For many graduates, landing a degree may only be the first step towards securing a dream job. Specialist sectors that boast the most sought-after and lucrative jobs also demand equally specialist skills that may not be attainable in an undergraduate programme alone. That is of course why so many students opt to do Masters, PhDs and professional qualifications upon completing a degree. But the decision to delve into postgraduate study should not be taken lightly - or be seen as a guaranteed ticket to jobs market success.
Postgraduate courses demand as much - if not more - commitment as their undergraduate counterparts. A Masters programme such as an MSc or MA will take a minimum of one year of full-time study to complete, while a Doctorate (PhD) programme could take as many as three years. The financial cost can also be huge for new graduates already burdened with large amounts of debt. The extensive finance support system in place for undergraduates does not carry over to postgraduates, and self-funding is often required. No mean feat when postgraduate tuition fees start at around £3,000.
Still, it's difficult to put a price on career prospects, and new graduates can always find ways to fund postgraduate endeavours - taking a gap year to work and save up or applying for a special-rate career development loan from a bank would be two likely options. Those choosing the postgraduate route will find that institutions across the country offer Masters, PhDs and professional qualifications for all possible disciplines, so thorough research is of course vital before selecting a programme. Charlie Ball, the deputy research director of the Higher Education Careers Services Unit, argues that when done correctly, postgraduate education can be an important step in helping job searchers become more employable. He told the Independent: "Postgraduate degrees buy time to think about the employment market, make contacts, do some work experience and develop the practical skills you need to get hired."
Some industries simply demand a higher level of training from their recruits. Journalism, for example, is a notoriously tough sector to break into, with no set career path for rising to the top. Because of this, the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) now sponsors a range of postgraduate courses designed to equip aspiring writers, reporters and broadcasters with industry-standard qualifications.
"In very rare cases some reporters and photographers are given trainee jobs straight from school or university," notes the NCTJ. "This usually only happens after that person has proven themselves to an editor time and time again, producing content for love and little or no money. Hiring editors need trainees who can hit the ground running and produce quality news content immediately. If you can't get one of the prized traineeships, the best way to gain the multimedia skills to succeed is on an NCTJ-accredited course." The NCTJ website enables prospective journalism postgrads to navigate all the possible options, with links provided to the different, nationwide institutions that run the courses.
There is of course a multitude of postgraduate study options for all job sectors, whether it be law conversion courses for prospective solicitors or research-intensive PhDs for the next generation of leading scientists. Whichever industry job seekers are targeting, careers advice, online forums and university and college prospectuses remain indispensable tools for making the best decision when it comes to postgraduate study. The right choices could ultimately lead to true job satisfaction.