Studying a Masters/Grad Cert/PhD – Is it worth it?

By Alex Hargreaves

Have you ever considered studying a postgraduate degree but have immediately come up with a million excuses not to pursue it?  Despite all of the many reservations you may have, studies have shown that graduates with post graduate qualification earn a median salary of $80,000.  This is above the national average of $78,832. Furthermore, postgraduate qualifications can help you to completely change career direction, advance your current career, learn new skills and be taken seriously in the work place.  There are many perks, but there are also considerable downsides.  Going back to university also means going back to late nights, weekends spent on Google Scholar and for those who will be studying full time, adopting a new diet consisting of noodles, energy drinks and the occasional McDonalds splurge.

postgraduate study

If you do decide to go for your GradCert/Masters/PHD and actually complete it, you will be an Australian unicorn, as only 6.4% of the national population have post graduate qualifications.  In today’s society, with so much emphasis placed on real experience in the world of work, it makes sense to want to leave theory behind and get down to business.  In fact, studies have shown that employers are more likely to hire someone with a Bachelor’s degree and relevant experience than someone with a Master’s degree and no work experience at all.  Prospective students also report having concerns that a post graduate degree will be too theoretical for the practical skills they are seeking.

Graduate, Harry, completed his Graduate Certificate in Interactive Media in 2012.  Harry already had a steady full time job and completed his degree on campus during night classes. Harry says that while he found parts of his degree practical, he really did it for the piece of paper.

“I was trying to integrate digital learning with my current position.  I have always been interested in 3D Graphics, Animation, Photoshop, Dreamcast etc.  I have strong skills in all of these software platforms yet I felt as if people were not taking me seriously when I suggested I could take on digital projects” Harry explained.

As Harry is slowly edging closer to retirement, he feels as though projects he is capable of doing to a high standard are always assigned to people who are younger and less skilled than him.

“It is frustrating when I offer to take ownership of my team’s digital presentations and the newer staff all assume that they will be able to do a better job simply because they are younger than I am.  I wanted to obtain something that proved that I had a high level of knowledge in digital design and animation and that I was qualified to demonstrate these skills in my work” Harry said.

Ever since Harry began studying his Graduate Certificate, his team members have called on him for a range of digital project help, such as redesigning their web page, creating advanced presentations, photo shopping company logos into work documents and creating interactive business cards for everyone.

“I honestly didn’t learn anything that I didn’t already know how to do in my Graduate Certificate, but it has earned me respect from my colleagues and it has varied up the work load in my current job. I am also pleased that I may be able to use my qualification to help me gain freelance work once I retire” Harry exclaimed.

Recent Graduate of Masters of Education, Melissa, says that she could not be working in her current position if not for the completion of her Masters degree.  Melissa graduated from a Bachelor of Music in 2014, and was doing some casual work at the time teaching her neighbours kids to play piano. Melissa realized that the joy she felt from teaching others to play music was just as great as the joy she felt when she was playing music herself on stage.

“I knew that if I wanted to teach people music full time, I would need to gain an additional qualification.  I was lucky in that I realized that I needed to complete more study to achieve my dreams before I even graduated” Melissa said.

Melissa wasted no time and began her Masters degree the semester after she graduated from her Bachelors.  She urged recent graduates who were in a comfortable position to take on further study to not wait and just go for it.

“I was still living at home at the time and didn’t have financial stress, so I realized that if I was going to go for it, I had to do it fast.  I completed a lot of PRAC work as part of my Masters degree and by the time I graduated, I had a large network of teacher friends and acquaintances.  It didn’t take long before I landed my first job teaching music full time at a primary school close to home” Melissa exclaimed.

Melissa’s story is unique, as many grads tend to put the idea of future study off for as long as possible.  Business Graduate, Laura, has been intending on starting a Masters in Social Work for the last five years.

“I graduated from Business in 2013 and couldn’t find any jobs I was interested in, so I somehow ended up working in a real estate agency and that is what I’m still doing now.  I thought a lot about working as a social worker when I graduated, however of course I knew I had studied the wrong degree and would need to consider a Masters in Social work if I wanted to get the correct qualification in the shortest amount of time”.

Laura complained that finances and program delivery were the biggest hindrances to beginning a Masters degree.

“I live out of home with my boyfriend and he doesn’t earn enough money to pay all of our rent and bills by himself.  If I could study the program online I would probably consider it, but unfortunately I can only seem to find on campus course offerings” Laura explained.

With many universities (including Griffith) slowly adapting their course delivery styles to suit a range of different lifestyles, there are more and more courses offered that would suit the needs if a full-time worker. Ultimately, the choice to study a postgraduate degree is not black and white and will be a lot more possible to some than others.

The most important factors that need to be considered are how much time you are able to dedicate to your study, whether you will choose to study internally or externally and how your post graduate qualification is going to benefit your future. It may take you five years to figure all of these details out, but a postgraduate degree is a huge investment and it is worth waiting to make sure that it will bring you the return you are hoping for.



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