With the number of undergraduate degrees on offer increasing rapidly and student numbers continuing to rise, is a Master's the new differential when it comes to the job market?
“I was looking for a way to stand out…”
Wilton completed his MBA degree at IMI in 2015 after previously achieving his BA (Hons) award in international hotel and tourism management.
The sentiment he expresses above occurs frequently when talking to Master’s students about their motivation for further study.
Clearly, every level of education has great value; however, it seems that the undergraduate student market has become increasingly saturated over recent years.
According to this World Bank report, the number of students in tertiary education worldwide has risen from 100 million in 2010 to 220 million in 2021.
The incentives for post-secondary study seem clear - those educated to tertiary level can expect an average increase in earnings of 17% compared to those finishing their education at an earlier stage.
This income disparity becomes even starker in certain regions – for example, in Sub-Saharan Africa the increase in expected earnings is closer to 21%.
As the below graphic shows, projections for the share of adults educated to degree level increases year on year, with countries such as South Korea and Singapore anticipated to hit the 50% mark by 2050.
Just like any other business, universities and other further education providers have responded to this growing market by both expanding and diversifying the number of programmes they offer.
Today’s prospective students can choose from hundreds of different degree disciplines. As globalisation and digitalisation trends strengthen, study abroad options have also become more popular and accessible, meaning the number of potential study destinations rapidly increases.
While the Covid pandemic was clearly a challenge to the further education sector, its legacy may well be a more flexible system offering a greater range of delivery methods.
The necessity for institutes to offer distance learning options for students who, due to travel restrictions, could not attend classes in person, forced schools to quickly familiarise themselves with new technologies and digital solutions, the uptake of which may otherwise have been much slower.
The World Economic Forum reports that online course provider Coursera have seen their number of registered learners increase three-fold since the start of the pandemic.
Pre-pandemic growth of nine million users between 2018 and 2019 was eclipsed by a huge jump of 27 million new registrants between 2019 and 2020 (followed by another 21 million new users over the next 12 months).
Whether it be on campus or online, at home or abroad, it is evident that more and more students are accessing a university level education.
This should be rightly celebrated as a positive development but, as the playing field gets more crowded, the challenge, as Wilton states, is how to “stand out”?
With the global job market becoming ever more competitive, many students are turning to Master’s study as a way of enhancing their qualifications and setting their CVs apart from the rest.
So, where to turn to when looking for research on student motivations for Master’s study?
Well, it just so happens IMI has its very own, ready-made focus group in the form of our current MSc degree students as well as a rich alumni network of former MBA and MSc students.
South Africa’s Wilton is perhaps a classic example of someone who completed his Bachelor’s study, spent time working in the industry, and then returned to complete his Master’s degree.
“In the region I was working in, I knew a Master’s qualification would set me apart academically,” he says.
“Whether it was progressing professionally within my current workplace or attaining a more senior role elsewhere, I considered it a sensible investment when balanced against the potential increase in my future earnings.”
Although Wilton’s story is representative of the vast majority of Master's students, at IMI we are starting to see a new trend where students progress directly from their undergraduate to postgraduate study.
MBA student alumna Sofia graduated with her Bachelor’s degree in 2016 before continuing directly onto her Master’s study.
“For me, choosing to do my Master’s straight after my BA was part of a long-term growth strategy,” she explains.
“I wanted to be able to start my career equipped with the highest level of education necessary in order to climb the ladder faster in future years.”
These two student experiences highlight the different pathways to Master’s study. The question as to which is more effective is difficult to answer.
As with most personal decisions, there is no right or wrong answer here – whatever makes the most sense for the individual’s situation and goals is the only factor that really matters.
However, when talking to our current students, it is great to hear so many of them advocating study for the pure sake of knowledge acquisition.
Sushrut from India explains: “I wish to work for the betterment of this industry through research and development.
“My desire when choosing the MSc programme at IMI was to view the bigger picture in which hospitality is understood as a part of our nature, culture and way of life.”
Whether your motivations are career-based, financially calculated or driven solely by a thirst for academic enquiry, IMI’s MSc in International Hospitality and Events Management has something to offer you.
With its UK-validation from Manchester Metropolitan University and the option of paid work placements post-study, it provides both academic enrichment and CV-boosting experience.
In an ever-growing market, it really does pay to stand out…