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Are Master’s Degrees Becoming More Essential In The Hunt For a Graduate Job?

You’ve graduated from uni, after four years or more of hard work and perseverance. Now what?

Sadly, graduate life for many isn’t as simple as walking out of university and straight into your dream job. More often than not, there will be at least two or three other jobs standing in the way, all of which will require just as much of the graft and determination that got you through your student days as you attempt to make potential employers notice you.

Just attempting to attract attention to yourself is a Herculean task in and of itself, as is developing a suitably thick skin. For you must also be prepared for excruciatingly monotonous tests and interviews, as well as the frequently bizarre knock-backs that may come with them, and that give you precisely zero help as to how you could do better next time. “You need to try and get more experience, somehow.”; “It was very well-written, but I’m just not sure this is right for you.”; and a personal favourite: “Congratulations, you all performed exceptionally! Unfortunately, we’re not hiring at the moment.” Sad face.

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As all graduates struggle to stand out from their peers, many are turning to postgraduate study to differentiate and increase their prospects of success.

According to The Complete University Guide, a little over 500,000 students enrol in a postgraduate course such as a Master’s, which offer a wide variety of subjects to specialise in, as well as featuring a diverse roster of students both within and outside the UK. However, aside from a certificate and a few more letters to add on your CV besides your paltry BA Hons degree, what does a Master’s actually mean from a so-called real-world perspective?

Speaking to The Independent, a student who studies international relations at The University of Warwick highlighted the potential benefits of a Master’s degree with regards to future prospects: “I chose to do an MA because I wanted to deepen my knowledge and acquire a specialism. In a field as diverse and ever-changing as politics, the value for me was in showing my interest and understanding of a particular area within it.”

Another post-graduate student who graduated with a degree in music before choosing to pursue Arts History also told The Independent: “Choosing to do a Master’s in a different subject area has definitely opened up employment opportunities that weren’t there before.”

But while a Master’s degree does understandably entice many graduates, historically even more are likely to be deterred by the high proportion of post-graduate courses that are self-funded.

As of 2013, the proportion of British students choosing to progress to Master’s after two years of graduate life are among the lowest in Europe, with the government’s social mobility adviser Allan Milburn believing that it could prove a “social mobility time-bomb.”

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For, when all’s said and done, the achievement of a Master’s has never been more desirable than it is now. A report published in October 2012 by the Higher Education Committee found that post-graduate degrees and courses were increasingly becoming a requirement for many professions.

Certainly there are other ways in which a student may fund their post-grad degree than selling all their earthly possessions or working three jobs. Career Development Loans are an increasingly popular way of doing this, as they allow to take out a loan of between £300 and £10,000 with one of three High Street banks to cover tuition fees and help with costs of living.

In addition, in his Autumn Statement, the Chancellor announced that post-graduate loans will come into effect in 2015. The decision was met with understandable enthusiasm by both students and university heads, and now the idea of a post-graduate degree seems slightly less elusive for many students. This new proposal will grant students under 30 years of age loans of up to £10,000, and aims to combat the image of the UK being less competitive in the job market in comparison with the rest of Europe, which boasts a higher proportion of post-graduate students.

While these new proposals will make it more palatable for those of us who are considering post-graduate study, it is still a lot to take on on top of your existing debt. But one thing is certain: there will soon be a lot more Masters of Science and Arts out there competing for that job you want.

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