Education Quandary

'Will a Masters degree help me get the charity job that I want?'
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Should I do a Masters degree? I want to work for a charity, and need experience in marketing, fundraising or promotions, but an undergraduate degree seems to mean nothing to employers.

Should I do a Masters degree? I want to work for a charity, and need experience in marketing, fundraising or promotions, but an undergraduate degree seems to mean nothing to employers.

Hilary's advice

Right identification of the problem; wrong solution.

With so many people now going to university, employers are besieged by bright young graduates wanting jobs, especially in popular areas like the ones you've set your sights on, so they are hardly going to throw up their hands in delight and amazement at your degree. They will be looking beyond that to additional things: the standard of that degree; your work experience; activities you got involved with at university; the quality of your references; and your reasons for wanting the job you are applying for.

So you have to give job-hunting your absolute all. If your CV is looking weedy, offer yourself for unpaid work experience, or find some relevant volunteer work. (Even find a placement abroad, if you think it will help.)

Also, remember that although a luckless summer probably feels like a lifetime, it is only a few weeks. Many new graduates take a year or two to find the opening they are looking for, and often have to write hundreds of letters, and use every angle going to find an opening. And even then they often have to eat humble pie in the form of taking a short contract, or a job way below their capabilities in the hope of rising through the ranks.

Doing a postgraduate degree sounds like something you've come up with in a panic, but what's the point? Higher qualifications are all about going into greater depth in a narrower field of study, but you say you've had enough of studying. Also, employers are much more likely to be impressed by hands-on experience than theoretical study, so all you will be doing is increasing your frustration and debt. You might do better to do a short computer or office skills course to increase your employability and help keep the wolf from the door as you search for what you want.

Readers' advice

Far from being meaningless, a first degree is key to career success, and will pay dividends in the long-term. What you are currently experiencing is increased competition for vacancies, but there are ways to improve your prospects. Given your reluctance to return to study, you could consider a period of work experience. Offer your services to a charity for three months and you will reap an improved CV demonstrating your commitment to your chosen career path, practical experience, and a clearer idea of whether a charity career really is the route for you. Visit www.work-experience.org for guidance on how to go about getting some work experience. But don't dismiss postgraduate study out of hand. Maybe consider part-time, evening or home study which will demonstrate your commitment to a prospective employer and equip you with a qualification that will last a lifetime.
Jayne Rowley, Director of Publishing, Graduate Prospects

I did a Masters after my degree because I didn't want to leave university , but it was completely different from being an undergraduate, and I didn't get much out of it. Also, when I started looking for a job in publishing it even felt like a bit of a handicap. I felt I got a job in spite of, not because of it.
Susan Jeffries, Edinburgh

In many areas these days, such as in the sciences and engineering, specialised postgraduate study is essential, but would it really help you get a job in something like promotions, which is more about people skills? Experience is what you need. Get it any way you can.
L K Parkin, Derbyshire

Next week's quandary

My daughter started in a local private nursery 10 months ago when she was two. The nursery seems fine, if a little chaotic, yet she always cries on the way and when I drop her off. She says she does not like it, but settles quickly after I leave and is happy when collected. She is my third child and I have never had this before. Should I leave her, keep her at home, or move her?

Send your letters or quandaries to Hilary Wilce, to reach her by next Monday, 11 October, at The Independent, Education Desk, Second Floor, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax 020-7005 2143; or send e-mails to h.wilce@btinternet.com. Please include details of your postal address. Readers whose letters are printed will receive a Berol Combi Pack containing a cartridge pen, handwriting pen and ink eraser

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