Your Masters, what next?

Author
Emma Knowles, Editor
Posted
October, 2018

Studying for a Masters degree is your gateway to securing a job, career progression or continuing your education through PhD study

Jobs for Masters graduates

In 2016/17, the most popular jobs for postgraduates were in:

  • business, HR and finance
  • education, such as secondary and higher education teachers
  • healthcare, such as nurses and physiotherapists
  • management.

Although the skills you'll gain from a Masters can be applied to a range of jobs, some industries specify the need for a certain postgraduate qualification. For instance, to become a solicitor you'll need a Legal Practice Course (LPC) qualification, and it's likely you'll study for a postgraduate course in teaching (PGCE) if you're embarking on a teaching career.

Postgraduate qualifications are also needed in specialist professions, including the roles of archivist, psychotherapist and epidemiologist.

Be aware that, in the current job market, academic Masters graduates typically compete with first class Bachelors degree holders for jobs. However, having a Masters in a vocational subject serves as a great advantage, particularly in the following areas:

  • engineering
  • radiography
  • social work
  • surveying
  • town planning.

Browse job profiles to see what you could do with your Masters degree.

Applying for graduate jobs

Generally, employers won't have separate job application systems for undergraduate and postgraduate candidates. Because of this, you can look for jobs in the same place as those with a first degree. This includes:

  • online jobs boards
  • Prospects' graduate job search
  • sign up to Prospects job alerts
  • through a recruitment agency
  • through social media, such as LinkedIn
  • trade publications.

If you have your sights set on working for a specific company that isn't advertising vacancies, you may consider sending them a speculative application to enquire about possible opportunities.

Employers may also choose not to distinguish between Bachelors and Masters graduates when recruiting. They may favour your maturity compared with first-degree graduates, but you'll have to highlight this and the skills you've developed through your Masters in your cover letter, explaining why these make you a favourable choice for the position you're applying for.

To increase your chances of landing a job, make sure you emphasise the experience you've gained directly from your Masters, including any research placements you've carried out.

Visit how to find a job for more guidance.

Studying for a PhD

For many students, a Masters is a stepping stone towards a career in academia. A PhD will take years of research and analysis to complete - it's a long and difficult process that shouldn't be taken lightly.

According to the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education 2017 survey, by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), 8.1% of postgraduate leavers in 2016/17 went on to further study, with a further 3.1% working while studying. Of these graduates, 60.8% were studying a PhD. A research Masters (MRes) is often seen as the PhD's precursor, with 37.2% of graduates who do an MRes going onto some form of further study.

For the first time from 2018/19, if you're a UK national living in England you can apply for a PhD loan, up to the maximum amount of £25,000, to support your studies. The loan isn't means tested, meaning you can borrow anything up to the maximum amount regardless of your financial background, and you'll be required to pay it back at a rate of 6% once you're earning more than £21,000 per year.

It's important to consider the pros and cons of PhD study before you apply. While the qualification will help you develop your critical thinking, research and analytical skills and become a recognised expert in your field, your work/life balance is likely to suffer and employers may view you as overqualified - or under experienced - for a position, especially if you're moving away from your field of research.

Whatever you decide, make sure you've made an informed decision based on thorough research. For more information, see PhD study.

What do Masters graduates do?

With Masters degrees in the UK so highly regarded by international students and employers, Masters graduates are advantaged in the jobs market.

According to the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education survey, 90% of the 44,109 Masters leavers in 2016/17 were in work or further study six months after graduation. Of those who were in a job in the UK, 87.8% were doing a professional or managerial job.

DestinationPercentage
Working78.7
Studying8.1
Working and studying3.1
Unemployed5.2
Other4.8
Destinations of Masters graduates
Type of workPercentage
Teaching and educational professionals10.5
Business, research and administrative professionals7.2
Business, finance and related associate professionals5.3
Sales, marketing and related associate professionals5.3
Health professionals5.0
Types of work entered in the UK