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The value of a postgraduate degree | Education | The Guardian

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The value of a postgraduate degree

Sat 9 Mar 2002 06.39 EST First published on Sat 9 Mar 2002 06.39 EST

In the current fast-paced business environment, more and more people are investing time and resources in postgraduate education.

The lifelong-learning concept is becoming a "must" for those who wish to travel safely, and possibly successfully, out of the recession. This is probably the ideal time to be out of the labour market and back in the classroom. Graduate students can gain new skills and competences that will give them the right equipment to re-enter the competitive arena with renewed confidence - provided they choose the right programme.

"A specialist master degree facilitates entry into the job market, adding value to undergraduate degrees that offer limited job opportunities," says Professor Borgonovi, director of SDA Bocconi, the most renowned Italian business school. Bocconi supplies MBA programmes, as well as a range of other postgraduate degrees, from corporate finance to fashion management. "Specialised master courses," adds Professor Borgonovi, "enable students to follow the dynamics of a changing job market more closely and rapidly by responding to the emergence of new professional fields and evolving competencies within traditional professions."

In the current market, with business and industry striving to recover from last year's economic slump, can we still affirm that a postgraduate degree is a "door-opening" qualification?

Dr Meda, of the Italian Association for Management Education Development (ASFOR), says the statistics speak for themselves - 92% to 100% (depending on the programme) graduates find a job within six months of graduating at one of the 21 ASFOR-recognised masters amongst the Italian institutions. Dr Meda holds that, when it comes to choosing a specialised masters degree in a business subject, it is important to consider the various programmes on offer by evaluating them accordingly to key criteria. Two of the most important measures are the reputation of the school amongst the business community, and the content of the course itself. Even the most vocational programme, asserts Dr Meda, should comprise approximately 30% of general management theory. Paola Vecchio, recruiting manager of AT Kearney Italia, shares the same view. "During the interview process, which also involves problem-solving tests, it often emerges that brilliant graduates of specialised masters somehow lack the flexibility and broad vision of an MBA. Obviously there are positions that require highly specialised expertise, but when it comes to consultancy it's always better to be able to assess the overall situation as well as the specific needs of a client."

In terms of salary expectations, however, it is difficult to assess the value of a specialised master.

"From our observations, the salary offered by companies has a strong relationship with the background and experience of the candidate," says Ms Nesrin Rachid, marketing/communications associate at Rotterdam school of management. "At RSM we see strong value for candidates to undertake a postgraduate business course after a few years of work experience.

"Students with some experience add to the diversity in the classroom from their varied professional backgrounds - from different industries and different functional roles. The recruiting companies also appreciate this factor."

All in all, a business specialised masters can prove to be a great investment, but it is necessary to do research, to meet the admissions officers and to pose questions before embarking upon the learning process.

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