Decision time: Eight reasons why a postgrad might be for you
Whether you want to further your career, change direction, or pursue your passion for a particular subject, a postgrad might be for you
“Masters courses generally include internships and study at home or abroad, together with advanced project work – all useful for sharpening career focus and advancing skills and aptitudes”
1. A statement of intent
“Doing a postgrad indicates a strong work ethic and commitment to your career,” says Mary Hosty, a career guidance expert and founder of SouthDublinCareers.ie. Brendan Baker, the head of careers at Maynooth University, says that if someone with an undergraduate degree has found a talent or aptitude for a particular area, a postgrad might be the right decision. “It is a demonstration not just of academic ability but of the commitment and perseverance that goes with it. Employers value them, but they’re not a prerequisite.”
2. Get ahead in your career
“It’s a real plus if you love your chosen discipline, or have done, for instance, a business degree and now want an MSc in strategic marketing and to get to the next level,” says Baker. “But motivation is very important so, before you commit to a postgrad, come and talk to the careers centre in your higher education institution and see where people with this or similar qualifications end up.”
3. Boost your earnings
The Graduate Outcomes report, a survey of graduates and postgraduates carried out for the Higher Education Authority, found that 43 per cent earned between €35,000-€9,999 within nine months of graduation, compared to just 16 per cent of those with an undergraduate primary degree who earned between €35,000-€69,999, and nobody earning a cent over €70,000.
4. To change direction or gain new skills
“If you’re thinking of changing direction for your degree, a conversion masters can help fill the gaps in experience or skills,” says Hosty. “Masters courses generally include internships and study at home or abroad, together with advanced project work – all useful for sharpening career focus and advancing skills and aptitudes. This can make them more attractive to potential employers. It is still the case that a qualification in a specific skill such as accounting or engineering gets you in the door.”
5. There are financial supports available
Cost can be a huge factor when deciding whether or not to pursue postgraduate study, says Laura Walshe, a career guidance expert working in Limerick and Dublin, and founder of FindYourPath.ie. “The average postgraduate qualification can range from €4,000 per annum up to €10 000. The cost of part- time postgraduate courses often tends to be spread over two years compared to the cost of full-time study, which is paid over one academic year. Part-time study could be more suitable for the individual who is working and has other financial responsibilities.”
There are a number of different financial supports available. “Tax relief is available for both part-time and full-time postgraduate courses. Currently, 20 per cent of fees can be claimed back once the qualifying disregard is applied. For example, for full-time courses there is a disregard of €3,000 and for part-time courses there is a disregard of €1,500, which means 20 per cent can be claimed back outside these amounts. That is just one example of financial supports available. The SUSI grant is also available for postgraduate studies but there are eligibility criteria which the student must meet in order to qualify for the grant. Many employers support the career development of their employees, encouraging further training and often contribute fully or partially to postgraduate training. However, usually there is an obligation for the employee to remain with the organisation for a specific period of time following the completion of their studies.”
6. Study something you love
Is it worth doing a postgraduate course in an area you love but may not get a job in? “The alternative can be doing something soul-destroying,” says Baker. “Where employment opportunities are not obvious, you need to look at skills sets, name them and give examples, work on network-building and focus on how to get in the door.”
7. Meet new people and build your network
This can be particularly important in highly competitive career areas such as acting or journalism, where building up a network of contacts can be important in hearing about the jobs that may not be widely advertised and in connecting with interesting and innovative people, working in key sectors, who can help your grow your potential. “Nobody will come to you and say ‘you are brilliant, will you work with me’?” says Baker. “You have to get out there and network.”
Graduate Outcomes surveyed over 7,000 taught postgraduates and almost 1,000 research postgraduates who had finished their studies within the past nine months, about how they got their job: 25 per cent of taught postgraduates had already worked there on an internship or placement, but 14 per cent secured their work through personal contacts (including family or friends), 5 per cent through their institution’s career service, 5 per cent through social media or professional networking sites and 4 per cent through another source in their institution, such as a lecturer, former graduate or academic department.
8. Boost your confidence
“Postgrad study can be a confidence-booster, a buffer zone and a portal into undreamt of career and life opportunities,” says Hosty. “College is supposed to be this wonderful four years of learning and adventure, but for many students that is not the case. The experience of bereavement, illness, disability and myriad other issues can all contribute to a disappointing college experience. Often very bright and ultimately highly successful graduates emerge from college with a pretty mediocre degree. A postgrad gives people a chance to find their feet and catch up.”
...AND TWO REASONS NOT TO
1. Because you’re drifting: “It’s not ideal to drift into a postgraduate course because you’re not sure what else to do, and you don’t want to give up the student life,” says Baker. “By the time you get to a masters course you need to be a bit more focused with some idea of the direction you want to go in. A careers service will probe motivations and ensure people have done their research: we provide them with impartial information to take into account.”
2. Because you feel you should: The take-up of postgraduates increased during the recession as graduate recruitment fell and even low-skilled jobs were snapped up by people with postgrad degrees. But employment prospects have dramatically improved in 2019, so postgrad degrees are not quite as necessary as they may have been.