Masters – start here!

timersIf you’re just starting your Masters degree, it can all be a bit overwhelming, but half an hour’s planning now could be the difference between having your dream job lined up after you graduate – or struggling to catch up at the end of your Masters, as you realise those plum jobs have already been taken.

Why the rush?
Some employers in the UK recruit a year in advance for jobs ideal for Masters postgraduates. This mainly applies to large, well-known employers with “graduate programmes” ie their elite “fast track into management” entry-level programmes. They’re visiting campuses and careers fairs and accepting applications right now for jobs which start just after you finish your Masters. If you miss this window, you’ll find that they may be advertising similar jobs when you graduate – but they’ll be for start dates in autumn 2015.

But I’m not an undergraduate – what about the “Masters programmes”, rather than “graduate programmes”?
In the UK, if an employer has a “fast track into management” programme, they normally call them “graduate programmes”, even if they’d be perfectly happy with someone who is doing a Masters. Of course, some UK employers do want a specialist Masters qualification (often linked to experience), but for an early career/entry level job, most will be happy with either a good undergrad degree or a Masters.

This is different outside the UK, where a Masters may be seen as a requirement. For example, look out for companies with Europe-wide management programmes where they are more likely to expect a Masters degree as standard.

So I should panic and start applying now?
Not necessarily …

  • If you have 3 years+ experience since graduating with a first degree, you’re probably well  beyond these “graduate schemes”. You’re looking for experienced hire jobs which could be advertised at any time of year, and are very unlikely to be recruiting a year in advance (more likely 2-3 months before they want you).
  • If you are looking for a very niche or specialist role, or want to work for a smaller organisation, again they’re unlikely to be recruiting a year in advance.
  • If you want to get into one of those graduate schemes, the fast-track-into-management programmes, particularly if they’re with a “big name” employer, then you should seriously consider focusing on your career at the start of your Masters, or you may miss out for another year.
  • If you’re not looking for a job next but want to get on to a research degree, applications often need to be in by Christmas/January. To be honest, academics have often found “leading candidates” well before that, as keen would-be PhDs make contact and sound them out over the next couple of months. Now’s the time to start your search, particularly if you want any funding.

Help with your Master Plan
I’ve written a document to help Masters at the start of their programmes figure out what they need to do, and by when, to achieve their career aims at the end of their postgraduate degree. It’s a long document – but you won’t need to read more than a couple of pages or so. At the start, there are a few questions for you to answer. These tell you which pages are relevant to your situation, right now. You can ignore the rest (unless you change your ideas, of course).

It’s available on the Careers Service website, in the Postgraduate section, or you can download it below:

Careers Success for Masters: What to do, when to do it (pdf)

Your Careers Timetable for the year
We have lots of support for you during the year, but certain key events only happen during the autumn. Our Careers Service timetable for 2013/14 is available to download as a pdf, or you can view it here (click on the image for a larger, clearer version):


Don’t panic – plan!
Getting on to a Masters degree proves that you’re smart, and more than capable of managing this whole process. A lot of the resources you will need are already available on our Careers Service website and through CareersLink. I’ll be continuing to highlight support and information through this blog and on twitter – and if you need to speak to one of us, just make an appointment.

(OK, apologies if you have to wait a bit for an appointment – around 15,000 of our students will be looking for a job at the end of this academic year, and they all want appointments in October! However, we will have lots of appointment slots available – just ask.)

Masters talks – starting this week
I’m giving a number of talks for postgraduates over the next few weeks, including Finding a Job for Masters (this Friday, 4th October), CVs for Masters, Interviews for Masters, Assessment Centres for Masters & PhDs, and Academic Careers. Further details in this post here – Postgrad Talks, Autumn 2013 – or search for “Postgrad Focus” events on CareersLink.

5 responses to “Masters – start here!”

  1. Hi Elizabeth,
    Thanks for that blog post very useful! I’ve just started an MA myself but as I’m giving applications advice this Friday I won’t be able to come to your ‘Finding a job’ lecture. Is there any chance you could forward me a powerpoint/notes?

    1. Elizabeth (Postgraduate Careers) Avatar
      Elizabeth (Postgraduate Careers)

      Hi Michelle

      Sorry you can’t make it on Friday, but I hope to add the info to my slideshare online talks. That means there will not only be slides but also audio to go with it (which is useful, because my slides on their own rarely give you the whole picture). There might be a bit of a delay while I record and edit the talks for online use, but should be an updated version available in the next couple of weeks (the last version dates back to 2011, so needs an update).

      You can find these “slidecasts” using the dropdown Postgrad menu on this blog, or on the Postgrad careers website.


      1. Thanks Elizabeth that’s great will bookmark it and keep an eye out.

  2. Hi, Is there any way I can get off this mailing list. I know I am doing a Masters but I have a job and I’m 58!

    1. Elizabeth (Postgraduate Careers) Avatar
      Elizabeth (Postgraduate Careers)

      Hi Kate

      Of course! (At least, I hope so.) The only problem is I’m not sure which mailing list you’re referring to so I’ll cover all 3 lists you might be on.

      a) The most likely one you’re referring to is the colourful “News from your Careers Service” postgrad careers email which we’ve just sent out. This is sent to all postgrads initially, but there’s an “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of the email, which should work. Let me know if it doesn’t, as it’s a new email system and we’ll want to make sure any problems are fixed as soon as possible (given the state of my inbox, I’ve got no desire to add to someone else’s, if they don’t need/want the info!).

      b) Less likely, but if you’re referring to an email you’ve subscribed to for this blog, there should also be unsubscribe links on the email, either from WordPress, if you’ve clicked the box on the blog which said “Send me all posts by email”, or from Feedburner, if you’ve subscribed to only the postgrad posts.

      Don’t think there are any other mailing lists which would have sent you here, but if I’ve missed one, let me know.

      I know lots of our Masters postgrads are experienced professionals and certainly don’t need any careers advice – but if you fancy passing on your experience to other Masters, or undergrads, we’d love to hear from you. You could even write a blog post about getting into your line of work!

      Have a great postgraduate experience, and let me know if those pesky emails continue.

      Best regards

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