Postgraduate Employment Survey 2013

Author: Category: Category: Postgraduate Study Date: 2nd August, 2013

Postgraduate Employment Survey 2013

In July 2013, surveyed 1,117 students (including 2nd, 3rd year, MA, PHD and postgraduates) on the value of a postgraduate degree with regards to employment and starting salary expectations.

This was in response to the ongoing debate about whether or not the cost of postgraduate study is justified through either personal satisfaction, research study entry requirements or career earnings premiums.

The Results:

Q. Do you Think a Postgraduate Degree is Worth the Cost?

65% of second and third year students replied “No” or felt “Unsure”.  This contrasts with MA and PHD students, where the majority felt the ROI of the degree was justified.

Only 35% of Bachelors degree students felt a postgraduate degree was worth the cost in comparison to 78% of MA students.


“It is actually more affordable and economical than a bachelors, especially if you do it part time.” 

“Waste of time and money unless you want to be in a HIGHLY skilled profession such as medical, financial, architectural.”

“It’s an unaffordable luxury even though it would secure a more satisfying and better paid job.” 

“Having worked for a long time in senior roles, being unemployed for 3 years, and attending numerous interviews, any postgrad study is seen as a bonus. Young students don’t always see the very long term view/need that older unemployed people experience (either as someone looking for work or as a hiring manager).”

“I think the cost is far excessive; it is not value for money.” 

“Postgraduate degrees are very beneficial and are worth a cost; however I do think the cost should be lowered to enable more people to have the opportunity to do it. I had to take out a career development loan in order to complete my Masters Degree and this has left me in a situation where I have to manage my money very carefully and I am often short of money because this is a huge amount of money that I lose from my wages each month. I do not regret doing my Masters as I thrive on learning and furthering myself; it has just resulted in me being restricted on how far I can travel for a job as I cannot afford to move away from home. I still live with my parents.”

Is a postgrad degree worth the cost

Starting Salary Expectations

Q. Do you think a Postgraduate Degree will Improve your Job Prospects?

According to our survey, only 57% of second and third year students believe a postgraduate degree will improve their job prospects.

This figure is much higher for MA students where 85% believe their MA will increase their chances of successful job application and 92% of PHD felt their degree would improve their job prospects.


“Yes and no. Postgraduate studies will further specialise your knowledge making it easier to get a job related to that specialisation. However, it may make your skills less general and the person less employable for an unrelated job.”

“It will definitely make us stand out from the graduates.”

“A Degree is becoming common, I need to stand out and progress further than others.”

“It will set me apart from all of the hundreds of others applying for the same job but only have an undergraduate.”

Will a Postgraduate Degree Improve your Career Prospects?

 Postgrad Employability Results

Q. What are your Starting Salary Expectations?

Salary expectations were found to be much higher for MA and PHD students then compared to Bachelors degree students.  18% and 41% of MA and PHD students respectively believed they would earn a starting salary of £31,000 or higher compared to just 5% of Bachelors degree students.

67% of PHD students expect a starting salary of more than £27,000.

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  • Survey statistics taken from the Postgraduate Employment Survey in July 2013.  Conducted online.  Sample size was 1,117 students (including 2nd, 3rd year, MA, PHD and postgraduates) from Universities across the UK.


Q & A with Dr Steve McCabe from Birmingham City University:

Q. How useful is a postgraduate degree in today’s job climate?  Is it still worth the investment if students can’t raise the funding by themselves?

In an increasingly ‘crowded market’ in which there is a surfeit of graduates in many disciplines there is an increasing need to differentiate yourself. Interpersonal skills and good experience are obviously beneficial to gaining employment. However, possessing a postgraduate qualification, most especially if it offers entry to a relevant professional body, has now become a very effective way to demonstrate the attainment of higher level analytical skills which employers find desirable. The main impediment to studying at postgraduate level is, of course, funding.

Funding is a dilemma. Unless an applicant is extremely lucky and can gain entry to a research-funded taught programme they will need to pay for yourself. Given that this is likely to be many thousands of pounds (excluding living costs) for a full-time course, this represents a major investment. The fact that students do not automatically qualify for finance in the same way as undergraduates is a problem which will hopefully be considered in the future. One good way to spread the costs is to study part-time which, if you are employed can be a very useful way to gain the qualification. Indeed, many employers will pay the fees if it benefits the business/organisation and may result in professional status.

Q. Which are the most common job fields or careers which require applicants to hold postgraduate qualifications?

Many disciplines increasingly use postgraduate qualifications as the way to ensure that those carrying out functions have developed their intellectual and research skills. Accordingly where professional status is important it is highly likely that there will be a proliferation of postgraduate degree holders; e.g. in business and management, engineering, nursing and medicine.  The last twenty years or so has shown that postgraduate qualifications can be studied in almost literally any field.

Q. Which postgraduate qualifications offer the most value in the jobs market?  Or which industries will a postgraduate qualification boost your salary the most?

An easy ‘test’ of value would be to look at the cost of the course. So, for instance, whilst it is possible to study for a Masters of Business Administration for £10,000 some institutions charge many tens of thousands of pounds to reflect the belief that such a qualification will enable the holder to attract a significant salary. Disciplines in which there is a perceived shortage of appropriately qualified and skilled people – such as engineering – will probably mean that having a suitable postgraduate qualification will boost earning power. Many professional bodies are now moving to an approach which requires that entry is based on the attainment of a postgraduate degree (usually diploma) to ensure that members have suitable intellectual knowledge and are acquainted with contemporary developments in both research and practice. The fact that such professional bodies accredit postgraduate courses for ‘currency’ makes them increasingly valuable.

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