Will a Masters Get You a Better Job?
Find out what employers think about master's programs, and how to make sure your graduate degree really boosts your employability.
What is the point of a master's degree? It's a lot of work, a lot of expense and a lot of sleepless nights – you want to be sure you're going to benefit at the end.
The QS 2009 Masters and PhD Applicant Survey questioned over 3,000 candidates, asking them what they expected to get out of a graduate degree. More than 70% said they wanted to improve their employment prospects.
So it seems that prospective graduate candidates believe they will not only land a better job, but progress faster up the career ladder.
Demonstrate experience and passion
However, Steve Icampo, Manager of Worldwide Staffing at Amphenol Corporation, sounds a note of caution for those who believe a master's will be a passport for future success: "You should not assume that education will get you to where you want to go; what will get you there is you."
Icampo says anyone contemplating studying for a master's should be armed with two things. First, work experience. "I would hope that candidates have worked a bit before they make a decision," says Icampo. "The further you go with education, the more specialized you become – so you really need to make sure that the course is for you.
"You really need to think it through very carefully before you undertake the course. A master's is a major investment and it will determine how you will be perceived in the market place."
Icampo says candidates should also research where they want to work once finished. "Ask yourself, what commercial project do you want to be involved with? You have to be able to show the market place that you have something that people need. You won't know what that is unless you find out for yourself and sometimes the only way to do this is by working."
The second thing Icampo believes potential graduate students should have before they make their course choice is passion for their subject. "You have to follow your passion. If you're not passionate about what you are doing, you shouldn't do it."
Show you have focus - and flexibility
Icampo believes that school and course choice will become much easier once a candidate has thought through their decision. "You could end up going to a small school with an expertise that is highly regarded, so make sure you research both the university and the department's reputation."
Icampo says if candidates have thought through their decision, finding a job at the end should be easy. "As you go through the graduate project, the choices you make on the program you take, your internship, and your thesis will help with your job search. You should be thinking of where you are heading with it," he says.
Amphenol is a S&P 500 company involved in making connectors and inter connectors for high speed data. The company is the second largest maker of connectors and has 85 facilities in 30 countries. Icampo says that recruiting is often done locally, but once someone has joined the company it is very easy to be noticed, despite the company's size.
"There are plenty of opportunities to shine. It is impossible to say with any certainty where the industry will be in ten years time, so the company relies on people who are happy to work in flexible environments."
Icampo says that one of the great strengths of the company is that engineers get to see the manufacturing process from end to end. "Our engineers are involved with the whole life cycle of design, so they tend to see things in a much broader way."
Show off a breadth of experience
Icampo's final piece of advice for potential master's students is: don't just focus on the academic side of life. "Having technical skills is obviously incredibly important, but you also have to make sure you develop your other skills and that you are a well rounded individual. We work in tight teams, so you have to be able to get on to succeed."
Hannes Vedin is HR Senior Consultant for Capgemini Sweden. "There is a big difference between an undergraduate degree and a master's. I find that people with a master's have much more maturity in their work. It is much easier for them to use their knowledge and to switch their knowledge into practise."
Vedin says he has noticed a big difference in the quality of the master's programs around Europe. Capgemini Sweden is involved as a consultant company with IT and management and the company recruits through networking, contacts, searching databases, ads on the internet and their website.
"The master's definitely gives you an advantage but we are also interested in finding the people who have the right ambition and the right attitude – as these can be just as important as the master's qualification," he concludes.
This article was originally published in October 2012 . It was last updated in October 2020