Q. I finished a retail management degree in the summer and haven't yet been able to get a graduate job in fashion retailing. I'm now uncertain if I should spend time and money doing a Masters in fashion retailing, or swallow my pride, get a relatively lowly shop-floor job and try to work my way up. Advice, please.
A. Although retailing has been hit hard in the recession, it's always been a mobile profession with a lot of job movement, so there are still opportunities.
A Masters in fashion retailing is typical of those specific courses often intended for people working in the industry. They take the course part-time and put into practice what they learn in the workplace: a neat synergy. If you went on such a course with no relevant work experience, you might not get the most out of it.
But in retailing, it is possible to carve a good career by going in on the shop floor and working your way up. This is how you'd start on a graduate training scheme in this sector anyway, and your degree should speed your upward process. If you do go for a shop-floor job, try to choose a type of store where you see yourself working in 10 years' time. This will depend whether your ambition is to be part of the management team for a high-street chain, where your influence is likely to be confined to one area of the operation, or if you fancy running your own, smaller, business where you take all the fashion, management and financial decisions yourself.
At the touch of a button
Q. I'm an undergraduate just starting my second year of a computer science course and want to find out about doing a Masters that might get me a job in mobile phone technology. Can you give me a few hints?
A. The quickest way to search for likely courses is to use a graduate website such as www.prospects.ac.uk and www.hobsons.com. On both you can use key words to narrow the field to those universities that specialise in mobile phone technology. After that, it is a question of using the links to the relevant prospectuses to find out more details of what is available and then liaising with admissions tutors and other departmental staff.
It's also important to remember that new or revamped Masters courses come on stream throughout the year, and this is particularly likely in such a fast-moving field as the one you have chosen. So keep an eye on what is happening and regularly check if there are any changes or additions to the MScs that appeal to you.
But don't ignore other factors. If you can acquire more work experience or get yourself on a summer internship, you'll increase your long-term job prospects.
Basics on human rights
Q. I am Colombian living in Bogota, and would like to do a Masters degree in human rights at a British university. How do I find out which are the good places? Is there a league table? And I'm worried about how I will fund the degree. Are there scholarships – or is there financial help – for overseas students?
A. While there is no formal league table of Masters courses in the UK, every university department is regularly assessed for the quality of its research and teaching. The results should be highlighted in the relevant postgraduate prospectus, but you can also check the listings at www.rae.ac.uk and www.qaa.ac.uk.
However, these should be treated as guides, not recommendations, particularly as assessments aren't done annually. More important is whether an individual human rights course suits you. Points to investigate before applying are the options, modules and potential subjects for dissertation open to you, the background of the lecturers, any links or placements available within the human rights sector, and careers of previous students. Try emailing admissions tutors, other faculty members and alumni associations to find out more.
Some universities or departments offer financial help for overseas students and will advertise this in their course information. They may also offer funding for high-achieving students across the board. For scholarships in areas, countries or subjects, go to the British Council website at www.britishcouncil.org.
Thanks to Liz Hagger and Gill Sharp, careers consultants for Domino Careers (www.domino careers.co.uk)
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