Since the recession of 2008, much public interest has been focused on the effects of recession on graduates from degrees, but what of masters?
Manchester-based HECSU (Higher Education Careers Services Unit ) has examined latest government data on masters graduates and finds that Masters graduates have continued to suffer from recession in the labour market.
The original data, from HESA (Higher Education Statistics Agency), is the result of surveys compiled between 2007 and 2010, and provides information on the activities of students after leaving higher education.
The surveys were carried out approximately six months after students completed their courses and the information includes the type of work a leaver has entered or what further study they may be engaged in.
Charlie Ball, deputy director of the independent HECSU, said in the latest edition of Graduate Market Trends: “After a fall in employment rates and a rise in unemployment as the recession began in 2008/9, masters graduates saw outcomes deteriorate further in 2009/10 with no evidence of an end to recession in the employment market.”
Data from 2010 shows that full-time masters graduates had an unemployment rate slightly higher than their full-time undergraduate counterparts.
This may be, in part, attributable to a large rise in the number of graduates with masters qualifications.
Many students who completed first degrees at the height of the recession in 2008/9 opted to return to study rather than seek work at that time.
He added: “The overall effect has been a steady rise in the unemployment rate for masters graduates and the one conclusion we can draw with some certainty is that outcomes for Masters graduates are less favourable than they were pre-recession.
“What is not currently clear is whether this is a response to recession and consequent increased enrolment on masters courses, or indicates a deeper weakness in the labour market for masters graduates. However, these findings underline that, far from the popular misconception that ‘you need a masters to get a job these days,’ a qualification comes with no guarantee of employment at the end of your course.”
The research suggests that there has been a modest increase in the proportion of full-time Masters graduates gaining work in finance and management roles but a fall in the numbers securing professional roles in health and social care.
In his article, ‘Masters graduates in the recession’, which turns statistical information into intelligence, Mr Ball makes a distinction between full and part-time Masters graduates, and their differing employment needs and prospects.
He shows that part-time Masters students have an unemployment rate a third that of their young, full-time counterparts, explaining that the former group are more likely to be working full or part-time during their course and after completion.
Mr Ball said that early analysis of data for 2011 suggests that prospects for masters graduates may have improved in the last 12 months but it is too early to be sure.
Karen Reeves from the College of Health and Social Care at the University of Salford said: “Whilst a postgraduate degree in itself may not guarantee a job, the skills and discipline needed to study to this level, and the overall university experience that comes with it, can significantly increase a graduate’s employability and future prospects. In such a competitive market a masters degree helps graduates stand out from the competition.”
Trudy Bore, 48, a senior speech and language therapist and mother of 4, has taken a masters degree she said, to be up-to-date with the latest research and to enable her in the jobs market in a specialist field. She is considering a PhD.
Brian Taylor, 75, a retired engineering consultant, is studying a masters in project management at Manchester Metropolitan University, with the aim to write a book. He is enjoying studying environmental issues in particular and has also met many interesting people from around the world.
He said:”I like to keep my mind active.”
There are many reasons to undertake a masters degree but prospective students are advised to choose their courses carefully and seek the advice of impartial professional careers staff.
Picture courtesy of Adorienne