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 InternMatch.com, 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

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
PROMOTED VIDEO
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: Trainee / Graduate Helpdesk Analyst

£20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Software Developer

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Join a fast growing software co...

Guru Careers: Graduate Account Executive / Digital Account Executive

£20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate / Digital Account Exe...

Guru Careers: Junior Designer / Design Graduate

£18k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Junior Designer / Design Graduate to join...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'