Postgrad Queries: I want to be more employable, will a Masters do the trick?

Trading places

I am currently working as a trade union organiser/campaigner. I have a degree in journalism and am considering doing either the Masters in political campaigning at City University or in political communications at Goldsmiths. I want to become more employable in the communications/campaigning departments of trade unions.

The received wisdom about Masters programmes is that, whatever the other reasons for enrolling, your key motivation should be sheer love of the subject. No course can ever guarantee you a plum job, though it may be a factor in whether you are invited to interview. Your first degree and your current role are all relevant, but the broader your experience the better. Any additional hands-on experience you can show will strengthen your appeal. So, whether you take a Masters or not, try to find voluntary or paid work in another part of the sector. The forthcoming election would be a perfect chance to become involved with a political party, a candidate or lobbying group. And, even after the election, a Masters may help to give you access to guest speakers and alumni who are established in the political arena.

In addition, you could use a Masters dissertation to further your understanding of the position you are seeking, and try to market this new-found expertise and insight when applying for work.

Sporting chance

Having played a lot of sport at university, I’ve become increasingly interested in the science behind exercise, keeping fit and dealing with injuries. I see there are numerous postgraduate courses in sports and exercise science, and some in physiotherapy. What’s the difference? And where might such courses lead me?

There are a huge number of postgraduate courses on some aspect of sport and exercise, which covers the biology, chemistry and physics that influences physical activity. It includes physiology, performance enhancing techniques, biomechanics and nutrition. A Masters in this area is likely to lead to work in education, academia or research, although, with supplementary qualifications you might be able to move into coaching or training. Physiotherapy is a very different prospect. It involves learning how to use exercise and physical activities to alleviate the full range of injuries and illnesses suffered by patients. Some experienced physiotherapists go on to specialise in sports injuries but this is not the purpose of the initial training. Most physiotherapists enter the profession after a first degree, which includes substantial clinical placements, but there is also a Masters course route. See the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (csp.org.uk) for details.

There are also postgraduate courses in sports therapy and sports rehabilitation, although these do not qualify you as a physiotherapist. If you choose this route, check that the courses are approved by the British Association of Sport Rehabilitators and Trainers (basrat.org) or by |the Society of Sports Therapists |(society-of-sports-therapists.org).

Outside favourite

I’m interested in how new buildings are planned and would like to be involved in planning outdoor spaces around new buildings rather than the buildings themselves. Is this a separate branch of the planning profession and are there any postgraduate courses related to this career route?

Your starting point is the discipline of planning, which covers the big picture of all new developments, including structures, open spaces, transport links and the effect on the local community. However, in a large local authority or national park, and in some private consultancies, you could find specialist teams working on the outdoor space factors alone. To become a planner, you need a relevant first degree plus a Masters and two years’ experience to gain chartered status. The Royal Town Planning Institute (rtpi.org.uk) has details of accredited courses and there are a number of postgraduate courses in spatial planning.

However, given your particular interest, perhaps you should consider the role of landscape architect, where you would design the layout of the site, based on requirements of access and drainage routes, sound reduction, and impact of the building on the surrounding area? Considerations of environmental, historical or heritage issues could all be required and you would work with architects, planners, surveyors and engineers. You would need to have a related degree, or first degree plus a Masters, to gain full status. Good drawing and design skills are required. Further information is available from the professional institution – The Landscape Institute (landscapeinstitute.org).

Thanks to Liz Hagger and Gill Sharp, careers consultants for Domino Careers ( dominocareers.co.uk)

Send your queries to Steve McCormack at steve.mcc@virginmedia.com

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