Rise of the Masters

By Charlotte Barnfather

After already completing three years of studying, meeting deadlines and endless stress over January and summer exams, why are so many students coming back?

When enrolment finishes and figures can begin to be analysed it is expected that the numbers of students staying on at Swansea to do a masters will have increased this year. After speaking to many postgraduate students there seems to be a wide variety of reasons that encouraged them to apply for a fourth year at Swansea, now ranked the top university in Wales. Do students really need a higher qualification to reach their dream jobs? Or are students today simply too afraid to enter the real world?

One of the most common factors for students returning to university is due to the difficulty and struggles of getting onto a graduate scheme. Postgraduate Business student Martha Pugh found it incredibly challenging to gain a position at these companies when she wanted to specialise in Human Resources. ‘Although I knew that finding a job in HR would be challenging, I thought that having a first class degree would give me an advantage. However because of the competitive industry, I have had to return to university at a great financial expense. My masters is essential in order for me to gain the professional qualifications that are required to help me achieve my dream career.’  Despite being predicted a First Class Honors in a very recognised and valued Business Management degree, there was no success for Martha or other students applying for similar positions.

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Martha Pugh
Martha Pugh

One of the biggest reasons for students facing rejection from graduate schemes is the very high level of competition. Thousands of graduates are applying for the same schemes, which can only take on a small percentage of applicants every year. It is becoming increasingly more competitive; therefore graduates need to stand out. They can do this by ensuring they have both sufficient and relevant work experience, an impressive and well-structured CV and most importantly an evident passion and ambition to work for the company. Postgraduate Sam Dyke made the decision to return to Swansea to complete his masters in International Security and Development. Sam describes his reasons behind this decision. ‘The reasons for me returning to do a masters was two fold: I needed to be more qualified for the jobs I was applying for in a competitive market and I enjoyed the intellectual challenges university presents. Swansea University’s centenary programme of offering students discounted masters for a good result in their undergraduate programme, was simply an added bonus. This will improve their employability, as this additional qualification will stand out from other graduates.’ After completing his first week on the MA programme Sam has already found it more than satisfactory, ‘the masters programme seems to be everything I hoped. Hopefully it will allow me to enter my chosen industry with the necessary skills and qualifications required, giving us the thing we all want from university; a good career’.

As Sam has highlighted a big incentive for students to return to Swansea are the opportunities available for scholarships. English literature postgraduate student Claire Cuddihy describes her decision to return to Swansea.  ‘Having accepted a graduate job in Accountancy starting in July this year, I never saw myself returning to Swansea (as much as I would have loved to!) However, upon starting my job I realised how unsuitable it was for an English Literature graduate like myself. After learning more about the Fast Track scholarship programme I decided it would be silly not to apply for an MA especially given the range of scholarships on offer.’ Claire like many other students have benefitted from the scholarship programme. However, the question remains, If the university did not offer such generous scholarships, would so many students choose to complete their masters? Is this huge saving just an excuse for students to extend their studies? Or are students seeing this as a promising opportunity to further develop their qualifications, making them more employable for the future?

Unfortunately undergraduate degrees are becoming increasingly common and are often not enough for some employers. Employers today are searching for something more, which highlights a candidates enthusiasm and passion for their specialised subject. Returning to Swansea University is not about avoiding the ‘real world’ of work. A Masters takes time, dedication and hours of research to achieve this highly recognised qualification.

Completing a Masters is not the easy option; it is quite literally the harder option. Students are dedicating an extra twelve months of their time in education, to ensure that they are efficiently prepared for the real world. Masters students do not want to settle for an unsatisfactory job, just because they need one. They want to strive for their dream career, where they are able to fulfill all of their ambitions, which one more year in education will most certainly make possible

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