Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg are often rolled out as examples of why college isn’t a necessity for success, but they are outliers – especially in a hyper-competitive jobs market.
A postgrad degree gives students the chance to further their learning, but also to distinguish themselves from their peers, and to set a solid foundation for professional growth. It’s a think-tank for serious students to cultivate real experiences and deeper learning in their chosen field.
A postgrad is the best self-investment for anyone who is serious about using their education to get ahead. Here’s why.
A survey of 18,000 students from the Higher Education Authority shows that employment rates for graduates have returned to levels last seen during the Boom – and that 31 percent of students went on to further studies.
Graduates in the education sector had the highest levels of employment at 85 percent, while ICT or technology graduates fared best in the market with higher average salaries of €33,000 or more for 38 percent of those surveyed.
This trend was echoed in UL’s First Destination Report (2017), an annual study which highlights the employability and starting salaries among postgraduate students, nine months after graduation.
Average starting salaries for UL postgrad programmes*
2. Rising employer expectations
Ireland is leading the way in connected health. With a global MedTech hub, there are increasing opportunities in FinTech and we have a strong reputation in Bio-Pharma too, with 10 of the top 10 global pharmaceutical companies having an established presence in the country.
This all presents students with excellent career opportunities – but they are opportunities which will need to be leveraged with the right postgrad course.
And it’s not just a case of an extra piece of paper: the move from a level 8 to a level 9 brings a new range of challenges and skills, with students working on their presentation and communication skills, as well as undertaking work experience and placements.
As an undergrad, you may have been interested in a particular field and chosen a degree to suit – for example, a broad Bachelor of Arts that touches on far-reaching topics like Economics, Gaeilge, and Philosophy.
For UL’s Master of Laws (General) student, Colleen Kelly, the abundance of choice was the key reason for choosing her postgrad degree. “I stayed on to do the Masters because it allowed me to study areas and consider topics that I didn't get a chance to do with my undergrad," she says.
Having graduated, however, you may have decided that you want to pursue a niche avenue like Applied Linguistics where you’d build on your BA foundations by exploring language in real-world situations and contexts – and there’s the option of an overseas semester where you could truly test your mettle.
UL graduate Dr Roisin Cahalan qualified as a chartered physiotherapist in 2008 and has since worked in many environments in the private and public sector. Before she qualified, Roisin was a professional Irish dancer on Riverdance, working both as a troupe and lead dancer.
Roisin combined her love of dance with her career choice as her focus is on musculoskeletal physiotherapy in dancers and therapy.
As an undergrad, your focus on your studies may be a little different – you’re interested in experiencing university life, and your degree programme will teach you a huge amount about yourself, your interests and where you’d like your career path to take you.
When it comes to choosing a postgrad course, students are experienced and are very focused on furthering their prospects as well as their career trajectory. Selecting an area of study in which they genuinely interested in is key, because it harbours feelings of interest and creativity.
Professor Kevin Murphy, the Chair of Work and Employment Studies in Kemmy Business School, agrees. He says, “there is a substantial body of research showing that workers whose occupations match their basic interests are more likely to be motivated, satisfied and successful.”
You’ll also get the opportunity to work with and learn from brilliant lecturers, each of whom is an expert in their field – no matter how specialist the topic is.
In the 2016/17 college year, 43,569 students entered full-time undergraduate programmes. In that same time, 69,633 students graduated from higher education institutions.
For decades, going to college and graduating with a good degree was the given career path for Irish students – but the course you choose at 18 doesn’t have to define your career or education.
There is a lot of cross-discipline jumping at postgrad level, Gavin Connell, Head of Careers at UL reveals. Gavin has recognised a trend among Arts, Humanities and Social Science graduates of specialising in business subjects which involve skills in human behaviour, research, creative solutions, and analysis.
Likewise, business graduates are moving into the area of tech, with the emergence of career opportunities in areas such as linguistics, technical writing, and computational finance.
“Although the postgraduate course itself is important, this degree is your ticket to entry into different industries, and it can open doors you aren’t aware of,” he says.
Gavin encourages all students and working professionals to keep an eye on industry changes and to upskill when they can.
Essentially, a postgrad will give you the opportunity to both upskill and recalibrate your career path – and with dozens of potential courses to choose from, the only limits are those which you place on yourself.
At UL, our careers team helps our postgraduate students make this choice every year. Download our ultimate guide, which will help prospective postgrad students make this big decision, with leading decision-making techniques, resources and real advice from UL’s past postgraduates and career experts.
*UL's First Destinations Report 2017.
University of Limerick