Alex-CarrollSo you’ve got a Master’s. What now? Alex Carroll, a Careers Consultant at Birmingham City University shares his expert tips on finding your dream job or considering options for further study after your postgraduate degree.

What jobs can I get with a Master’s degree?

If you have a postgraduate degree, you can earn £9,000 more on average, bringing your average pay up to £40,000 a year, according to The Graduate Labour Market report by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Getting a master’s qualification may help you to get you that competitive edge in the employment market but don’t assume that it is a golden ticket to walk into a job. Often, Master’s level job applicants will find themselves in the same application pool as undergraduate; many companies do not specifically target postgraduate level applicants unless the position requires it (like for those wishing to practice law or become a doctor for example).

With this in mind, don’t limit yourself by specifically looking for roles that specifically want a master’s graduate and don’t feel put off if you’re in the same application pool as undergraduates, your effort will pay off in the end!

Where can I find jobs?

There are three key routes to consider when looking for jobs, though a strategy which incorporates all these areas will often be the most fruitful.

1. Advertised roles

These are the most common ways that people look for jobs, including direct advertising by organisations on their websites, advertising on third-party job sites or through publications and newspapers.

Competition is high for advertised roles as this is the easiest way to find and apply for jobs, so try and focus your job search to bypass the competition by looking at industry-specific sites and more niche companies.

An important thing to consider is that only around 30 per cent of all open job vacancies are advertised publically – many jobs are gained through internal vacancies or being referred by a current employee. This is called the hidden jobs market, which is explained in more detail below.

2. Agencies

Working for an agency can offer the flexibility to try working in different areas and gain work experience without the commitment of a permanent contract.

A recruitment agency often acts as a middle man to do the recruitment for a company who perhaps doesn’t have the resources to do their own recruitment for permanent roles. It can be a worthwhile decision to register with agencies aligned to your area of interest, it doesn’t automatically commit you to do the work they offer and can help you to gain work experience, build your skills and also develop a professional network in your sector.

3. Hidden jobs market

This is the term given to all jobs which aren’t directly advertised through traditional means (job sites, company websites, newspapers, journals etc.).

A key way to find these roles is through networking. Networking is vital to building a career and isn’t so much something you can just choose to do at a certain time.   It is a consistent way of thinking that helps to build contacts to support career development. Making yourself visible and known to others can be done online through social networking sites such as LinkedIn, in person via working groups, societies and conferences. Have some business cards made just in case you meet that key contact who can help you secure the next step in your career!

Another key strategy to access the hidden jobs market is via ‘speculative application’. This is the act of reaching out to a company even though they may not have an advertised role for which you can apply. This can be done via a ‘Spec letter’ which is similar to a covering letter but less targeted to a specified role. Outline your motivation for applying and your skills and experience which could be useful to the organisation. If you’re a current student at Birmingham City University, you can visit the Careers and Job Prospects iCity pages for examples, information and to make an appointment with one of the consultants.

Am I “overqualified”?

Employers seek a stable workforce, and want to employ people who will develop within the company and hopefully stay for the long haul.

It is important to pre-empt this by highlighting the skills and experience you have which are relevant to the role and prove to the employer that you genuinely find the company interesting.  Don’t be tempted to water-down your skills, just make sure that you prove to the employer you fit the role.

Being a postgraduate should bring a higher level of maturity which can be a key selling point when applying to a position. Demonstrate this fact through your application and interviews by showing you have gained skills in:

  • Dependability
  • A strong work ethic
  • Dedication
  • A wealth of knowledge and skills
  • Resilience
  • Organisational and communication skills

Should I do a PhD?

A PhD or doctorate is a great choice for people who have a real passion for research and finding answers to the unanswered questions in the world.   For most jobs, having a PhD is unnecessary and it requires commitment of time and of spirit, but the potential rewards for personal development and the freedom to really dig deep into a subject about which you are passionate can make it a worthwhile endeavour.

A PhD is for you if…

  • You love research
  • You want to become an academic researcher
  • You want to be a lecturer/professor in academia
  • You want to do a job that requires it for example in medicine, astrophysics, or as a Chief Scientist or Professor.

A PhD may not be for you if…

  • You don’t want to leave education
  • You want to be called ‘Dr’
  • You think it will get you a higher salary in a job
  • You’re fulfilling the ambitions of others
  • You feel peer pressured.

If you feel that a PhD could be the right path for you, make sure you do your research into career options, supervisors, funding considerations and research proposal options. You could get your tuition fees paid for and a stipend for living expenses with Midlands3Cities for example.

Find out more about studying a postgraduate degree at Birmingham City University at our Postgraduate Open Day on Wednesday 26 April, 3-8pm. Register now.

You can also get in touch with the Careers and Job Prospects team by visiting or by calling +44 (0)121 331 7777.

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