I think one of the main motivations for undertaking postgraduate study is about improving one’s employability and opening up new career options for the future. That was certainly one of the main drivers for me, as I’ve touched upon elsewhere in my blog. Obviously I’m still at the ‘studying for my degree’ stage of the journey, but in this blog I wanted to highlight a few of the benefits I’ve come across which I think postgraduate level education has for improving your employability.
First and foremost I think many postgraduate degree programmes and the MSc Planning is one example, are a great opportunity for you to specialise and gain the knowledge, skills and experience that can prepare you more specifically for a professional career such as a spatial planner or an environmental consultant. It’s true that for a lot of professions you could work your way into a position through other means yes, but having spoken to others working in the field, a masters can often get you there that much quicker, and help you to access a professional tier that it is very unlikely you could reach by other means. I found myself as a graduate with a Geography Bachelor’s degree and whilst that seemed to be opening a number of doors for me, the particular door I wanted was simply inaccessible to me with the experience I had so far, which made a masters the only way to go.
Beyond that chance to specialise, there’s a host of other ways the postgraduate programme has helped me to improve my employability. Being a full-time, one year programme, the work load is intense, with multiple deadlines, often coming in quick succession. That’s meant I’ve really had to hone my time management skills, and learn to work as smartly as possible. I know that I work best in the morning, so I’m up early and in uni as much as possible to take advantage of that time that I know I work best. I always have an eye on the next few assignments that are upcoming too, so that I can look out for useful pieces of text in my reading and make notes as part of essay plans, furthermore I can have any queries ready to ask in my lectures, when my lecturers are stood right there.
I have a deeper and more comprehensive knowledge of the field of planning, whilst also a much broader understanding of all the possible career paths I might take with this degree thanks to the input of numerous guest speakers who come in to talk from all different walks of life. Even though this planning degree feels more specific and specialised than my undergraduate, it is bewildering how many different directions I can take it in, be that the public sector or the private sector, working for an organisation or in a self-employed capacity. There’s no substitute for hearing directly from real people about real experiences, and outside of the postgraduate programme I’m not sure where I could have the input from so many different voices.
The way our lectures are structured, means that there is also at least a day each week which I know will be free, which means I can seek out work experience to go alongside my studies. This is an invaluable opportunity to put into practice what I’ve been learning, and to build up some material for my C.V which I think will be instrumental when I start looking for a job after graduation. I’d recommend you try and get work experience whether you are an undergraduate or a postgraduate student, as it can really help you to stand out from the rest of your peers and is a good way to start making connections with potential employers.
It really feels like I’ve been able to build up my professional skills and knowledge during my postgraduate degree and I certainly feel like I have a lot more to demonstrate in terms of my employability than before I started. I guess the proof will be in how I do at securing my first graduate planning position…!