With so much competition in today's job market, many students consider doing a Master's Degree before launching themselves into their career.

Those graduates who are already working may also consider obtaining a Master's with a view to boosting their career prospects - and their salary.

But do Master's Degrees really help with you move up the career ladder?

How many people study for a master's?

There were 566,555 students enrolled in post graduate programmes during 2017/2018, an increase from 551,595 the previous year.

Of these, 284,620 obtained a post graduate qualification such as a Masters Degree or PhD (source: HESA). With the majority of students under 25, it would seem that most move directly from their undergraduate degree to a master's.

How much does it cost to do a master's?

According to a survey carried out by the Times Higher Education Magazine, the average cost of doing a Master's degree in the UK for a  UK student is £7,392 (classroom based, Arts/Social Sciences).

However, this can vary substantially - the average cost of an MBA for example is £18,410.

How do people fund a master's?

The increase in students taking expensive Master's qualifications is likely to have been fuelled by a new loan scheme that was introduced in 2016.

The scheme makes £10,906 (current figure) available to students for Master's courses which could be used to pay course fees or to support the student during their studies. The loan is only paid back when the student graduates, on the first April after they leave their course but only once their annual income is over £21,000 (source: gov.uk).

Although the £10,906 will be added to their existing undergraduate debt, this does not seem to be a huge deterrant, particularly when balanced against the benefits of a Masters.

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How do Master's degrees benefit students?

Nowadays, many Master's Degrees are tailored to a particular area of employment, so they can provide genuine value to future employers.

Indeed, for some industries (solicitor, clinical psychologist,social worker or teacher, for example) master’s degrees have become almost essential requirements according to Jonathan Black, director of careers services at the University of Oxford.

However, students need to take care: a Master's doesn't always improve career prospects. Where a student is taking a Master's because they simply don't know what career path to take, there's a good chance this money will be wasted in terms of career investment.

"Post graduate qualifications only boost career prospects where they are career-specific and deliver real value to prospective employers," explains Martin Carline, a Senior Career Consultant with recruitment website CV Template Master.

"But choosing a highly relevant master’s degree can help students to gain specialised industry knowledge that allows them to advance in their field - or indicate to an employer that the employee is dedicated to enhancing their credibility and industry expertise."

Students considering taking a masters should think about what value the course offers their future employer. If there's a clear benefit that they can set out on their CV and defend when questioned in an interview, there's a good chance that a Master's will help them move forward on the job ladder. 

Do Master's students really earn more?

Masters graduates do earn substantially more on average. 2017 statistics show that full-time employed, working-age postgraduates have a median salary of £39,000, compared with a £33,000 salary for working-age undergraduates.

Full-time employed postgraduates under the age of 30 had a median salary of £28,500 in 2017, compared with a salary of £25,000 for undergraduates (source: Prospects). So relevant Master's degrees are a worthwhile investment where they align with a clear career path.

In conclusion

There are many good reasons to do a Master's - it can help you progress in your current career path, or improve your employment prospects; it can help you enter a specific profession or simply meet the requirements of your current job.

Although studying a Master's degree isn't cheap, the introduction of new post graduate funding makes this additional step affordable to most, opening up a world of opportunity for undergraduates wanting a career boost.

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