Making your mind up about a masters

With the job market seeming more competitive than ever, the big debate about the value of education over experience is something crossing the minds of many students.

After dedicating three years of our lives to studying and accepting a hefty debt before we’ve even started earning, it’s obvious why many just want a break or to start getting some serious money. But with the government offering a new loan and making the idea of studying postgraduate more attainable, the decision on what to do after graduation more confusing than ever.

In the past, those brave enough to take on the challenge of another intense year at university had to pay their fees up front. But with some course fees averaging £11,000 a year, it wasn’t that accessible or appealing.

Now postgraduate students starting after August 1st can apply for a loan reaching up to £10,000. The money can be used to cover living costs or course fees and like an undergraduate loan, you only begin to repay the loan once you’re taking home more than £21,000. While it may be more tempting, is it still worth it?

Newspapers have reported that students entering the working world with a postgraduate qualification are more likely to secure full-time employment. Not only that, but it is said that they will earn an extra £3-4k in their starting year.

Some experts and university lecturers have also stated on student advice sites that completing a masters or PhD makes an individual stand out from their competitors. Spending an extra year or two studying a specific skill or subject area is believed to make a graduate a more valuable potential employee.

So it would seem that the best way to better your chances at finding a successful career is to bury your head back into the books- but it’s not the only way.

Many of us will know of someone who has taken a path similar to that of famous business tycoons Sir Alan Sugar and Sir Richard Branson and headed straight out to work and into success. I for one have a friend who joined an apprenticeship programme at the pharmacy chain Boots and during my time at Portsmouth she has been promoted twice and now holds a respected managerial role. She has a nice car, a deposit on a new house and the luxury of going abroad every summer. I on the other hand have a train season ticket, an overdraft and a lower paying job.

Yet, while apprenticeships and working your way up from bottom can earn you a respectable wage in a shorter period of time, students should always consider career progression. Different careers offer different opportunities and this is a major factor to consider when deciding about postgraduate education. For example, those studying subjects such as architecture or finance may have to or are much better off with further education. However, other subjects that tend to be media based or to some are deemed ‘less academic’ benefit from solid industry experience. So the best thing to do is to search for potential jobs and to see what they require as you may notice that for some experience is everything.

When asking my current employer whether he favours candidates with higher-levels of education to higher-levels of experience he said that experience wins hands down. He argued that those who have experience within the work place are more efficient and have already spent the time putting their knowledge into practice whereas postgraduates have spent more time in the classroom. Yet, he did admit that this opinion would vary with different companies and within different roles.

The biggest factor that students should be aware of but seem to be forgetting when frantically applying for masters as a back-up plan is the workload. It’s overwhelming. In fact current students have said it’s a 7-day-a-week job that continues well into the summer when everyone else has finished. If you found third year a struggle then maybe you should reconsider.

While the new loan is something that was way overdue and for some a godsend with regards to their future, it shouldn’t overshadow the other important factors. Think is it necessary? Ask yourself if you’re committed. Question whether it’s a worthy investment and don’t just do it for the sake of it.

Yeah a £10,000 loan is great, but it’s not free money.


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