Postgraduate study: Get a job and earn more

Is it worth spending another few years at college? An advanced degree can help a graduate become more employable and earn a higher salary

All international and local research shows higher levels of education increase your employability as well as your salary

All international and local research shows higher levels of education increase your employability as well as your salary

 

Young people throughout the EU are the biggest cohort of victims of the current economic crisis. Their rate of unemployment ranges from mid-20 per cent to up to 50 per cent in many southern European economies. Within this, the levels of unemployment decrease at every stage of educational attainment and salaries increase.

The higher your standard of education, the more chance you have of getting a job and of being paid well in it. That’s a very strong argument in favour of continuing your educational journey to postgraduate level and beyond.

With up to 40 per cent of undergraduates going on to study at postgraduate level, the chances of getting an interview for an advertised job with an undergraduate qualification, when there may be lots of postgrad applicants, diminishes each year. This can be so even when the skills for the job may not need any postgrad qualifications.

So, an advanced degree can help an undergraduate become more employable and earn a higher salary than if they entered the labour market after their undergraduate qualification. All international and local research shows higher levels of education increase your employability as well as your salary.

To move 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 increase employability. The skills gained in postgrad study, including writing, presentation and communications, as well as specific employment skills, can give the edge in job applications.

Graduates fared best in securing employment during the crash. As unemployment rose after 2008, from 4 per cent to 15 per cent before dropping back towards 10 per cent, the number of graduates employed grew every year. By last March, 51 per cent of 2013 undergraduates had jobs, but the numbers getting jobs at postgrad level is far higher, at 73 per cent.

However, the improving opportunities for level 8 graduates since 2010 has reduced the postgrad numbers, from 45 per cent in the years immediately following the crash to 40 per cent of 2013 level 8 graduates. This trend may also reflect the cuts imposed by the Government in postgrad funding and grants.

When it comes to the salaries, a recent Higher Education Authority study of 2013 graduates shows 52 per cent of honours bachelors graduates earn less than €25,000 a year, with 3 per cent earning more than €45,000, whereas 11 per cent of PhD graduates earn less than €25,000 and 28 per cent earn more than €45,000.

Where are the jobs?

Education, health and welfare postgrad programmes show very high levels of employment. Computing graduates also fare well

, with 77 per cent at level 8 degree and 78 per cent at postgrad stage.

Despite the perception of demand for science and maths graduates, only 41 per cent at level 8, but 66 per cent at levels 9/10, had jobs nine months after graduation. Out of the entire cohort of 2013, 12 per cent of level 8 and 15 per cent of level 9/10 graduates got work abroad.

Only 11 per cent of the postgrad class of 2013 were still looking for work nine months after graduation.

With the ongoing crisis in youth unemployment in Ireland and the peripheral EU, it is not surprising that 40 per cent of graduates choose postgrad study. For many, the decision is almost a prerequisite for any chance of getting a first job.

Universities and ITs are working with industry to ensure courses are labour-market friendly. How those sectors work together will determine our long-term future, economically, socially and for the individual.

All third-level colleges have to maintain and consolidate this co-operation and integration at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Colleges are sometimes pooling their expertise so programmes conform to international standards.

Examples include a one-year master’s in medical device design that combines science and engineering modules, offered jointly by UCD and TCD and subsidised through the HEA graduate skills conversion programme, so tuition fees are €3,800. This is one of a small number of joint offerings from UCD and Trinity; many other courses are offered jointly by universities and ITs, for example UCC and CIT in Cork offer a joint biomedical science master’s.

Legislation to create technological universities by integrating existing institutes of technology was conceived to create cutting-edge postgrad programmes in all disciplines.

Apart from pooling existing resources, colleges have to enhance their joint-venture projects with industries, so there is a flow of information in both directions. The process is advanced in Dublin and between CIT and Tralee IT, while the process has stalled in the southeast between WIT and Carlow IT.

Interdisciplinary master’s

The course is a close collaboration between UCD’s school of biomolecular and biomedical science and its Smurfit school of business and is open to graduates with a 2.1 or higher.

Economic relevance is not confined to the sciences. Irish-language master’s options are expanding to train linguists following the inclusion of Irish as an EU official working languages. UCD has a lawyer-linguist option to complement its suite of master’s in translation, editing and media on the MA scríobh agus cumarsáid na Gaeilge.

Last year, interpreting was added to this UCD programme, complementing the existing NUIG course. Also at NUIG, the MA in Irish studies is a one-year interdisciplinary programme drawing on Irish, history and English and sociology and political science perspectives.

Since it was first offered in 2001, more than 150 students from Ireland, Wales, England, Italy, Germany, Japan, Canada and the US have graduated.

DCU’s interdisciplinary master’s include a master’s of engineering in healthcare technologies which is not only interdisciplinary but is offered through collaboration with Maynooth University and RCSI. It also has a very innovative MSc in science communication and an MSc in translation technology.

Trinity offers an interdisciplinary master’s in dementia for students from a variety of backgrounds including nursing, medicine, occupational therapy, social work, physiotherapy, chaplaincy and other disciplines.

Recognising the importance of industry links, some universities have developed master’s degrees with companies. The Bord Bia marketing fellowship at the UCD Smurfit graduate business school is a fully-funded programme, including tuition fees and a bursary of €22,800, allowing 25 graduates with two to three years of work experience to study intensively for a year and work with Irish food companies here and abroad.

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