Not sure about postgraduate study? It could be more rewarding than you think.

Finishing your undergraduate degree is a major milestone. However, in today’s increasingly competitive employment market, many students are wondering what else they can do to enhance their career prospects. Postgraduate study seems an obvious next step, but what difference does it really make? 

Postgraduate study offers many career advantages. It’ll help you develop a global understanding, gain real-world experience and position you as a specialist in your field. This increased training can also improve your earning potential.

The importance of human capital

Human capital is the skills a person brings to an organisation. The specialised training you’ll receive through postgraduate study is highly regarded by employers.  

“In the long run, people essentially get paid for their skill. When thinking about where you’re going to be in the labour market in the long run, skills and human capital are really important.” 
Richard Holden 
Professor of Economics, UNSW Business School

For UNSW alumnus Jansen Che, his Master of Architecture gave him the grounding he needed in his field while elevating his critical skills to an advanced level. These practical skills will stay with him and benefit any organisation he works for throughout his career. 

“I wouldn’t be as skilled or as open minded. It challenged me in terms of thinking differently, in theory and practically,” Mr Che says.

Employability vs. employment

The current economic landscape heightens the importance of thinking about employability versus employment.  

“Employment is about obtaining any job; however, employability is more about education and the ability to manage market changes, adapt and achieve lifelong career success.” 
Blair Slater 
Former Portfolio Lead, Student Career-Ready Connections, UNSW Employability

For Nolan Yu, Master of Commerce (Extension) UNSW alumnus, making himself employable meant taking full advantage of every opportunity. 

“Going through the whole program is a process of equipping you to adapt to the real world and excel in the real world. The university carefully designs the program to provide resources, but it’s up to you what you want to learn. It’s up to you if you want to use the resources. I wanted to get the most out of it and be employable,” says Mr Yu.

A global market

While globalisation has been increasingly changing the job market for some time, we’re seeing an acceleration of this pre-existing trend. 

“The evidence so far for a lot of companies (is) the ability of people to work remotely in all roles,” Professor Holden says. “The job market for a lot of jobs just globalised in a very meaningful way, and that’s an opportunity.” 

For Tameka Lee, Master of Policy Studies UNSW alumna, specialising in your field can provide the competitive advantage you need in a global market. 

“Do extensive research in the area you’re venturing into,” she says. “Try to find out what areas of specialisation employers are looking for. What exactly do they want you to come to the workforce with?” 

Tameka now works for a global organisation, channelling her passion into action by setting up a clean technology enterprise incubator for the Caribbean, after studying specialist project management and project monitoring as an elective. 

“Project management was what I went into. It really helped me in executing this project,” she says.

What the numbers say

Surveys show that postgraduates are not only more employable, they also have greater earning potential after finishing their studies in comparison to undergraduates. 

The 2021 QILT Graduate Outcomes Survey measured the medium-term employment outcomes of higher education graduates. Within three years of graduating, the median undergraduate salary was $77,000. The median postgraduate salary was $100,000 for coursework and $102,000 for research. Evidently, further study has a significant impact on earnings.  

For Master of Architecture graduate Jansen Che, the results have been tangible, securing his ideal role at his preferred firm within weeks of graduating. 

“Without my masters, I wouldn’t be an architect. It helped me get that job really quickly, and it was my dream practice.”

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