Postgrad Queries: Should I take an MBA or MSc? What's the best way into international relations?


I would like to change my career from veterinary science to something in the international relations field. I’m Portuguese and work as a vet in London. What steps do you recommend?

International relations is very broad, so your next move may depend on what kind of work you would like to do. For instance, do you see yourself as a civil servant, working with |a think-tank, a charity or a non-governmental organisation (NGO), or perhaps you’d rather be employed by a private company? Is there a particular aspect of the subject that attracts you – politics, defence, security or economics, for example?

I suggest you research the areas that international relations alumni generally go into at graduate and postgraduate level. Often these are mentioned, or even published in full, in departmental and course prospectuses. For information about public sector jobs, working for a UK or EU body, visit civilservice.gov.uk and ec.europa.eu/civil_service .

Given that you are considering a radical career switch, undertaking a postgraduate qualification might be a good idea to help enhance your confidence and credibility. It could also bring you into contact with potential employers – some courses have excellent links with recruiters. You can identify Masters degrees covering specialist topics of interest via the www.findamasters.com and www.prospects.ac.uk sites.

When I finish my BSc, I’m hoping to enter banking or finance. I’m thinking about studying for a Masters, but am torn between an MBA and an MSc. What should I do?

The first important fact about most MBA courses is that entry is only possible after working in a junior or middle management position for three or four years after graduation. This is to ensure that you have a practical background on which to build your MBA.

If you already have that experience, your next step is to choose an MBA programme. The Association of MBAs ( mbaworld.com ) is a good first port of call. Its website lists all accredited courses, highlighting different areas of specialism, including those with a heavy financial flavour, and modes of study. Fees vary a lot, but as far as future job prospects are concerned, most observers would say you get what you pay for.

If you haven’t yet had anything you could call a proper job, and want to dive straight into a postgraduate course, then a taught Masters is the only realistic option available. If you’re targeting banking and finance, seek out a course with close links to this sector. Cass Business School, part

of City University in London, for example, has several specialist Masters in this field, and there are numerous other examples at different business schools around the country. Fees can be high, so, before signing up, find out what jobs previous students have gone on to do.

Next year I’ll be finishing a degree in electrical and electronic engineering, and I want to do a postgraduate course that will add some significant green credentials to my CV. What are my options?

You don’t say whether you plan to gain the status of chartered engineer first, and then try to divert along a green route, or target the environment sector straight away. This needs to be your first decision, and, if you’re in any doubt, it is probably better to go down the route of gaining your chartered status, as that is a professional qualification that will retain its clout and give you credibility in any employment sector.

You probably know that to gain your chartered status, you’ll need to have an MEng degree, or first degree plus Masters degree. Full details are available from the Engineering Council ( engc.org.uk ).

As far as engineering jobs within the green sector, above, are concerned, the areas that spring to mind surround the efficient and clean use of energy and raw materials, such as water, and the growing development of renewable energy generation. Engineers are needed in all these fields.

To get an idea of jobs, and how people move into them, try looking at the careers section of the website of the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment ( iema.net ).

To find relevant postgraduate courses, search prospects.ac.uk/links/pgdbase , then check details of the courses from the online prospectuses and ask for information on which jobs graduates have ended up in.

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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