Your Masters qualification: Adding value in a specialist field

Two graduands in their robes, outside Aston WebbA postgraduate taught (PGT) qualification is a prerequisite for some careers. Whilst not obligatory for other careers, it can be a huge asset. Nevertheless, there is still tough competition when trying to secure a job., the UK’s official graduate careers website, states:

Masters-level graduates face the same competition as thousands of first degree graduates, but their chances of success are potentially increased by their postgraduate qualification, as this provides added value to their CV. Employers welcome the transferable skills as well as the more technical and vocational skills gained through specific Masters study.

Adding value

If you are currently undertaking a Masters qualification where you are gaining specific skills, knowledge or technical expertise directly related to your chosen career, you need to think about:

number 1

Gaining experience

If you have the opportunity, undertaking a placement or work shadowing can help you gain an excellent insight into what the “real job” is like and find out what advantage your Masters degree will afford you. You can also make contacts and form a network of people who may be able to assist in your career development.

number 2

Talking to employers

What value do potential employers place on your Masters qualification? What specialist skills are they particularly interested in? Talking to employers can help you gain a greater understanding of your future job roles and help you network and make connections. It can also give you an insight into the skills that employers regard as the most valuable, which can be crucial when applying for jobs.

Trade shows and conferences are a good way of meeting employers. There are various opportunities throughout the year to liaise with employers on campus, at jobs fairs and careers events

number 3

Be aware of the variety of opportunities

A Masters in Engineering can lead to a number of career prospects: water management, structural engineering, road management, design consultancies, construction, and a variety of other options. A Masters in Mathematics may lead towards finance, banking, or nuclear engineering. Whichever path you take, be aware that the additional skills and knowledge you have gained as part of your Masters study add tangible value that you can learn to communicate to an employer effectively.

number 4

Marketing your Masters effectively

Gaining your Masters qualification is an important step in your career development, but knowing how to market your qualification – and the attendant skills, confidence and expertise you have gained – can be just as important. As a Masters student, you will have developed your in-depth knowledge of a particular subject during a period of intense advanced study. You may also have worked on projects, demonstrating practical skills and transferable skills such as teamwork, organisation and project management.

You may also gain accreditation or professional membership as a result of your Masters. An MSc in Civil Engineering undertaken at the University of Birmingham, for example, results in professional accreditation and meets the requirements for Further Learning for a Chartered Engineer (CEng). Not all Masters programmes in the UK will offer such accreditation, and being able to show an employer that you have gained this as part of your studies may be a valuable addition to your skills and knowledge.

Case study: Professor John Tellam

Professor Tellam is the MSc Hydrogeology Course tutor in the University of Birmingham’s School of Earth Sciences. The Hydrogeology MSc Course in the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences has an annual intake of between 20 and 30 students. Hydrogeology is the study of groundwater, and the course has been a major supplier of groundwater specialists to the water industry in the UK, and also to overseas water industries, for over 40 years.

Graduates from the Hydrogeology MSc find employment with a variety of employers, both in the UK and abroad, including:

  • consultancy companies
  • water companies
  • governmental environmental regulators (e.g. environmental protection agencies)
  • local government services (e.g. concerned with waste disposal management)
  • research institutes
  • engineering contractors

Almost all employers require a Masters or PhD qualification at entry, as the work involves a range of laboratory, field and computer modelling skills, and requires knowledge of groundwater hydraulics and chemistry, and sometimes ecology. 


We asked John to give us his tips for current Masters students, and also tell us what other factors he thinks can set students apart from their peers in an industry sector where a PGT qualification is a necessity.

John advises students to consider the following:

  • Choose projects and options that interest you, rather than what you think employers will want to see: employers like to see enthusiasm, ability, and successful completion of a complex task. 
  • Start job hunting early, and consider what sort of job would suit you best. Research companies and talk to your lecturers and the Careers Network. The course Careers Day is also a great opportunity to meet employers and pass on your CV. 
  • If approaching a company, see if your lecturers have any contacts within technical departments – these people may have knowledge of upcoming roles, and are more likely to spot any special skills you may have to offer.
  • Do not over-embellish your CV – keep it simple, informative, and relevant. Careers Network can offer help, and you can ask your tutors for advice.
  • Be clear about your technical interests, but remember that employers are often looking for indicators of initiative too, which may come from outside your study (travel, charity work, expertise, major sporting achievements, student officer appointments).
  • Prepare well for the interview – expect technical questions, research the company, and ask questions, and observe interview etiquette. Remember that the interviewer wants a technically capable, bright, adaptable, enthusiastic employee who will fit into the ethos of the organization and who will be fun to work with – and aim to get that impression across!


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