Next level: is your degree enough?

Today, huge numbers of students are choosing to do masters and PhDs, or to take years abroad, so extending their time at university. But why is this happening? Why are we all so keen to prolong our time spent collecting debt in education? One answer is that it makes us more desirable candidates for future employers. Having a masters, a PhD, or a year spent in Spain looks far more tempting on a CV than simply “graduated with a 2.1 in history”. But now that so many people choose to carry on in education, for how long can this continue to single us out from the herd?

Second-year history student, Rosie, said: “I think people just feel like they have to do them now. Everyone is, and so if you don’t you’re already a leg behind. I don’t particularly want to spend another year drowning in debt, but I’m afraid that if I don’t then any potential future jobs will go to those who have”. This fear seems to be a common one in students and is even a leading reason for choosing to do a masters, PhD or year abroad. I spoke to many students who were either considering their time at university, or who had already decided to do so: they all agreed that at least part of the reason behind this was the fear of life after graduation.

Second-year law student Estera admitted that when she was considering studying for a masters it was more with the intention of avoiding the terrifying job market, than to make herself a more desirable employee. “I just didn’t want to work”, she said, “I wanted to coast forever”. Luckily, Estera’s degree means that a masters is not always necessary. “As long as I get a training contract after I graduate I should be fine. But it’s scary, you hear so many horror stories about unemployed graduates and I just never wanted to be one of those”.

The fear of being the unemployed graduate, desperately searching for a job, struggling financially and living at Mum and Dad’s indefinitely seems to be the biggest motivator for a lot of students choosing to stay at university for longer. Second-year English student Jack said: “I definitely want to stand out more to employees but, to be honest, I would do it mostly to avoid going into the real world”.

The sheer number of students who are choosing to do masters purely out of fear goes to show just how bleak a view most of us now have of the real world, so much so that we would prefer to spend another year gathering debt. For many of us, the idea of finding well-paid, enjoyable employment any time soon after graduation seems little more than a fairy tale. The job market ahead of us looks like a vicious, unforgiving and cut-throat ordeal and so, funnily enough, it seems like most of us would like to put it off.


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May 2022
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