Every year an increasing number of people are proceeding to postgraduate study after graduating. More than 350,000 students embark on some form of further study each year, whether that be a master's degree, PhD or PGCE.
Studying for a master's degree is an exciting prospect, and one which will certainly enhance any CV.
From diving deeper into a subject you are passionate about to making vital industry connections or even changing career paths, there are so many reasons why a master’s degree is important.
Just make sure that before you start applying for courses, you are ready for both the academic and financial commitment required.
So why pursue a master’s degree?
- You love your subject and want to take it further
- You want to change careers
- You want to go into a specialist career
- You want to progress to PhD level study
- You want to progress in your current career
1. You love your subject and want to take it further
If you really love your subject - whether that be German or Geography - a master's degree will provide you with the perfect opportunity to take it even further.
Many universities and subject areas also give students the opportunity to choose between completing a taught or research-based degree, allowing you to choose which form of learning works best for you.
Taught master's degrees are essentially a continuation of an undergraduate programme. You complete modules and attend lectures, seminars and workshops.
Research-based master's require much more independent work. With guidance from your supervisor, you focus on your own extended research projects.
Whether you want to use your degree to gain a wider understanding of many different areas within your field, or just focus on one or two topics in depth, a master's degree will allow you to pursue this.
2. You want to change careers
Contrary to what we are led to believe at school, very few people stick to just one career path for their whole life. In fact, the average person in the UK will have six jobs in their lifetime, with young people entering the workforce now expected to have up to as many as 12.
Maybe you wanted to be an accountant when you were applying for your undergraduate degree, but after a few years working in the field you decide you would actually really like to pursue a career in marketing.
Taking a master's degree provides a very practical way of strengthening your application as a career-changer. It will provide you with the skills, experience and contacts needed to excel in a new career. It also shows employers that you are committed to the field and have a strong work ethic.
Master's degree programmes are becoming increasingly more accessible and flexible, and most universities offer part-time or distance learning alternatives for many courses.
This is great news for prospective career-changers, as it allows you to continue earning in your current job whilst you gain the skills needed to change jobs.
3. You want to go into a specialist career
One of the main reasons to get a master’s degree is if you want to go into a specialist career. Master’s students gain a greater amount of specialist knowledge needed for certain careers.
Accountancy and engineering are just two examples of career paths that often require you to hold more advanced qualifications.
A large number of postgraduate courses in the UK are also accredited by professional bodies, meaning you take external exams alongside your ordinary university exams and gain two separate qualifications in the process of completing your degree.
4. You want to progress to PhD level study
If you hope to proceed to PhD level study or pursue a career in academia, a master's degree is important, as it provides an invaluable — often compulsory — stepping stone.
Whilst an undergraduate degree gives you an advanced introduction to the subject, a master's allows you to find your niche and help you decide what you want to specialise in for your PhD.
It also helps prepare you for the amount of work required to complete a PhD. A master's degree trains you to manage a higher workload with a greater level of independence than is required at undergraduate level. It also gives you experience of conducting higher-level research, which is fundamental to any PhD.
5. You want to progress in your current career
If you are already in a career you love, but want to move up to the next level, a master's degree can help you get there faster.
From an employers point of view, it makes you stand out from other employees or applicants, and shows your commitment to the company and your chosen career.
The UK Commission for Employment and Skills predicts that roughly 15% of jobs are likely to need a postgraduate degree by 2022, so now is a good time to get ahead.
You can also make important industry contacts and connections whilst pursuing a master's degree. Supervisors, lecturers and even your fellow students can all be useful contacts, both by themselves and by sharing their own network with you.