Applications for postgraduate study in the UK are rising, with no signs of coronavirus slowing this trend, and it’s easy to see why. Postgraduates earn 24% more than graduates on average.
This suggests that the time and money invested in postgraduate education does pay dividends and increases a person’s chances of securing the most competitively paid jobs.
The latest figures from HESA suggest that business, medicine and education courses have the highest earning potential. Students graduating in these subjects account for 59% of postgraduates earning a minimum of £39,000 15 months after graduation.
In contrast, postgraduate students studying a joint degree programme, veterinary science, agriculture and mass communications account for 1% of those earning £39,000 or more.
But are the most lucrative courses also the most popular? According to HESA’s official data, there is a clear correlation between the most sought-after postgraduate courses and historic earning potential, as the table below reveals.
|Popularity Ranking||Subject||Number of UK Students||Percentage of UK graduates earning £39,000+ within 15 months of graduating|
|1||Business & Administrative Studies||101,995||18%|
|2||Nursing, Health & Medicine||68,725||22%|
|4||Economics, Politics, Sociology & other Social Studies||44,845||9%|
|6||Creative Arts & Design||24,095||2%|
|7||Engineering & Technology||23,865||5%|
|10||Architecture, Building & Planning||15,385||4%|
If you are embarking on postgraduate education this year, it’s useful to be aware of this connection, but there are also other factors to consider before deciding on a course and academic institution.
Making a considered choice
Many vocational courses have a distinct career destination and therefore have a high postgraduate employability track record. For example, people studying for a postgraduate degree in education are typically aiming to become a teacher, while those studying a medicine-related course will work as a medical practitioner. These courses generally include a period of time practising in the industry environment, therefore graduates leave well-equipped for a job and the success rate is high.
Although employment numbers are historically higher in certain sectors, external factors such as internship experience and volunteer work can help you stand out from the crowd. This is not related to the course choice, but it can help separate you from your peers. It is worth bearing in mind that academic achievements alone do not guarantee the most lucrative employment opportunities.
Fewer graduate schemes
The number of postgraduate training schemes has decreased, however numbers should begin to rise this year with coronavirus vaccine developments.
A course that offers industry placement of some kind, often referred to as a ‘sandwich course,’ can differentiate you from other candidates lacking work experience when applying for jobs. These types of courses can boost your perceived employability by providing valuable insight into the world you’re learning about in a real-life environment.
Already in employment
Postgraduate education is not only for recent undergraduates. If you are already in employment and want to accelerate or change your career, you may consider studying for The Master of Business Administration (MBA). The average age of students on top-ranking MBA courses range between 27 and 30, and three years’ work experience is a standard prerequisite.
The Chartered Association of Business Schools (CABS) revealed that more than 61,000 people have studied for an MBA in the UK, making up nearly one in four of all postgraduate degrees.
Course fees are high, typically ranging from £15,000 to £40,000, so it’s important to see a return on your investment. An MBA can often lead to a management role, increased earnings or aid a career change, as well as expanding your network of business contacts.
 Graduate labour market statistics: 2018, Department for Education
 Graduates’ salaries: 2017-18, HESA
 What do HE students study?: 2018-19, HESA
 Graduating into a pandemic: the impact on university finalists:2020, Prospects Luminate
 What is an MBA?: 2020, Prospects
 The changing shape of business education provision: 2019, The Chartered Association of Business Schools (CABS)