Postgraduate Queries: 'What will impress an NGO; a Masters, or experience? And how can I break into the creative side of advertising?'

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Volunteer some more

Q. I'm in the final year of a BA in history and Spanish (with a year abroad). I'm keen on working for international NGOs, especially those with education and literacy programmes in South America. Should I go straight to a Masters, or build up experience? If so, what type? I have basic experience of volunteering.

A. First, consider what kind of work you want to do for an NGO. If teaching's your aim, relevant experience and qualifications will be essential. Have you thought about completing a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) course? Check out www.tefl.com.

It's unlikely that you'll need to do a postgraduate degree to get your dream job; your BA should equip you with the language skills that most NGOs would look for. But building up further experience of volunteering is vital. To be accepted on the Youth for Development programme organised by Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO), for instance, you'll need at least one year's experience of voluntary, community or paid work. The reward is a year-long overseas placement with a VSO partner: see www.vso.org.uk for details.

The office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees offers internships: you can even specify a preferred country. Log on to www.unhcr.org to apply online.

Finally, the Prospects website ( www.prospects.ac.uk) has a profile of the voluntary sector with useful contacts and resources. Also, make full use of your university careers service.

Gorilla thriller

Q. The Cadbury's "gorilla" advert has persuaded me to go into advertising, on the creative side. My career so far has been in management. Should I do an arty postgraduate subject, or is it best to stick to a general advertising course?

A. In advertising, the phrase "creative" describes copywriters, designers and art directors, so first you'll need to decide which area suits you best. If you want to be a wordsmith, coming up with slogans, straplines or longer pieces, copywriting is for you. A postgraduate qualification in advertising would set you up for this: look at those offered by Leeds, De Montfort and Kingston universities. Strathclyde, Middlesex, Brighton and Wolverhampton offer MAs and MScs in straight marketing.

Or you could go for the more direct route and try to get on one of the graduate training schemes run by the larger agencies, but most of the deadlines for these were in the autumn.

If you'd rather create images – sketches, computer-generated graphics, films, photographs, web interfaces – you should be a designer. The usual route in is by training at an art college; a strong portfolio of visual ideas will open most doors. The courses and companies expect keen commercial instincts, which is where your management experience helps. They will seek flair, originality and imagination under pressure. Recruits are often offered jobs in pairs, so the contacts you make on a postgraduate course could be invaluable.

Finally, leaf through the industry magazine Campaign for further insights and job opportunities.

The main course

Q. I've always dreamed of working in a top restaurant, but I'm sick of being a waiter and my cooking skills aren't quite good enough. Are there postgraduate courses geared towards managing restaurants?

A. Not really – but an MA or MSc in hospitality management will do the job. Your best bets are probably the Birmingham College of Food, Tourism and Creative Studies or Leeds Metropolitan University: their courses are accredited by the Institute of Hospitality. Courses offered by Manchester Metropolitan, Birmingham, Thames Valley, University of Wales in Cardiff and Wolverhampton are also worth a look, while those at Strathclyde, Derby, Sheffield Hallam and Huddersfield have an international twist.

Thanks to Laura Hooke, Gillian Sharp and Margaret Holbrough, careers consultants at Graduate Projects.

Send your queries to Chris Green at c.green@independent.co.uk

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