After you’ve received your diploma, tossed your cap into the air, and recovered from the long night of partying that comes with completing your Bachelor’s, the inevitable sobering question becomes – what next?
If it helps, you’re not alone. Graduates across the world face the same question and always have. Adjusting from the world you have known for the past few years to the difficulties of post-undergrad life can be a shock. Therefore, an increasing amount of students choose not to leave that world, but rather to continue their education with a Master’s degree.
But should you be among them?
Doing a Master’s can be great for those with a clear focus on academia and academically-inclined fields. However, there are graduate schemes with employment opportunities for those looking to get ahead in more concrete industries. They can greatly boost your short-term financial standing while setting you up for long-term success.
The Case for Doing a Master’s First
There are good reasons to pursue a Master’s first.
For one thing, doing a Master’s right after your Bachelor’s can also help you maintain momentum. If you think you’re a bit rusty at academic work after you come back from Spring Break, imagine how it’ll feel to try and “get back into the groove” after a few year’s break. University admissions officers tend to skew toward younger, more compelling candidates. They like to admit students whom they see as fast-rising academic up and comers. This hardly fits the profile of a middle-aged individual returning to school after working for a couple of decades.
Moreover, the older you are, the harder it is to find the time and money to return to education. By contrast, you’re still in “student mode” after finishing your Bachelor’s. Thus, it’s a much easier transition to go right into your Master’s.
Moreover, doing a Master’s can be a great asset for those with majors that are highly academic in nature. Examples include Physics, English, History, or Humanities students. For them, Master’s on the way to a PhD remains one of the most potent pathways to prestige and success.
These fields in particular offer a compelling case for pursuing a Master’s. This is because such fields are dependent on forging connections within academia while also allowing for in-class training. If you aim to be a top-tier physicist, then your academic knowledge and connections will be crucial for getting you started. If you are an English major looking to become a professor or do research work, you can be a teaching assistant. You can help undergrads handle Hamlet while writing your thesis on Shakespeare and prepping for your PhD proposal.
The Case for Doing Work First
That said, most other majors are not as tightly-focused on academia. In their case, while a Master’s is intellectually commendable, it may also delay you from entering your chosen work field.
One of the great assets of the UK’s higher education system is that it supports many different pathways. While a Master’s is one way to go, a graduate scheme allows you to work right out of university. You learn the necessary skills for a career and long-term advancement within your chosen field. Thus, it can help boost your short and long-term prospects.
The biggest and most obvious case for working first is that you get to make money right off the bat. The fact remains that many students remain unemployed or underemployed – a fact only exacerbated when they go for a major.
For many students, obtaining a Masters’s becomes an economic burden. The economic exploitation of undergrad and graduate students is certainly a potent topic. However, for your own immediate future, you may be best served working and attaining skills training.
The Case for Graduate Schemes and Apprenticeships
The way many fields accomplish that is with a graduate scheme. Apprentice positions, in particular, have gained popularity in recent years. Some reasons for this surge in popularity include:
- The ability to earn while gaining vital skills. The minimum wage offered to apprentices is £3.70 an hour. That rate is higher in many programmes. It is still more than you make while paying a university to attain an MA.
- Avoiding student debt. In the UK, students can often leave university with as much as £30,000 in debt.
- Gaining relevant real-world experience. Unless your field is mostly or entirely academic such as certain specialisms in the Sciences and Humanities, real-world experience is essential to gaining a job. Both graduate schemes and apprenticeships have programmes that allow you to gain the training you need. This can provide a huge boost not just to your bank account, but your CV. Just as English and Physics majors need good academic contacts for letters of recommendation, students in fields as diverse as engineering, finance, IT, and business all need real-world contacts and recommendations. Graduate schemes and apprentice programmes provide experience, CV boosts, and professional contacts and support.
- Nationally-recognised qualifications. Neither apprenticeships nor graduate schemes and programmes that allow for work after your BA are all about menial labour. On the contrary, not only is the work involved in these fields exciting, but they also come with certifications that can be essential for your field. Looking to become an engineer, nurse or transport official? You can get a jump on establishing yourself within these and other fields by entering a programme that allows you to work and gain the necessary certification for advancement in your field.
Pay Progression After a Master’s Degree
All of this leads to one of the big questions in the Master’s versus Work First debate – what does the pay progression situation look like?
On the side of those favouring a Master’s degree, a 2013 Sutton Trust report found that, for an average 40-year career, students with Master’s were projected to earn £200,000 more over the course of their working lives than those without higher education.
While that’s hugely encouraging for Master’s students, however, it doesn’t factor in things such as student loans. For example, while an average engineering apprentice’s salary is around £23,200, that comes without student debt. What’s more, that’s only the base level salary for one of the lowest positions in that field. An engineer who has gone through a graduate scheme or apprentice programme can earn big money over the course of their career.
Moreover, without that massive student debt anchoring down the beginning of their adult earning lives, engineers, entrepreneurs, and other young workers in these Work First fields can start amassing capital early on. This can allow them to do something that is increasingly unheard of for Millennials and Gen Z – invest their money or buy a home. Those twin pillars of property and financial enrichment are extremely hard for these generations given their disadvantaged economic state due to factors such as student debt and underemployment.
While it is mostly a guessing game tracking the abstract pay progression of a theoretical Master’s versus a theoretical start in a Work First field, this dichotomy shows the pros and cons of each. The right Master’s in the right field may help you earn more over the course of your lifetime. However, Work First programmes give you a much faster head start and far fewer initial hurdles to clear.
The fact is, however, that either option remains a solid choice. That’s one lesson to take away from all of this – whether you go for a Master’s or an apprenticeship or graduate scheme, you are more than whatever piece of paper you earn. You are the sum total of your knowledge, experience, connections, passion, and most of all, your drive.
Make sure to have a look at our other articles on a range of degrees and much more at the following link: https://examqa.com/articles/ and check out our Youtube channel as well: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCuGRdmg8NcUgn0ymT7-jKNg