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Is postgraduate study a good investment for international students?

In medieval universities, courses took 12 years to complete. Luckily, postgraduate study doesn’t take that long any more. Lasting anywhere between one year and six years (MBA and PhD respectively), postgraduate degrees follow undergraduate courses and can offer an unparalleled and highly specialised insight into your sector of choice.

So what are the pros and cons?

There are many motivations behind why you would choose to do postgraduate study as an international student, but before we get onto that, we'll go through some of the pros and cons, as well as myths surrounding it.

Pros…

• Exploring and studying your favourite subjects at a higher level can be hugely rewarding.

• You can gain transferable skills such as research, organisation, networking, teamwork and project management.

• Some sectors will be easier to get into (and your pay may go up quicker). But it’s all about how relevant the degree is to your career, as if your chosen course’s content is pertinent to your industry you can gain a distinct advantage.

• It can provide specialist knowledge. If you’re going into a niche market, a postgraduate degree can move a graduate from a generalist in an area, to a professional. (For example, it can move you from computer scientist to an expert in forensic computing).

• It can take your perspective from academic to commercial. For example, you can go from studying law to gaining a practical perspective (e.g. Legal Practice Course for becoming a solicitor). Additionally, work experience is a great accompaniment, even if it is a short series of placements.

Cons…

• It won’t necessarily improve your CV, as how valuable the degree will be depends entirely on the content and context. It has to be relevant to your chosen career – so for example, if you want to get a job in IT, doing a post graduate degree in history may just muddy the water.

• Postgraduate courses tend to receive less funding.

• US graduates have an advantage over UK graduates as American masters take two years rather than one to complete, hence UK graduates may have an extra onus on them. UK graduates should draw attention away from the length of study and focus fully on the content and the experience and skills gained throughout their course.

• Postgraduate study is a huge investment in time, money and effort, so it's worth pondering hard on whether it is right for you. Speaking of money, according to Salary benchmarking site Emolument.com, these are the average salaries after five to nine years:

Degree Average salary after 5-9 years
MBA £63,000
PhD £62,000
Masters £52,000
Bachelors £44,000

 

It’s worth noting that these are averages across various sectors so, for example, those with degrees in maths or statistics are more likely to earn more than, say, humanities. Both MBAs and PhDs tend to push up salaries after five to nine years, but generally MBAs are considered more valuable as they allow people to begin their careers earlier.

In terms of payout, as Alice Leguay, Emolument.com's co-founder, explains: “On the one hand technical subjects can open doors in the top-end of the finance industry, and on the other a more academic humanities-related degree is unlikely to lead to an uptick in pay. With this knowledge in hand, the relevant question is 'Is it worth it to you?'."

Questions should you ask yourself before applying

Like everything in life, it is all contingent on your motivation. Ask yourself: why do you want to do a postgraduate degree? Is it the next step in your career journey? Would a postgraduate degree give you an invaluable advantage in your industry? Are you doing it for the love of the subject? Or are you buying yourself some time while you figure everything out?

Postgraduate degrees can be an unbeatable addition to your CV, but it all depends on your career trajectory and intentions. It can unlock a wealth of opportunities and knowledge, but is not always an essential next step. However, for those who want nothing more than to be an expert in their favourite subject, postgraduate study can be priceless.

Once you have decided, it is time to ask yourself where you want to study and the type of course you want to do (part time versus full time). Research when applications are open and what additional skills you may need, if any. But don’t forget, here at GradLink we have a myriad of exciting opportunities waiting for you on our job board – many of which you don’t need a masters to qualify for. Register with us today.

 

By David Gee Published: January 09, 2017

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