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 by Mark Bennett
, posted on 5 Sep '19

The Top 10 Subjects for Postgraduate Employment

Postgraduate study is a chance to gain new skills and a valuable additional qualification. There's also evidence to suggest that people with a Masters do go on to earn more, on average, than those who only have Bachelors degrees.

But what about your immediate prospects as a fresh new postgraduate? Will having a Masters in your subject actually help you find work? We've taken a look at the top 10 subjects for postgraduate employment prospects: these are the Masters (and similar courses) with the highest proportion of graduates in UK employment after six months.

Follow us for a step-by-step look at the top 10 subjects:

Joint 10th – Computer Science and Biological Sciences

Our list starts with a tie as these two quite different subjects offer equally good postgraduate prospects. Both a Masters degree in Biological Sciences and a Masters degree in Computer Science are likely to increase your employability as 69% of (post)graduates find work within six months.

Bioscience underpins a range of issues, from theoretical research to applications in medicine, pharmacy, public health and policy. In fact, almost as many Bioscience postgraduates work in public administration as in scientific and technical roles. Presumably some of them help administer science and technology.

Computer Science also has some fairly obvious applications, such as making it possible for me to write this blog, teleport it into the interweb-sky and have it beamed down into your device of choice.* Given the current focus on AI, machine learning and other really interesting things, it's no surprise that Computer Science postgrads seem pretty employable.

*This may not be accurate. I'd probably have a better idea how this internet stuff works if I had a Masters in Computer Science.

9th – Business

Is Business is pretty much the most professional Masters degree? I mean, it's literally the study of the things lots of people work in and for. Either way, 70% of Business postgrads are in business (or, at least, work) six months after they finish. This is good news for the most popular postgraduate subject.

High employability is probably no surprise here, given that this subject includes lots of prestigious MBA courses and that many students will be budding entrepreneurs. If you're one of them, it may be worth checking the many different types of Masters degree in Business available to you.

8th – Agriculture

Agriculture also seems to offer fertile ground for postgraduate employment (sorry-not-sorry) with 71% of graduates finding work six months after they graduate.

This makes sense for such a clearly vocational field (Enough! - puns ed') and, sure enough, farming, forestry and fishing are all popular career options with a Masters degree in Agriculture. Opportunities are more diverse than you might think though, reflecting the contribution Agriculture graduates can make to current debates about climate change, environmental impact and ethics.

Joint 6th - Creative Arts & Design and Mass Communication and Media Studies

It's time to ditch a few tired stereotypes as it turns out that Masters degrees in subjects like Creative Arts, Design, Mass Communications and Media Studies (yes, that's right) are actually some of the best options for postgraduate employability, with 72% of graduates finding work after six months.

A Masters degree in Creative Arts and Design can lead to a diverse range of careers in practice and performance. They're also big business – if you're reading this on a smartphone or you've paid money to see a film or play recently, you'll get what I mean.

The benefit of a Media & and Communications Masters degree isn't as surprising to me as it is might be to some hypothetical lazy newspaper columnists with a fondness for decrying so-called "Mickey Mouse degrees". We live in an age when the media we consume and the way we consume it are changing rapidly, whilst public relations and marketing work are a vital part of an successful organisation. Plus, when Mickey Mouse has the biggest market share of any major film studio, he's probably worth studying, right?

5th – Medicine & Dentistry

People need doctors, surgeons and dentists (whether they like it or not) so it's no surprise that these subjects have a good early employment rate of 74%. The benefit of an added Masters degree in Medicine & Dentistry is also fairly clear, with opportunities to specialise further or train for particular professional roles.

4th – Veterinary Science

Animals also need the help of medical professionals, whether they like it or not (my cats' opinions on this matter are mixed). It's therefore good to see that 77% of people with Veterinary Science Masters degrees find work after six months. Incidentally, this is the least popular postgraduate subject area right now. So maybe that's worth looking into.

3rd Nursing, Health & other Subjects Allied to Medicine

This broad subject area includes lots of subjects that are related to medicine, but don't involve the same level of independent clinical and medical practice. All of these are obviously very professional, with Nursing & Health Masters degrees leading to various roles in general and specialist healthcare. This is reflected in very high employment figures of 82%.

2nd - Architecture, Building & Planning

Another clearly professional subject area and another postgraduate study option with very good employment prospects – 83% of Masters graduates in work after six months, in fact.

Many Masters-level students in this subject will be carrying on after their undergraduate course to gain RIBA Part 2 qualification, but separate Masters degrees in Architecture do exist. Career opportunities include the obvious (designing buildings. . . and building them) as well as other roles such as town and country planning or architectural conservation and heritage.

1st – Education

Your teacher presumably told you that education was a good thing. They were right. 90% of people with a postgraduate qualification in Education get some sort of job in the UK after six months. In fact, 97% of people are in work or further study in the UK or abroad, meaning that only 3% are unemployed. Now that's education.

This subject area includes a lot of highly vocational courses such as PGCEs and other teacher training qualifications, but more academic Masters degrees are also available. Career outcomes are kind of obvious, but education is still a diverse field, with teaching roles at all levels as well as opportunities to work in policy or charity roles.

Where does this information come from?

We've used official Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) data for the percentage of people with a taught postgraduate qualification (so, a Masters degree, Postgraduate Certificate, Postgraduate Diploma or similar) who find work in the UK after six months. This is based on HESA's most recent Destination of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey.

See our guides to postgraduate employability and employer perspectives for more information.

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