Leaving college can be scary, Momentum UK President Luke D'Arcy has some helpful advice on how to get ahead and build a career...
Words by: Russ Thorne
Your undergrad degree doesn't have to be the end of your student experience.
Moving on to a postgraduate qualification can help you upgrade your CV and build on that first degree, as well as offering a bunch of other benefits. Here are just a few.
Specialise in your subject
Taking a postgrad course such as a master's can give you deep understanding of your subject. “My motivation was to develop the knowledge and skills that I learnt at BA,” says Rachel, studying an MA in fashion and textiles. “I wanted to specialise and explore further into my field.”
Those specialist skills can be highly sought after by employers, says Martin Woolley, CEO of media agency The Specialist Works. “Postgrad skills are more appealing the more technical the role,” he says. “In our data team, for example, we can use specific skills someone might have gained in statistical modelling in postgraduate studies after a maths degree.”
Your postgrad course can also help you switch lanes entirely. Ask Shannon, who switched from undergrad studies in zoology and animal biology to a master's in publishing. “I hoped it would extend my skills into different areas so that I would become more employable,” she says.
Shannon listened to her heart when it came to picking a course. She'd always loved reading, but had never considered books as a career path. “But a quick internet search uncovered a publishing master’s that I realised would be the perfect course for me!”
Not done as well as you'd like as an undergrad? Taking a postgrad course can help you shine up your CV in the eyes of an employer. According to Martin Woolley, an average undergrad degree followed by a stellar postgrad one “could be a sign of someone who matures slightly later - which is not necessarily a bad thing.”
Taking a master’s can also show that you're committed to growing as a person and as a professional. Self-development was part of the process for Katie, studying an MSc in leadership and management. “A postgrad qualification also demonstrates your commitment to continued professional development,” she says.
That extra time studying and smoothing out any rough undergraduate edges can be beneficial in many ways, adds Luke D’Arcy, UK president at Momentum Worldwide. “Postgrads offer that added level of maturity and worldly experience and can be a real asset.”
Two thirds of students would use postgraduate study to trade up to a better or more prestigious uni, according to a survey we ran on The Student Room. Knowing you want to get onto that great course at that great uni can help drive you over the finish line for your undergraduate degree.
Focusing on the goal of a master’s helped Abigail focus on her undergraduate course in marine environmental science. “I pushed myself to work harder, aiming for the grade to get me into the PG programme,” she says. “The motivation got me a really high 2:1.”
How important is the prestige and reputation of a uni? How much do league tables matter and do employers care? It depends on the employer, although Martin Woolley does admit it's “impossible to ignore the biggest names.”
Going to a uni further up the rankings “informed my decision,” says Eguono-Oghene studying a master’s in strategic engineering management, adding that the right uni can open doors. “I have had the chance through my project leader to meet some industry experts.”
Which brings us to...
Networking and PG life
Let's not mess around: networking matters. “It is massively important and doing it well can get you that vital interview or foot in the door,” says Luke D'Arcy. “In a sea of CVs your extra skills outside academia, and networking, will pay massive dividends.”Students talking
As for those 'extra skills', PG study gives you more time to get the most from the uni environment. “We really want to see what other opportunities students have grabbed that add colour and value to their academic experiences,” says Luke.
James, studying an MSc in leadership and management, has found all kinds of opportunities as a postgrad. “They include changing my thinking and making new friendships,” he says, “as well as getting involved with student life and being the captain of the kart racing team!”
A different study experience
Finally, being a postgrad is very, very different to undergrad study. “As a PG student, staff treat you as a peer, resulting in stronger relationships,” says Abigail. “There's also more independent work.”
Trading up has totally been worth it, she concludes. “The knowledge I gained at undergraduate level has been built on. It makes me more employable as I'm more well-rounded in my skills.” Add in field trips, networking opportunities and a programme she loves, and there's no contest. “Overall, I much prefer my postgrad studies to my undergraduate ones.”