Congratulations. You have slogged your way through three+ years of assignments, lectures, presentations, exams and possibly the odd late night. Now all that remains is to count up your scores, book your graduation tickets and sit back, confident in the knowledge that you had what it takes to complete a bachelor’s degree.
But, what now? You awaken in a cold sweat. The job market looms, like some monolithic portent of real-life-shaped doom. Is it really that time already? Are my days of carefree academic whimsy truly at an end? Is all that I have to look forward to now the slow trudge of work, wages and bills? Not necessarily. Calm yourself, young apprentice, and cast your eyes towards a prospectus of post-graduate study. Within its glossy pages you may yet find salvation. A stay of academic execution before the real-world beckons you once more.
Forgive the melodrama, but what I am trying to say is that maybe you would like to consider taking up some post-graduate study in the form of a Master’s degree? But, is a Master’s right for you and what you want to achieve in your life and career? Well, join us as we look at two of the big pros and cons of choosing to take your university education a step further.
Skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) are in huge demand in the US and in Europe and it is estimated that the number of graduates in these fields will need to increase by around 20-30% by 2016 in order to meet this demand. Many businesses are also reporting a dearth of applicants with appropriate, high-level qualifications, and Master’s degrees are included.
A 2013 survey by GMAC found that around 60% of MBA and business Master’s students had received a job offer before they had graduated and that this figure had been growing steadily. Another survey by GMAC discovered that 75% of employers intended to hire Master’s graduates in the same year, which also showed an increase over previous years.
75% of UK Master’s graduates in 2011/2012 found work within six months according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, which was compared to 72% of students with a first-class Bachelor’s degree. Furthermore US labour statistics show that Master’s graduates earn significantly more than those with Bachelor and Associate degrees. Master’s graduates can expect median weekly earnings of $1,300, whereas Bachelor and Associates earn $1,066 and $785 respectively.
So, the statistics are encouraging for the benefits of taking up a Master’s degree. Both the US and UK (the world’s two most popular destinations for higher education) show a significantly improved chance of finding high-level employment for Master’s graduates when compared to their less qualified competitors. However, you must understand that a Master’s degree is far more than just another line on your CV. If you want it to achieve its full potential, then you are going to need to make sure that you can communicate the extra knowledge and skills that it has furnished you with.
The Student Loans Company is no longer your friend. There are a few exceptions as some universities do offer under-graduate Master’s degrees that allow you to claim student finance whilst studying towards that level. However, in the vast majority of cases you will be expected to fund your Master’s degree for yourself.
The cost of a Master’s degree can vary greatly dependent on the institution. For example a Master’s that cost £7,000 at Brunel, can cost up to £18,653 at Oxford. Generally speaking, as the prestige and reputation of the university increases, so does the price. The Guardian quite handily publishes an annual guide to post-graduate study and lists all of the available degrees and their vital information in an A-Z format.
If you don’t have the cash to hand (and let’s face it, who does?), then there are a few funding avenues available to you. Many universities offer their own grants and scholarship programs to encourage students to take up post-graduate study at their institutions. If your Bachelor’s degree had a work placement year then you may have already been put forward for one. If not, however, then you should go and speak with your tutor to discuss your options.
High street banks also offer career development loans (as well as other loan products) that can be used to cover some of the costs of post-graduate study. Bear in mind, however, that these will need to be paid back in the same manner as any other loan, and will not be subject to the same special terms and conditions of your student loan.
Don’t forget that you will also need to cover your living expenses as well. Career development loans usually contain some extra cash towards covering these, but you will more than likely have to source income from other sources as well. This could mean a part time job or taking out more finance. When thinking about working, don’t forget to consider how you will balance paid work with your studies. Master’s degrees can be very work intensive, so be prepared.
Have you studied for a Master’s degree before? If so, what were the biggest challenges and rewards for you? Or, are you thinking of taking one up and would like to tell us your biggest hopes or concerns? Please let us know in the comments below.
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