Masters – is it worth the money?

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In 2011 The Guardian revealed that 1.5 million graduates were filling the UK job market. With a figure like this, it appears that achieving a Bachelors degree is now the norm. Therefore, to get a job in the current climate, it’s highly probable that you’ll need to achieve something pretty extraordinary which makes you stand out from the other 1,499,999 graduates.

‘Employability’ is the buzz word at Lancaster University, and with a recent SCAN survey revealing that 52% of you feel under pressure to gain work experience, it is clearly an important part of student life. However, I highly doubt that this is unique to Lancaster. As the government are increasingly keen to get young people into employment, it seems only realistic to suggest that the remaining 115 UK universities are also encouraging their many thousands of students to increase their employability. Subsequently, it’s likely that more students will not only graduate with similar degree classifications, but probably similar CVs, coated with internships and work experience. So once again we fall into the trap of everyone looking identical on paper.

The question is, therefore, what does make us ‘stand out’? Personally, one option I have considered is postgraduate studies. If a Bachelors degree is generic, then surely achieving a Masters degree is more impressive? The word ‘Master’ in itself sounds impressive. A postgraduate degree not only shows that you really are interested in your subject area, but it illustrates important skills for employment- determination, ambition, and, clearly, the eagerness to learn. Also, another year of freedom and being isolated from the real world sounds very enticing. However, a postgraduate degree is likely to set you back around £6000, for tuition fees alone, with very little or no student funding. I doubt that many students will have a spare six grand when they graduate. Not only is the cost a deterrent, but after hours crying over revision, spending days correcting essay references, and a third year slaving over a keyboard, surely spending another- even more challenging- year in education is the last thing anyone would even contemplate.

An alternative, more interesting approach to further studies may be to study abroad. You can achieve a Masters and (kind of) travel at the same time, and it definitely would look impressive to an employer. Who wouldn’t be tempted when most European universities are offering tuition fees at a fraction of the price? A Masters at the University of Amsterdam, for example, costs 1600 euros! Bargain! There is even student finance for postgraduates- the only catch is you have to get a job there…so speaking Dutch would help. However, after some further research, it appears that living in the Netherlands for a year would cost about £10,000. Hmm…maybe not then.

So, how extraordinary can you appear on paper when most possibilities are unfeasibly expensive and overly taxing? Also, who’s to say that postgraduate degree will actually increase your employability? As a Linguistics student, it wouldn’t be particularly beneficial to me unless I intended to go into academia. If you’re committed and you can afford it, I would encourage postgraduate studies, especially abroad. However, it seems that the one and only thing to conclude from this is that making yourself look brilliant on paper is proving to be an increasingly challenging and stressful ordeal.

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