Postgrad Queries: Do I need a Masters to get an IT job? Are there any logistics qualifications?


Q. I'm a first-year undergraduate in computer science, and am already wondering if this will be enough to get me a job in IT at the end. Is it usually necessary these days to have a Masters degree to go straight into a job? If so, is it better to go for a general IT Masters, or to specialise?

A. IT is currently a shortage subject, so much so that the Government continues to bring in skilled workers from outside the UK, and a student graduating with a strong degree in this subject is likely to be very marketable. Postgraduate qualifications are a good idea if you want to explore a particular area in more depth, but they are not a pre-requisite and may not necessarily attract a higher salary or enhanced prospects. It is far more important to have gained a good class of degree (typically a 2.1 or above) and to have some hands-on experience, both as part of your university course and beyond. So if you design websites, for instance, experiment with different platforms or teach yourself new programs in your own time to strengthen your employment prospects. In terms of specialisation, if you are on a mainstream or general IT degree, you will often have a chance to develop particular interests via elective modules or maybe through work placements. Your final-year project or dissertation is also a good time to specialise, if you are aiming for a particular type of work. For further research, go to www.e-skills.com (the sector skills council) and to the Chartered Institute for IT's website at www.bcs.org.uk.

Q. I've been working in a supply-chain role for a national retailer for the past six months, and have found that I really enjoy the work, and would like to get some formal qualifications in logistics. Is this a subject where I can do postgrad study? I'm 27 with a degree in business studies.

A. There are numerous Masters courses (and also postgraduate diplomas) in areas relating to logistics. Most of these are MScs, but some MBAs also have a strong logistics component, and these might particularly suit your business studies background. Of the Masters programmes, some are related to your current job in supply-chain management, others are focused on transport, operational management, international trade, and procurement. E-commerce is an important element in all these fields and there is also a growing emphasis in many courses on environmental concerns and sustainability. With the right experience and qualifications, you could progress your career in the retail sector or move into another area – healthcare or shipping for instance. Consultancy is yet a further possibility. You are probably already aware of www.supplymanagement.com. Another useful website is www.ciltuk.org, which is run by the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport and has a range of information including courses, training, jobs and case studies.

Q. I can't decide whether to do a Masters course full time, or keep my job (a boring one in sales) and try to do the course part time and keep earning. What are the pros and cons? And is a part-time Masters qualification viewed as inferior to a full-time one?

A. Studying part-time is definitely not an inferior option, for several reasons. First, it says a lot about your motivation that you are prepared to work during the day and study in your spare time. Second, you may be able to use aspects of your work as examples in your study. And third, mixing work with study means you will be able to fund your study more readily. Don't forget too that there are different modes of part-time study – including evenings, blocks of time and distance learning.

The main advantage of taking a course full-time is obviously that you will achieve your goal sooner, usually within a year, and be able to focus on the course without the hindrance of working. Part time can take up to three years.

But before you sign up for a Masters, don't rule out taking a professional qualification, more closely linked to the workplace, and often offering better chances of professional advancement. Examples here include marketing, management accountancy, and HR. There may be a role within your current job sector that would motivate you more than your current sales position.

Thanks to Liz Hagger and Gill Sharp, careers consultants for Domino Careers (www. dominocareers.co.uk). Send your queries to Steve McCormack at steve.mcc@virginmedia.com

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