A Masters course is said to make you more employable, increase your earning power and provide you with skills that an undergraduate course can’t teach you. So, how can you best focus these attributes into your career? This article is intended for all Masters course (MA, MSc etc.) students who want to research their career options, and increase the worth of their Masters course.
There are three essential things to consider when evaluating your post-Masters course options. First you must define your transferable and subject-specific skills. You should also consider both your specialised career options and general career choices available to you. Finally, the possibility of continuing your education and training should be assessed.
Transferable skills and beyond
Some might view a Masters course as endowing you with the same skills set as a first degree, albeit with greater depth. It is true that, much like Bachelor’s degree graduates, your Masters course will have endowed you with skills such as:
- Written and oral communication
- Project management
- Time management
- Working with others in a team
A Masters course develops these qualities, and adds many more of its own. Indeed, by the account of many Masters-qualified workers, it is often the skills more than the subject-specific knowledge that has helped them to get ahead in their profession. These skills include:
- Critical thinking
- Ability to analyse
- Ability to work independently
- Ability to motivate others
Your course has no doubt given you other specific skills depending on your chosen subject. Don’t be shy about listing these attributes too. Included could be such things as:
- Foreign languages
- Scientific knowledge
- Business knowledge
- Conducting field research
There’s virtually no limit to the skills that you can develop through your Masters course. If you can demonstrate how you have learnt these skills, and how they have benefited you, transferable skills will enhance your CV and make you more employable.
Choosing a career
Graduates of vocation-based courses (Masters degrees with a pre-defined career element – i.e. Law, Accountancy etc.) may find that they are ready to apply for jobs as soon as they are qualified. Joining the relevant professional bodies will help you to get established. Networking and attending careers fairs is also vital at this stage.
For non-vocational courses, there is an impressive range of career options open to graduates of any discipline. Statistically speaking, Management is the most popular destination for Masters graduates. General Management is just one of many possibilities, however. Careers paths open to all MA graduates, irrespective of discipline, include PR, media, IT and financial services. A career in teaching is another valid option, although it would require some further training (see below).
Choosing a career is a personal decision. You are in a prime position as a Masters graduate to make an informed and ambitious choice, though. When thinking about your career options, it is important to consider the subject of your course (are there any careers directly related to that subject?), your personality and goals (do you want to work abroad/with other people etc.?) and your skills (what are you qualified and capable of doing?). These are things only you can answer, but your university careers service will be able to help you to make a good choice. You can read more about this on our Career Advice website too.
There remains one more option that is of increasing popularity: further study.
Continuing your education
As valuable as your Masters degree is, graduates in disciplines such as humanities may find that the lack of vocational experience is holding their career back. Others may have realized that they want to learn more about their chosen subject and take their research a step further. In both cases, a further period of study may be the solution.
The options to advance your learning include professional qualifications and vocational courses (i.e. PG courses that are linked directly to a profession. Examples include:
- PG Dip Journalism
- PG Cert Education (PGDE in Scotland)
- PG Cert Counseling
Postgraduate Certificates and Diplomas can work alongside your Masters qualification to provide you with the necessary skills and learning to enter a career of your choice. Other examples include the PG Cert Translation, which alongside a background in a foreign language can qualify you to work in translation.
A PGCE will equip you with the skills and knowledge needed to become a school teacher. Although it requires another year of study, you can get work experience as you learn and the end result is a stable and interesting career. See here for more information.
The ever-popular Masters in Business Administration is a course that many use to enter the world of management and business. Although it requires more intense and a longer period of study than the certificates and diplomas cited above, it is a good way to enhance your prospects.
Research and doctoral programs
Another option is to take your research a step further and enter the world of PhD study. No doubt it is a big commitment – three or four years of full-time study is not be sniffed at. The financial strain is also to borne in mind. But it will increase your earning potential and give you more options at the end of the course.
To help with the financial side of things, there are bursaries and grants available for research students. It’s well worth finding out what monies are available in your field if you wish to pursue a PhD. Studentships, for example, are paid positions, which allow you to carry out research, but also require you to take on some duties of an employee, such as teaching duties.
Much has been written on Career Development here at jobs.ac.uk about PhD study. Please read the following articles for more advice:
Whatever you decide to do after your Masters degree, the skills you have learnt and the standard of your education has put you in a good place to achieve what you want to do.
Your University Careers Service will be of help in beginning your career. Likewise, supervisors and lecturers will be able to advise you about PhD and further study. And, of course, you should browse the jobs.ac.uk pages for vacancies in your chosen field.