Today's job market is undeniably tough and many graduates are choosing to extend their study with post-graduate programmes to enhance their qualifications and employability. Chosen well, further study programmes can lead to beneficial and lucrative job opportunities in the longer run. In fact, some statistics suggest that well-chosen graduate degrees can boost earning power by over 40% in certain fields but value varies wildly across industries and disciplines.
Masters of Fine Arts
Whether you opt for art criticism, creative writing or studio arts, you can expect to be paying through the nose for an investment that may never pay off. Research by Georgetown University showed just 3% increase in earnings for students with further arts degrees. Jobs are notoriously hard to find in the creative industries and work experience with relevant client, portfolio and technical art disciplines are greatly valued. In fact, many entrants into the arts world are getting their foot in the door at the most junior levels and working upwards, so that they get paid along the way. Apprenticeships are an example where work-based learning is replacing traditional graduate entry level for some agencies and studios.
This is a boom industry in terms of job growth, with programmer jobs growing every year, as well as specialised jobs such as computing for payroll accounting services, SAP and Oracle. However, job seekers don't necessarily benefit from having an advanced degree in the field, with the Georgetown study recording only a 16% pay boost for post-graduate degrees in the field. Employers in the field appear to be looking for hands-on people, with non-academic skills such as client facing service and interpersonal skills. Much of the job is learned within the post and some employers will prefer to train in-house, on their own proprietary systems.
Again, PR is another growth industry, but one that also requires more hands-on experience and past work experience, than further academic qualifications. Most PR firms and agencies will only seek those with advanced degrees at the higher end of the industry spectrum, when directors are looking to lead on PR strategy at a senior level. Many PR practitioners will simply train and study for qualifications later in their career, alongside their role. Often they will choose to study with Chartered Institute qualifications, than via a university degree system. Additionally, there are vast numbers of graduates leaving media, communications and PR related studies and not necessarily enough jobs for them at the right level. Again, apprenticeships are now seeing many school and college leavers going straight into work and learning their art on the job.
The legal industry
Nowadays, a law degree isn't an automatic pass into a good job especially if it's not been obtained at a top university. In fact, many graduates with law degrees are now working in non-legal fields, according to where they can find employment. The high fees of legal post-graduate degrees are questionable in terms of their long term value to a student's employment potential in the field, especially if from the less-respected or well-known universities.
Social sciences, golf management, leisure and tourism new degrees are created every year to fulfil and in some cases stimulate demand; but wise students will research their value for later jobs carefully, before signing up to further study. In many professions, there may be alternative routes to getting a foot in the door and a paid foot, from day one rather than several years of further training expenses for no guaranteed return.
Zoe Williams is a professional blogger with a penchant for academia. She has written this post in collaboration with Mitchell Charlesworth.