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What can a postgrad or masters do for me? Quite a lot, actually

Careers expert Eoghan McDermott assesses the impact of going back to college on your job prospects, pay and satisfaction levels.

Eoghan McDermott

GOING BACK TO college for a postgrad or Master’s degree can be a huge commitment of both time and money. Thousands of euro and hours spent, but is it really worth it?

It would seem it is. All international and local research shows higher levels of education increase your employability as well as your salary.

Improves your job prospects

The Higher Education Authority in their study What do Graduates Do – The Class of 2014, published in May of this year, had some quite persuasive findings. The belief that the higher level of education, the more chance of getting a job is proven correct.

Nine months after graduation, employment for Higher and Postgraduate Diploma graduates was at 76% in 2014 compared to 60% of honours Bachelor’s Degree graduates. Likewise, Master’s and Doctorate graduates also experience relatively high levels of employment, at 78% – an improvement of five percentage points on the previous year.

It makes sense. Particularly in a competitive jobs market where recruiters are trawling through CVs and applications where degrees are ubiquitous, those who have objectively attained a higher level of education against that criteria have already differentiated themselves.

It’s also worth noting that The Times in the UK reported recently that first-class honours degrees were being devalued because more people are now getting them (up 126% in the last decade). Imagine, getting a first in the future may not even make you stand out. A postgrad, masters or PhD might ultimately become a must rather than a maybe.

bigdeal How do you make yourself stand out when even a first-class honours degree is becoming more ubiquitous? Source: headlikeanorange via whereawesomehappens

Pursuing an additional qualification can also improve your prospects within your organisation. It’s always useful to audit your own skill-set and see does it fit for where you want to be. For example, if you want to be a senior manager within your organisation you may need to go and get a management postgrad, or a finance one to get you up to speed in those areas.

Improves your pay

There appears to be a correlation between education and salary – as educational attainment increases so too does salary.

In the HEA report they found that almost half of honours Bachelor’s Degree graduates (49%) earn under €25k and this drops to 9% among Doctorate graduates. 31% of Doctorate graduates reported earning over €45k compared to 4% of those with a Higher Diploma and 2% of those with an honours Bachelor’s Degree graduates.

In the UK, the Sutton Trust (whose aim is to improve social mobility through education), along with the London School of Economics, found that there was a significant wage premium for those with postgraduate qualifications. Somebody with a Master’s degree can, on average, expect to earn stg£5,500 (€6,560) more a year – or stg£200,000 (€238,500) over a 40-year working life – than someone only holding a Bachelor’s degree. In the US, the annual premium is almost twice as high – US$16,500 (€14,900).

Confidence and a network

Feedback from clients who have gone on to further education say it has made them more confident. Becoming more expert or knowledgeable in an area naturally improves your confidence but also the ability to juggle more work and pass challenging targets gives them a real boost.

It has also given them a wider network of like-minded people. As your career progresses the wider and deeper your network of contacts is, the better. It can open opportunities for new roles, or getting business in the door for your organisation.

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Gets you out of work hell

shutterstock_196202300 If this is your mental work diary, think about what you can do to change direction. Source: Shutterstock/Stuart Miles

There is another benefit in doing a postgrad or a Master, or any further education - it can help get you out of an industry or role you that hate and into something you love.

I have countless examples of clients who have changed industry with the help of a postgrad. (Often redundancy gave them the lump sum and the push to do it, but it still delivered the desired outcome.)

For example, a client working in financial services hated it. She found it dull, boring and repetitive, but it was a job. At night she studied marketing and was initially able to transfer internally to that team within the bank, and then ultimately out altogether and into a marketing organisation. Without the qualification she couldn’t have done that.

If you can afford it there are tonnes of benefits of pursuing further education – new skills, more opportunities, bigger salary. Your job may even cover it, if you explain to them the reason why it would benefit them for you to upskill.

Eoghan McDermott is a Director of The Communications Clinic and is Head of Training and Careers there. 

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