Employment rate for students after University is currently sitting at the lowest point it has ever been. Today, more students are failing to find a secure job within their field once they graduate. Government officials wonder if these staggering numbers are due to the student’s own personal lack of drive or if completing a higher form of education would help make a difference. These newly released figures prompt the question ‘is completing a Masters degree a waste of time or will it increase job opportunity?’
The Federal Government has released two reports: one from a 2017 graduate survey that states the recent employment rates for these students, and the other an analysis study of students’ employment, four, six and nine years after finishing study. The first report found only 71 per cent of university graduates secure a job within their field right after the completion of their course. The report also stated that another 15 per cent of university graduates were still unemployed within a field of their chosen course four years after graduating. For any current university student, these increased figures of unemployment would not be the most ideal thing to hear. Both the Federal Government and universities would hope to see an improvement in these figures, but maybe students need to look to boosting their undergraduate degrees to give themselves an advantage in the job market.
Dcsribe sat down with Deakin journalism lecturer John Mullen to discuss his thoughts of a Masters degree and whether or not it is worth it.
“No, it is not a waste of time. They [Masters students] see it as a way of giving them another skill that they can use. It is certainly not a waste of time … the Masters allows you to specialise in a lot more,” he said.
With statistics showing graduating students’ employment rates are at their lowest in more than 10 years, it is time for students to make that choice and see doing a Masters in their degree would benefit them in their future job opportunities. “There are two ways of looking at it, you can either build on what you’ve already got, or you can say well ‘I have already got those skills now with the Masters maybe I will do something different’. If you are thinking about doing your Masters you have really got to think about what are the ones [the type of Masters units] that you can do now that are going to compliment what you have already done,” Mullen said.
Research data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency indicates there has been a slight increase in number of students completing their Masters within recent years, with 11 per cent of 26–60-year-olds in the work force holding this higher tertiary degree, compared to the four per cent back in 1996. Though over the years this number has increased, the amount of overall students completing it is still low, despite the competitiveness of the work force out there today.
What students need to understand is the competitive nature of their industry. For a student to stand out from other prospective employees, they need to have something different on offer that others cannot.
“People look at what your qualifications are and if you have done a Masters, because it is so competitive, the employee’s going to say ‘well okay this student has shown that he or she wanted to do a bachelor undergrad and has now gone onto the Masters and has shown enough interest to do that’. So it is a good selling point for when you are going for a job,” Mullen said. “When you have got two people lined up you are going to judge them on their tertiary education.”
For the Federal Government, one of its biggest concerns is to raise this employment rate, however for this to take place, students are going to have to also want to put in that effort for this change to be made. Though completing a Masters degree would provide students with that advantage over other prospective employees in the industry that may only have a Bachelors degree, as Mullen’s explains it is not the only requirement employees today are looking for. “You have also got to keep in mind employees don’t just want people with the tertiary education they also want the people with the practical skills. So as much practical [work] that you can do in line with your field, so that means doing internships, doing work attachment, doing work experience, building up your portfolio, because once again if you go to your employer as someone who has just got a Master’s degree and then they put you down with someone who has got a Bachelor and they also say ‘here’s my portfolio’ … you have got to weigh that up”.
The choice to complete a Masters degree is up to the student. Though employment rates are lower than ever before and this degree has proven to be a greater success in the working industry, a Masters degree is a challenge that can only be completed by someone who wants to do it. “I think if there is no job opportunities and if they [the students] are able to do their Masters, then yeah you do it, but I think it comes back to an individual choice as well,” he said. On the other hand, a Masters degree is always an accomplishment that can be set for achievement later on in life. “There are a number of off-campus students that have been in the workforce and have then decided that they want to do their Masters. They have got their Bachelor maybe three or four years ago, and think ‘oh yeah well now I have got the opportunity, I have settled into a job, I now want to do my masters”, Mullen explains of the noticing trend he sees in students.
Despite concern about the decreased graduate employment rates, universities and lecturers are not at fault. Positive statistics from the same report indicate that for those who were successful in the completion of their university degree, 68 per cent state that their qualification was shown to have importance to their line of work, while just over 79 per cent felt their degree prepared and gave them a great insight to life in the employment industry.