Why it can be worth spending another few years at college

Gaining an advanced degree can help a graduate become more employable and earn a higher salary

Tue, Mar 11, 2014, 06:00

Why consider a postgrad?
International and local research shows higher levels of education increase your employability and your salary potential. To progress from an undergraduate level 8 degree to a level 9 master’s or level 10 PhD develops a wide range of self-management skills that greatly increases employability.

The skills gained in postgraduate study, including writing, presentation and communications, as well as very specific employment skills, can give the edge in job interviews.

A recent study by the Higher Education Authority of 2012 graduates shows 56 per cent of honours bachelors degree graduates earn less than €25,000, with 2 per cent earning more than €45,000, whereas 11 per cent of PhD graduates earn less than €25,000 with 30 per cent earning more than €45,000.

It may seem strange that as unemployment climbed from 4 per cent to 15 per cent since 2008 the number of graduates employed increased every year. By last March, 52 per cent of 2012 graduates and 72 per cent of postgraduates had jobs. The improving opportunities for level 8 graduates since 2010 has cut the postgrad numbers, from 45 per cent in the years immediately following the crash to 37 per cent of 2012 level 8 graduates.

This trend may also reflect the cuts in postgraduate funding and grants.

Education, health and welfare postgrad programmes show very high employment. Computing graduates also fare well: 73 per cent at level 8 and 82 per cent at postgrad. Despite the perception of demand for science and maths graduates, only 44 per cent at level 8, but 63 per cent at levels 9/10, had jobs nine months after graduation.

Out of the entire cohort of 2012, 10 per cent of level 8 and 11 per cent of level 9/10 graduates got work abroad. Only 13 per cent of the postgrad class of 2012 were still looking for worknine months after graduation.

With crisis youth unemployment in Ireland and the peripheral countries of the EU, it is not surprising that 37 per cent of graduates choose postgraduate study. For many the decision is almost a prerequisite for any chance of a first job.

What’s on offer?
Qualifax.ie lists 2,538 courses at postgraduate level in 92 institutions in Ireland, including NI, an increase of 180 on last year. It ranges from accounting in UCD to zoology in NUIG.

More than 2,300 courses are in the Republic with 336 in NI universities. There are a further 100 plus courses at private colleges, with degrees from external awarding bodies such as the University of Chester.

Through Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI), a Department of Education and Skills agency for the National Framework of Qualifications, we list today, on pages 8-11, postgraduate diplomas, master’s degrees, and PhD programmes, offered by Irish colleges which are validated by the National Qualification framework. Courses in Northern Ireland and others not validated by QQI can be accessed at qualifax.ie.

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