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Tuesday 28 November 2023 Dublin: 1°C

Want to earn more? Here's how much a postgraduate degree could grow your salary

How further study can boost employment and your salary.

IN WHAT IS AN already competitive job market, you are more than likely coming up against other competitors who have a postgraduate qualification.

It is estimated that around 35 per cent of undergraduates go on to study at a postgraduate level, according to a recent study from The Higher Education Authority (HEA).

Statistics would seem to show that when seeking employment, having a postgraduate degree increases your chances significantly. In this same study by the HEA, only 58 per cent of undergraduates gained employment as their first destination post-college, in comparison to 78 per cent of postgraduates.

According to a different report by the HEA, there were more than 19,000 new postgraduates last year. Mark Mitchell, Director of GradIreland maintains that pursuing postgraduate study is a great way to increase your value as an employee:

The important thing to consider is why you are going into postgraduate education. Some people are highly driven and simply want to add to their education, but a lot of people enter it as a means to increase employability and earning potential.

According to the latest findings from the Central Statistics Office, earnings across the board are on the rise in Ireland, and have some industries have benefitted more than others.

The CSO Statistical Yearbook 2016 shows that average annual total earnings in 2015 rose in nine of the 13 economic sectors. The largest percentage increase was 4.7 per cent in the Information and Communication sector where average annual earnings rose from €53,443 to €55,976.

There is also strong evidence to suggest that postgraduate study is a deciding factor for employers at application stage.

As Professor Maria Pramaggiore, Dean of Graduate Studies at Maynooth University outlines, “Postgrads gain expertise in a subject at an advanced level, building specialist knowledge as well as developing the skills that enhance their value to employers.”

GradIreland‘s Graduate Salary & Graduate Recruitment Survey 2015 found that 10 per cent of employers consider postgraduate qualifications more important than work experience, while 53 per cent consider them of equal value, meaning that 63% of employers consider postgraduate education when making decisions on an application.

Similarly, a report by the Higher Education Authority found that as a first destination after college, only 58 per cent of graduates with a bachelor’s degree entered employment whereas 78 per cent of postgraduate and master’s graduates found employment.

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So, how much could you stand to earn if you were to pursue postgraduate education?

The Higher Education Authority report a continual increase in Irish salaries as educational attainment rises.

For example, almost 28 per cent of doctorate graduates reported themselves as earning more than €45,000, compared to just 3 per cent of honours bachelor degree graduates. For those with postgraduate diplomas and taught master’s degrees, the number was 22 per cent.

In 2013 over half of all undergraduates (52 per cent) were earning €25,000 or less. This is compared to only 11 per cent of those with doctorates, 22 per cent with postgraduate diplomas, 28 per cent with a research master’s degree and 41 per cent with a taught master’s degree.

Similarly, a recent HEA report outlined:

Over half of honours bachelor degree graduates have an annual salary of €25,000 or more. This increases to 91 per cent for those with doctorates and 31 per cent of doctorate graduates earn over €45,000 a year.

According to GradIreland’s Mark Mitchell, during the recession the rate of conversion courses increased, meaning the number of people studying in order to begin a different career has risen.

His advice to those considering postgraduate study for this reason would be to:

Research the labour market, the potential salaries and career trajectories of the area you are thinking of going into – can you enter it from a senior level or do you need to start out at entry level again?
Professor Pramaggiore also advises to meet someone involved in the course:
Identify the appropriate postgraduate course and speak to the course coordinator about how a qualification such as a postgraduate diploma or taught master’s might benefit your career by improving your specialist knowledge, expanding your professional networks, or facilitating a move into a new field altogether.

Wondering whether it would benefit your position? Although there isn’t specific research in Ireland, US data show a sector-by-sector breakdown that may be of interest to Irish graduates.

According to BusinessWire, these are the ten jobs in which postgraduate study increases your salary the most.

  1. Business Manager (+22 per cent increase with a postgraduate degree)
  2. Web Designer (+21 per cent increase in salary)
  3. Database Administrator (+21 per cent increase in salary)
  4. Managing Partner (+20 per cent increase in salary)
  5. Marketing Director (+20 per cent increase in salary)
  6. Program Director (+19 per cent increase in salary)
  7. Financial Advisor (+19 per cent increase in salary)
  8. Graphic Designer (+19 per cent increase in salary)
  9. General Manager (+18 per cent increase in salary)
  10. Staff Software Engineer  (+18 per cent increase in salary)

Are you considering further study? Maynooth University will be holding its open evening for prospective postgraduate students on 21 February. For more information, and to browse the courses available, you can visit their website here.

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