academia remains a major employer of Masters and PhD graduates; however,recruiters from an increasingly broad range of sectors are showing an interest in graduates with postgraduate qualifications.

This is particularly where skills shortages are present, such as in engineering, and in areas of growth, such as biotechnology and sustainable development. Science and technology doctorates may find growing opportunities with non-academic employers, including jobs that are not necessarily linked to research and development.

Employers from other sectors are also starting to realise the potential of postgraduates' knowledge and experience. A recent careers event at the University of Manchester saw representatives from Citibank coming too woo postgraduate students with degrees in quantitative and modelling disciplines – such as finance and engineering – for their advanced technology analyst programme. And the Boston Consulting Group spelt out the opportunities for PhD students to get jobs in strategic consultancy on a number of UK campuses outside the Oxbridge/ London triangle.

While postgraduates may not be targeted separately from undergraduates, they are equally welcome to apply for graduate jobs. In some instances, their experience and knowledge ensures higher salaries, or quicker progression up the career ladder.

Don't assume any postgraduate qualification will grant better career prospects than an undergraduate degree. You need to be clear about how and why the course will help you to succeed. It's vital that you do your research so that you can confidently point out the benefits of your postgraduate qualification to a prospective employer.

Consider your motives for undertaking postgraduate study, such as becoming a specialist in a particular area, or switching career to, say, journalism. Then, consider the options and the implications of choosing a course.

Even in sectors that require vocational postgraduate study, such as law, clinical psychology, or teaching, you need to check the course. Does it tick all your boxes? Will it be valued by employers? Is it accredited by industry bodies?

Make sure you speak to course providers to find out more. What do people who have completed the course go on to do? What are the research interests of the department, and what are the facilities like? What are your funding options: are bursaries available; do any private trusts or charities offer scholarships; might an employer consider corporate sponsorship; could a research council help?

Course providers can also tell you what you need to do to improve your chances of getting on to the courses. Postgraduate qualifications in areas such as law are incredibly competitive, while prospective teachers and journalists will need to show evidence of their interest in these careers.

The forthcoming Postgraduate Study Fair in Manchester is a great way find out more about courses and institutions. It is free to students and graduates from UK institutions.

More than 85 universities will be promoting postgraduate opportunities, while bodies such as the US Educational Advisory Service and the Training and Development Agency for Schools will be giving advice and information on other relevant issues or specialist sectors, such as funding, study visas for the US, and postgraduate teaching qualifications.

The writer works for the Manchester Leadership Programme, Careers & Employability Division at The University of Manchester

The Postgraduate Study Fair in Manchester is on 21 November at Manchester Central, 10.30am to 4pm: careers/postgradfair