The advantage of postgraduate study in the future of work

The advantage of postgraduate study in the future of work

Written by Staff Writer


Exclusive Supplied by Nelson Mandela University


The Education Journey

Students enrolled in third-year programmes are often at a crossroads during the latter stages of their final year of study: Do I look for a job and gain valuable on-the-job training and experience or pursue postgraduate study and gain in-depth knowledge and a competitive advantage?

After 15 years or so on the education journey, one would want to start making a living and settling any student debt by entering the job market straight after graduating. However, the gold-standard undergraduate degree is no longer the only thing that employers are looking for in individuals. In fact, employers are increasingly underwhelmed by the calibre of candidates who walk through their doors fresh out of university expecting to land a job. 


Fast Growing industry 

Businesses in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector in South Africa – one of the fastest-growing industries today – indicated that it is difficult to recruit ICT graduates and acquire the required ICT skills. “Industry requires ICT graduates with multi-skill sets, which include in-depth technical skills, business skills and the ability to use commercial technologies and software,” says Prof André Calitz, Distinguished Professor – Department of Computing Sciences at Nelson Mandela University. “Research indicates that ICT graduates with only undergraduate degrees, are generally not multi-skilled and that tertiary institutions do not timeously introduce new courses,’’ he says.

The majority of students study towards an undergraduate degree primarily to fulfil a minimum requirement for their career field. But the hiring landscape is changing – roles that, in the past, only required primarily undergraduate degrees, are advancing to such an extent that they require a postgraduate qualification, as a minimum. 

“Employers are realising that the capabilities and actions of candidates with postgraduate qualifications are converting into positive impacts across various spheres of business, which can be attributed to employers raising the bar,” says Prof Calitz.


Knowledge Exchange

Postgraduate studies develop the mind through the transfer and exchange of knowledge. Similarly, a postgraduate qualification is a specialisation capable of identifying and addressing problems not previously encountered. This leads to a competitive advantage for the individuals owning the degree and promotes a complex skill set. In complex environments, organisations face challenges and require highly talented skills to ensure protection of their brand to reduce risk from the external business environment.

Against this background, more graduates are realising the advantage that postgraduate study offers in shaping a successful career in an ever-changing world. “Completing postgraduate studies can have various advantages for graduates,’’ says Prof Calitz. “Higher starting salaries, greater exposure to different study fields, improved conceptual thinking skills, as well as assistance with promotions later in the students’ careers are just a few of them,” he says.


Potential For International Employment 

A major advantage right now is the potential of international employment. Due to the globalisation of work, postgraduate degrees are becoming more and more critical for certain categories of employment in many countries. “A postgraduate qualification offers a platform for international career mobility through the portability of the skills set,” says Prof Jean Greyling, HOD – Department of Computing Sciences at Nelson Mandela University. “It supports the assertion of the demand for skilled migrants in developed countries,” he says.

For employers, postgraduate qualifications are an advantage for the acquisition of highly specialised jobs and streamlined recruitment processes. They also impart in-depth knowledge for specialised disciplines and develop important transferable skills. Over and above this, postgraduate study inculcates critical thinking and analysis, as well as problem-solving and skills in self-management, such as active learning, resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility – top skills employers see as rising in prominence by 2025.

Universities and their faculties are being re-imagined to revitalise their transformative potential and provide multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary ways of producing graduates relevant in the future working world. Whether one dreams to be a data scientist, app developer, or an autonomous vehicle engineer, an institution like Nelson Mandela University will transform one’s unique, visionary ideas through discovery, innovation and life-long learning experiences, helping to surpass one’s limitations and helping one change the world along the way. 


*Check out the latest edition of the Public Sector Leaders publication here.

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