Does a master's degree make you any more employable?


As the possibility of unemployment looms for many, more than 500,000 each year choose to pursue further study in the form of a postgraduate taught programme such as a master's. The motivation behind this decision is often related to belief that a higher-level qualification will result in a better job. But does the CV addition of an MA, MBA or MSc actually improve employment prospects?

Steff Young, an MA literature student at the University of East Anglia, believes that a master’s degree develops greater abilities than an undergraduate qualification.

“Postgraduate study certainly builds on the skills acquired at undergraduate degree level: time management, self-discipline and working to deadlines,” she said.

Young adds that a master’s has a distinctive way of preparing students for the working world.

“It develops a new form of maturity. You are no longer the student to the teacher. Rather, you are and your peers are fellow researchers working in the field. This creates a whole new dynamic and mode of conversation, and confidence, which would enable you to walk into a workplace as a professional, rather than a graduate or intern.”

But, in practice, can doing a master’s score you a better job? Nathan Parcells, CEO of, thinks so, but added that getting the job you want is about more than just a qualification.

“Continuing education is clearly important, but the value of a master’s degree depends on what you do with it,” said Parcells. “A master’s degree in digital marketing examines analytics, social media, and search marketing. While you can clearly learn about these subjects out of the classroom, practical knowledge and studying these principals are the foundation for success.”

“But the focus must also be on what you do during your program, such as taking on valuable internships, connecting with executives, and sharpening your skills,” he added.

Nina Holland, an international relations student at the University of Warwick, said: “I chose to do an MA because I wanted to deepen my knowledge and acquire a specialism. In a field as diverse and ever-changing as politics, the value for me was in showing my interest and understanding of a particular area within it.”

Often, though, postgraduate study can be about changing direction rather than specialising, and this too can enhance career options.

Kathryn Hughes, director of life writing at the University of East Anglia, highlights the variety of backgrounds her students come from: “On the MA [in Biography and Creative Non-Fiction] we’ve had everyone from surgeons to asparagus farmers, psychoanalysts to bar tenders. Some people have PhDs in Literature and others have just finished a BA in Computer Studies.”

Josh Bowker is studying for an MA in Art History at the University of Edinburgh, after completing an undergraduate degree in Music. He said: “Choosing to do a master’s in a different subject area has definitely opened up employment opportunities that weren't there before.”

Relocating to pursue postgraduate study is another factor that can demonstrate skills and positively impact your access to career openings, Bowker explained: “I moved both university and subject so I have been able to add considerably to my knowledge and challenge my abilities in a different field and in a foreign environment.”

A master’s programme can also be a significant way of networking to secure later employment opportunities. Andy Smith, a graduate from the University of Manchester’s MBA programme, said: “My decision to pursue postgraduate study was about the amazing career prospects Manchester Business School offered. It gave me the chance to develop a network of contacts and get my name out there in the right circles.”

Being proactive is incredibly important in achieving the outcomes desired from a postgraduate course. Dedicating a year to a subject is advantageous, but it takes more than that alone to improve employability.

“It’s not so much about the piece of paper, but what you do with it,” Parcells advised. “Use this opportunity to deepen your understanding of the space, network with insiders, and gain additional knowledge through internships. Build upon your master’s degree.”

The pursuit of any form of study to enhance future career prospects is a gamble, but by engaging with the available opportunities, it can also be a worthy investment.

Follow Lauren on Twitter here

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Sales Consultant - OTE £45,000

£15000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you want to work for an exci...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Electrical Engineer

£20000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Graduate Electrical Engineer to...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Developer / IT Support Engineer

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing financial ser...

SThree: Graduate Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Are you a recent graduate loo...


Day In a Page

Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

Latest on the Labour leadership contest
Froome seals second Tour de France victory

Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

The uses of sarcasm

'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

No vanity, but lots of flair

A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

In praise of foraging

How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food