Business Masters: Get a sense of direction

A business Masters can help graduates from non-vocational first degrees find their way, says Kate Hilpern

Graduating from university wasn't quite the victory that Alex Lefley, 22, had hoped it would be. The first problem was that he had a degree in geography. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but it does have fewer obvious career options than a degree in, say, accounting or engineering. His second challenge was that he got a 2.2. "The graduate market is incredibly competitive now and I realised I needed something to make me more employable," he says.

Like a growing number of graduates, Lefley opted for one of the raft of business postgraduate courses now on offer to non-vocational graduates. "I wanted to get a greater overall understanding of how modern business works and I hoped employers would notice a vocational Masters more than my first, non-vocational degree," explains Lefley, who did an MSc in marketing at Norwich Business School.

He was right. Now employed by a top PR and marketing agency, he finds that many aspects of the course are directly relevant to his job. "In fact, I think it would have been directly relevant to a range of jobs in business, besides marketing."

Indeed, he says, although the MSc was in marketing, "I was also taught a lot about more general business issues, such as accounting and finance and e-business."

Linda Peters, programme director at Norwich Business School, says the uptake for the five business masters degrees aimed at non-vocational graduates run by the school has grown from 10 to 140 since they began eight years ago. "What we've found is that while many students' personal interests are satisfied in their first degree, they get to the end with no knowledge or skills in business and management, which is where most of the graduate jobs are," she says.

It's not that their first degree is deemed irrelevant, she insists. "Far from it. We've had people who studied arts going on to jobs in arts management." A philosophy graduate might just as easily go on to become a specialist in business ethics.

Some graduates taking business courses gain places on graduate recruitment schemes; others start up their own companies. "One became head of franchising relationships for BMW in Taiwan - a very fast track position for one so young," says Peters.

Tony Sims, course director of the MA programmes in business management and international business management at Kingston Business School, calls the new brand of courses "the young person's equivalent of an MBA".

Restrictions mean that true MBA courses are only open to those who already have three years' work experience behind them. "With our courses, however, we actively discourage students from the UK from having too much business experience. In fact, the courses are known around the college as the 'pre-experience management masters'."

Sims says most applicants haven't made up their mind what they want to do, but they know they want to stand out. "From the students' point of view, it's about making yourself more attractive to the business world and from the employers' point of view, it's about getting that bit more from graduates."

According to Mary Meldrum, Manchester Metropolitan University's head of postgraduate programmes, "These are tough courses, so we need students who aren't afraid of working very hard." Which is why most business schools require a good 2.2 or above and a hunger for success.

In addition, she looks for good time management and communication skills, as well as the ability to work well in a team. Expect to improve all these skills and more by the end of the course, says Joe Kelly, 23, who has just completed an MSc in management at Lancaster University Management School. "My team working skills were improved dramatically, largely as a result of working with international students," says Kelly, who has a maths degree from Bath University.

Like most of the business conversion courses, his had a high percentage of students from around the globe. "I had no idea that there would be so many nationalities represented when I joined. Out of 76 students, there were just nine or 10 Brits," he says.

"I found myself working in project groups with Greeks, Finns, Italians, Indians, Chinese and Thai people. Working with these different cultures brought out my ability to work with others; I think it's because you have to work harder at communication and overcoming differences, and you have to adapt the way you do things very slightly all the time."

Once on a course, students (who pay anything from £6,000 to £9,000) usually get the chance to go down specialist pathways, such as e-business, international business, marketing or general management. It's worth exploring what specialist opportunities are available, as well as thinking about whether you'll be more suited to a theoretical or practical course.

The MSc in management at Kent Business School, for example, is very practical. "Everything is underpinned with a theoretical approach, but what we want the students to come away with is practical abilities," says Chris Bristow, postgraduate programme director at the school. "We use a lot of case studies of real business issues too. For example, we might look at Easy Jet and branding for an exercise."

All the business schools that run the conversion courses report that a lot of young people don't think about their long-term career aspirations when they chose their degree subject at 17 or 18 years-old. "They finish their degree with no work experience and no real feel for the outside business world, and so an extra year of intensive training really helps," says Caroline Elliott, course director at Lancaster University Management School.

'It involved an extra year out, but I believe it's a time-saver in the long run'

Edward Wilmott, 22, has just completed the MSc in management at Kent Business School, having done his first degree in classics and archaeology.

In my last year of university, I came to a dilemma over two possible career routes - either specialising in my subject and doing an MPhil or following a more business-oriented career. I decided the second would suit me better and the next step was to provide myself with a firm background of business knowledge.

Although doing the course involved taking an extra year out, I definitely believe it's a time-saver in the long run. When I'm asked to do something in my job related to e-commerce, for instance, I'll be able to do it, and presumably I'll progress more quickly than I would have otherwise. I also think it's made me a better team player.

There were around 120 of us on the course from 18 different nationalities. That meant I learnt not only about business in this country but in others too, so the course gave me a head start in cultural intelligence.

Now that I've finished the course, I have decided to follow the finance route and get the ACA qualification behind me. After that (in another two to three years) I will have the option of going into investment banking or private equity, or I might decide to go down the road of human resources management.

Life and Style
A teenager boy wakes up.
life
Arts and Entertainment
You could be in the Glastonbury crowd next summer if you follow our tips for bagging tickets this week
music
Life and Style
It is believed that historically rising rates of alcohol consumption have contributed to the increase
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
fashionEveryone, apparently
Voices
The erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey has already been blamed for a rise in the number of callouts to the fire brigade for people trapped in handcuffs
voicesJustine Elyot: Since Fifty Shades there's no need to be secretive about it — everyone's at it
Arts and Entertainment
A new Banksy entitled 'Art Buff' has appeared in Folkestone, Kent
art
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
Arts and Entertainment
The White Sails Hospital and Spa is to be built in the new Tunisia Economic City.
architectureRussian billionaire designs boat-shaped hospital for new Dubai-style Tunisia Economic City
Sport
Husain Abdullah returns an interception off Tom Brady for a touchdown
nflLeague has rules against 'sliding to ground on knees'
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
Life and Style
tech
Extras
indybest
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

KS1 Teacher

£21500 - £31500 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to work...

Data Analyst / Marketing Database Analyst

£24000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Science Teacher

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Group: Science Supply Teacher position...

Music, Drama & Performing Arts Technician

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Experienced Music, Drama ...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style