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'Should I do postgrad study?'

Ask Jo

‘I’m a business student in my final year, trying to decide if I should do postgrad study. What’s your advice?’

Pat, 21


When weighing up whether to do postgrad study, there are a number of things to consider and it really depends on what area you’re in. For example, if you’ve majored in human resource management in your undergrad, I’d suggest getting some professional experience before embarking on additional study. However, in other fields or if you’re looking to change direction, then you’ll probably need to do some form of further study.

Undertaking postgrad study is a big commitment. Here are some things you need to think about: 

Are postgrad qualifications a requirement?

First things first – find out if higher qualifications are needed for the type of job you aspire to. It’s important to do your research, talk to people in the field and find out what courses they’ve done.

For example, clinical psychologists in Australia need to complete six years of training, comprising a four-year degree followed by a two-year master’s or supervised training.

For business students, postgrad qualifications may not be a prerequisite to getting a job, but you may find they will help you get jobs at a higher level. You might want to consider something like an MBA, which can be really valuable. 

What do you want to achieve?

Think about what you are hoping to achieve from undertaking further study – do you want to become more specialised, advance your career, increase your salary or change career direction? Just clarify your reasons and ensure they’re well founded.

Financial costs 

Postgrad study doesn’t come cheap. Consider how you’ll finance your additional studies and whether or not the return on investment will pay off. Could you work full-time and study part-time? There are plenty of people who balance full-time work with part-time study and this demonstrates to potential employers that you have drive and discipline. Online study options make this even more viable. Some employers will also contribute towards study fees, so find out if this could be an option. 

Employment experience vs additional study

It’s always a good idea to get some experience under your belt. Far too often I come across students who have completed a bachelor or even a master’s degree without having any experience in the workforce. A postgrad qualification is not a magic wand and doesn’t give you automatic entitlement to a high-paying job. Employers want you to be able to demonstrate your employability skills – so you need to take this into consideration when making your decision.

Review the stats

Explore the research on the Graduate Careers Australia website, where you can find information on graduate outcomes, employment rates and starting salaries. Just to give you a snapshot: in 2012, 20.8 per cent of bachelor degree graduates went on to further full-time study, and more specifically, 11.5 per cent of business grads did full-time postgrad study. 

Making the final decision

Take your time and thoroughly investigate your options. At the end of the day it will depend on what type of undergraduate studies you have completed, the postgrad courses you’re looking at and, most importantly, what you are hoping to achieve. Some jobs require you to have a postgraduate qualification, while for others, employment experience will be more important.

You can choose from a wide range of online postgraduate qualifications.

Jo Messer is a Career Development Specialist who has many years of experience in supporting and guiding students and graduates of some of Australia’s most respected universities, as well as mature-aged clients, across all facets of their career. She is a Professional Member of CDAA and an active member of NAGCAS. Whether you have a specific question about how to achieve your career goal or something more general, Jo is available to provide you with up-to-date advice.

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