A way to kick-start one’s career, a shortcut to superb professionalism or a way to expose yourself to different mindsets and mentalities. What exactly does an international Master’s degree give to its graduates? The answer is, quite frankly, all of the above.

Expert knowledge

A Master’s programme is designed to offer specialisation in a certain topic. Master’s education offers a skill, a craft, a profession. It allows graduates to proudly state at the job interview: “I am confident that I can do this job”. Since the focus is on hard professional skills and knowledge, Master’s graduates typically become successful and highly valued experts in their respective fields.

Maria Abondano, a Hult International Business School graduate says that “due to the altered perspective and improved knowledge” in the wake of her Master’s, she was promoted to International Banking Director with her employer Findeter, a Colombia-based Development Fund, “in just three months” after going back to work.

Often the Master’s programme’s majors and minors will be the titles of future professions. An MSc in Financial Markets can produce capital investment consultants. An MA in International Marketing will create product development experts, and a more far-reaching degree such as a Master’s in Financial Economics “can lead to careers in asset & risk management, trading, corporate finance, banking, and auditing & management control”, claims EDHEC Business School.

The best answer to unemployment

The infamous College Graduate Curse: “You can’t get a job because you have no work experience, because you can’t get a job, because you have no work experience” lingers and is unlikely to change any time soon. It has always been that way, but recent economic developments have only served to reaffirm and establish, rather than debunk and devalue, this rather unfortunate case of Catch-22.

Postgraduate education has become even more crucial in a person’s career development in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC). This is because, while the labour market across the hard-hit developed world stagnated, universities did not stop educating young people, leading to an excess of educated work force, but a shortage of jobs for them to fill. As a result, businesses and organisations became more demanding of its job-seekers, and a simple Bachelor’s degree was simply not enough of a qualification to get employed. 

Economics and demographics focused research institutes across the globe have done extensive research on this topic. In a report published in the midst of the GFC (2010), the Vienna Institute of Demography, basing its conclusions on Eurostat data, claimed that “Focusing on the education sector, it seems that the demand for education increases because individuals try to circumvent the tight labour market”.

Europe in particular has developed a notorious problem with youth unemployment in the wake of the Crisis. In a January 2015 report by the European Commission, bureaucrats admit that “the economic crisis severely hit the young”, with unemployment rates peaking at 23.6% in 2013. But Brussels, too, acknowledges that education is a cure for unemployment, stating that “educational qualifications are still the best insurance against unemployment, which clearly increases the lower the level of education attained.”

The report goes on to say that “this characteristic was noted in all [European Union] Member States in 2013, as the average unemployment rate in the EU-28 for those aged between 25 and 64 having attained at most a lower secondary education was 17.9%, much higher than the rate of unemployment for those that had obtained a tertiary education qualification (5.9%).”

The Master’s greatest advantage is that it adds an additional layer of qualification, thus effectively dealing with the problem of employability.

This is also the greatest ROI argument of Master’s education. A Master’s degree naturally increases your chances of getting a good, well-paying job. Employment means income. Steady income gradually leads to returns on your investment in the Master’s degree that made you desirable for your employer in the first place.

Stats don’t lie

For the sake of truthfulness, let us look at some statistics. Financial Times’ latest rankings suggest that 61% of Master’s in Finance graduates with previous work experience found employment within three months upon graduation, while those without prior experience scored employment levels of 83% on the same factor. Furthermore, graduates in Master’s in Management programmes across the world have been even more successful in finding work quickly, with 88%, scoring a job in three months. The disparity could be traced to a couple of important factors. First, universities which require prior work experience when it comes to their Master’s admission policies are in fact a rarity. This has led to only five schools being featured in that particular ranking. At the same time, rankings reflecting schools without work experience requirements for admission, list as many as 45 for Finance and 70 for Management. Second, the fact that graduates who have already had some work experience could be less inclined to jump right back into paid labour, and instead start their own ventures, or go on a break. On the other hand, graduating Master’s students aged 24-26, who have mostly never worked before, are eager to apply their freshly learned skills and begin their careers immediately. This means that the statistics claiming 83-88% employability within 3 months upon graduation are more representative of the real impact of Master’s education on alumni.

But what about the money, you ask?

Well, good news. According to the same report, Master's in Finance graduates make an average of 63,000 USD per year, while Master's in Management professionals receive a median of 55,000 USD per annum. But perhaps most importantly, Master’s education is also a scalable investment, as demonstrated by the 65.5% increase in remuneration experienced by graduates in Finance as a result of their Master’s qualification. This particular percentage is indicative of the growth factor for those with prior experience since it traces a “before-and-after” period, with the point of impact being the acquisition of postgraduate education.

International exposure

Another important, and arguably even defining, factor of international Master’s education is its cross-cultural effect.

Rashmi Jeswani, an MSc in International Business from SKEMA Business School shares that “the international diversity of the class provides a perfect multi-cultural environment that one would face in any global company. It not only provides an opportunity to understand and relate to different points of views but also a great chance to develop your network across continents.”

Her words echo in the minds of many graduates from international programmes.

But another similar point of view comes from business itself. In an interview by Arthur Walus, Career Advisor at INSIGNIS Business School Paris with an International Human Resources Director who manages a global business with more than 3,000 workers and 20 stores from Moscow, Russia, the executive claims that “students have to do their best to develop their own network, to talk with people […] Obviously, to be adaptable, thanks to previous international internships for instance, is a real asset in this view.”

This goes to show that international experience is a real asset in the view of both Master’s graduates and their future employers.

Crucially, international Master’s education is about the complex mix of profound knowledge, applied expertise, employability and multi-cultural exposure that, when put together, will define a person for the rest of their life. The personal and professional characteristics that such education provides can truly make you a Master of your own destiny.

This article has been produced by Advent Group and featured in the 2015-2016 Access Masters Guide