be gained from undertaking a postgraduate course.
In today’s economic climate the facts about graduate employment speak for themselves. The Graduates in the Labour Market 2012 report published by the Office for National Statistics confirmed that 36% of recent graduates occupy lower-skilled positions, a rise of nearly 10% in the last decade. In the last quarter of 2011 nearly 20% of graduates were unemployed.
Postgraduate study may help to improve your chances of being recruited to a position in which remuneration is in keeping with both the time spent studying and your advanced transferable skills: a postgraduate course develops essential workplace skills such as data analysis, critical thinking, project management and problem solving. Demonstrating on your CV that you have these skills from your postgraduate studies could have a powerful effect on your ease of obtaining employment. With a higher salary in return in the long run, a postgraduate course could be a worthwhile investment.
For entry to some professions a postgraduate qualification is essential and you may need to divert from your undergraduate specialism in order to meet the strict entry requirements. A popular route into teaching, for example, is via the one-year Postgraduate Certificate of Education which blends classroom-based theory with first-hand school experience, thus enabling graduates to acquire the specialist skills necessary to meet the Government’s strict qualification standards. Similarly, a postgraduate qualification is a requirement for other professions including some branches of law and science, medicine and library and archives services.
Even if a postgraduate qualification is not a specific requirement, registering on a course could still be beneficial. An MBA, for example, while more broadly relevant to the workplace than, say, a PGCE still provides a level of specialist teaching that an undergraduate business degree may not and will enable the postgraduate student to focus on developing aspects of his own practice and understanding in order to further his employability.
A change of direction
As some degrees, particularly the Arts, do not directly lead to a specific career path a postgraduate course can act as a conversion course so that a graduate can obtain the experience and skills necessary to pursue a desired profession. In some fields this may also enable the student to engage with work experience programmes and to gain industry contacts which could be beneficial in obtaining future employment.
While undergraduate degrees are, broadly-speaking, wide-sweeping in their approach to a particular subject, most postgraduate courses offer the opportunity for the graduate to pursue a specific area of interest. Often this is through an independent piece of research supported by taught modules. If delivered on a part time basis, the graduate can combine their professional work with their learning, not only is such an arrangement often exceedingly rewarding, but simply being registered on a postgraduate course could offer an employer an extra incentive for appointing an applicant.
Postgraduate study has traditionally been a preserve of those who demonstrate the greatest academic flair but gradually these courses are becoming more popular as their relevance to the workplace and their focus on transferable skills becomes more apparent.
This article was brought to you by student adviser Mark from London.