Expensive, time-consuming and irrelevant: three accusations which have been levelled at graduate programmes in an era of tuition fee increases across Europe, Australia and the US and high living costs worldwide. In what is, undoubtedly, a turbulent period for graduate study, the significant benefits of remaining in Higher Education have become muddied by myth and general confusion.
The road to graduate study is obstructed by money and misapprehension. While fees are an unavoidable component of students’ decision-making process, misapprehension can be remedied with ease. Those who choose graduate programmes as a means of delaying their entry into ‘the real world’ or as a result of their belief that companies will fall over themselves to employ PhD graduates will undoubtedly come away with a warped, unnecessarily negative view of further education. The time has come to afford the much-maligned graduate programme the support it deserves; chosen for informed, practical reasons, further study can enrich careers, lives and global perspectives.
Further education begins here: read on to discover five ways in which graduate programmes can spur students to succeed.
1. Thrive in a global economy
As today’s global economy continues to expand, Master of Business Administration (MBA) courses are responding by becoming increasingly international. Not only has course content become more internationally-orientated; students are being drawn to them from a far wider range of countries. Approximately 95% of Lancaster University Management School’s full-time MBA students come from outside of the UK. MBA students at Lancaster are offered an ‘International Business in Context’ module, which allows them to travel to Turkey, Singapore or Malaysia for 10 days; such globally-focussed education trains graduates to operate in diverse cultural environments and understand how businesses function all over the world, consequently rendering them extremely attractive to employers.
2. Tactical choice leads to success
A tactical approach to further study, through which students compliment previous training with a graduate qualification, can enable graduates to appear before employers not simply as renaissance beings with multiple advanced areas of expertise, but as organised, motivated individuals capable of planning ahead and constructing carefully considered careers. The content of undergraduate degrees across all disciplines, from Physics to English Literature, can be extremely broad, meaning that progression into an MA and perhaps, later, a PhD, can be extremely beneficial as a means of gaining specialist knowledge before approaching the job market.
Cara Holme, currently working as a Cyber Security Analyst in Manchester, UK, achieved a combined BA qualification in International Politics and Languages before choosing to study for an MA in International Relations at Kings College London.
“Studying International Relations made sense after focussing my BA studies on Politics. I knew that I wanted to pursue a career with a global, modern focus and so wanted to keep my range of possible career options as broad as possible. My [MA course] had more than 100 modules, meaning that I could choose to study virtually whatever I wanted; I chose subjects like Cyber Security and CBRN Terrorism because they interested me and were sure to provide me with varied, transferable skills.”
3. Change career direction
Those who can’t think of anything worse than pursuing a career in their undergraduate subject area following graduation may turn to further study for the removal of their disciplinary shackles. Many graduate programmes take the form of industry-specific conversion courses, which allow students to broaden their horizons by kick-starting a new career. Among the most popular graduate conversion programmes are the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), a fast-track route onto essential legal training courses such as the Legal Practice Course (LPC) or the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), and the Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE), which allows its students to undertake the practical training required to become a school teacher.
4. Educate while being educated
Various institutions across the world encourage their graduate students to gain teaching experience, either by acting as academic assistants or by leading their own series of undergraduate tutorials. Not only does such teaching experience allow graduate students to develop a new, transferrable skill-set, supported by University department resources and training opportunities; it also enables them to explore a possible avenue for their future careers without long-term commitment. Internal university teaching positions for graduates are also, largely, salaried, allowing students to study and buy decent food- the ultimate graduate luxury.
5. Develop both specialist and transferrable skills
In addition to demonstrating dedication to a particular field and the ability to complete an extended, often emotionally draining, piece of investigative work, graduate programmes aid the development of key transferrable competences in areas such as verbal and written communication and public speaking. Often overlooked yet highly marketable, time, project and workload management skills are also both integral to the completion of a graduate programme and vital within professional spheres.
While students should be aware that a graduate qualification does not equate to ‘instant career success’, it cannot be denied that proven ability to approach complex issues systematically, demonstrate self-direction and work independently for extended periods of time are prized by employers.
A number of world-class Higher Education institutions in the US and UK offer outstanding graduate programmes; read on to find out more.
An institution dedicated to preparing the next generation of leaders to excel in their chosen fields, Missouri State University is renowned for its progressive approach and flexible study options. Located in Springfield, USA, Missouri State University is the second largest higher education institution in Missouri. With a student body of over 22,000 and a plethora of academically, socially and culturally orientated activities, the University environment is both varied and extremely lively. Missouri State’s Graduate College, which is actively involved in public affairs, is dedicated to the promotion and development of students’ leadership skills, cultural awareness and community engagement. Read the full profile.
The globally acclaimed Rowan University in New Jersey, USA, hosts more than 14,000 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students. Conveniently situated between New York City and Washington, the University consistently appears among the best institutions in the country in prestigious international rankings such as US News & World Report and Princeton Review. To ensure that their most popular courses remained sufficiently affordable and accessible, the University established its College of Graduate & Continuing Education. Designed as a means of reaching out to and supporting the needs of its extensive adult student body, the College welcomes students of all varieties, from recent college or baccalaureate graduates to professionals seeking career development. Read the full profile.
Ranked among the top 10 universities for teaching hours by the Telegraph in 2013, London Metropolitan University offers a diverse international learning environment which provides students with support throughout each stage of their chosen courses. Attendees benefit not only from the institution’s high quality of tuition and facilities but also from its location at the heart of the UK’s vibrant capital. Dedicated to offering courses of matchless quality in a stimulating academic setting, the University equips its students with the expertise required to kick-start successful careers. The combination of intensive tuition, a globally-acclaimed culture of research and a comprehensive student support network available at London Metropolitan University renders it an excellent choice for postgraduate study. Read the full profile.
A public Doctoral research institution offering more than 50 Masters and Doctoral degrees and rated as the ‘Best Midwestern College’ in the Princeton Review, Indiana State University is renowned for the outstanding educational opportunities and quality of life available to its students. Through its combination of intensive academics and international-standard research, the institution cultivates levels of academic excellence and creative thinking which are reflective of its status as a centre for global engagement. The University’s scenic campus provides all of the most desirable features of a major Higher Education institution in the context of a small, closely-knit community; students are able to experience the nuances of American culture from day to day in a peaceful, relaxed environment. Read the full profile.
Dedicated to the development of well-rounded leaders and critical thinkers capable of confronting the increasingly complex, dynamic and global issues facing society, Texas A&M University-Kingsville provides exemplary Higher Education at the heart of one of the nation’s most culturally and ethnically diverse regions. Situated in Southern Texas, the University offers an extensive array of baccalaureate, masters, doctoral and professional qualifications and is keen to cultivate an academically challenging, learner-centred environment in which all members of staff are committed to supporting and contributing to students’ success. The University’s College of Graduate Studies offers the most comprehensive selection of graduate programmes in South Texas, running over 60 degree programmes in 44 disciplines across its five academic colleges. Read the full profile.
A globally-connected University which was recently shortlisted for the 2014 Times Higher Education ‘University of the Year’ award, the University of Glasgow is dedicated to supporting both academic and personal development. The respected Adam Smith Business School, a key component of the University, allows its students to experience international-standard, research-led tuition in an inspiring and challenging environment. With its extensive selection of degree programmes and supportive careers and personal development services, the School provides a unique platform from which students can easily launch stimulating careers. Besides numerous occasions for academic engagement, students are encouraged to take advantage of the School’s social events which enable them to develop their professional network by interacting with fellow students and members of staff. Read the full profile.