Graduates / Alumni
Whatever stage you are at with your job and career plans, the careers team is dedicated to helping you along the way - with access to all of our services after you graduate for as long as you need them.
CV & Application Help
When it comes to completing a stand-out application you may need to display the same stamina and determination you showed in completing your studies.
Employers need to know why you may be a good fit for their particular company or organisation. Your focus has to be on reassuring them that they've found the right person – you!
Based on information published by the Guardian - Graduate survival guide: how to get your first job - 3 June 2014, and content provided by graduate-jobs.com
Forget generic applications
We have all heard demoralising stories of new graduates sending out hundreds of applications before they get their first interview.
Yes, there may be a great deal of competition out there, but scattergun approaches and sending generic CVs into the ether are definitely not the best uses of your time.
Carefully tailored applications are far more likely to get you an interview, so think quality not quantity.
The process can be time consuming, as you research your target and relate your skills and knowledge to their needs, so unless you have to, resist the knee-jerk reaction to apply for anything remotely connected to your area of interest. Be discerning about where you invest your energy.
Watch: Video - CVs and applications
Do your homework
It goes without saying that you need to read the details of the position carefully, but do try to read between the lines too.
Is it right for you? Are you right for the job at the moment?
If you're still really interested you could of course go for it anyway – so long as you appreciate the gamble and the potential toll on your time and confidence.
Explore: Labour market intelligence
Have a plan
You need to start thinking of yourself as a product.
A product that a company might like to buy or certainly invest in, because essentially that's what they are doing when recruiting a graduate.
You need to evidence what you can do, what benefits you would bring to the employer and why you are better than any alternative products on the market - ie other graduates competing for that opportunity.
To do this you will need to be able to:
- Understand your key skills, ambitions, personality and experience.
- Decide what you want to do or what you'll be best suited at.
- Research the graduate job market in which you are going to sell yourself.
- Understand what types of graduate job are available and where to pitch yourself.
- Find out how the selection process works and use this knowledge to create the best application package.
- Get your CV together, start job hunting and targeting employers.
- Brush up on your interview technique and think about how you will evidence your ability.
- If assessment centres are part of the selection process, find out what you can expect - and prepare.
A systematic approach like this will be your best chance of success.
As well as displaying your knowledge of their industry and business, prospective employers are looking for evidence of how you are likely to behave at work.
How can you ensure that your cover letter or CV reflects the extra skills and competencies needed for the job you're applying for?
Be specific about how any extracurricular experience adds value to your skillsets and professional profile.
Gather your strongest evidence, examples or case studies which prove the point, as you may well be asked to justify your claims at interview.
Watch: Doing what you love
Take your time
It will be worth taking the time to be as thorough and careful as you can in each application.
It may also help your morale to expect it may take some time to secure your first interview – then when your first efforts are rewarded you may be nicely surprised.
Be bolstered by the fact that every effort will help you refine your skills, to develop your focus and resilience, and to understand more about your chosen field.
Graduates benefit from ongoing support from the university; for as long as you need it.
If you need help you can get personal 1-to-1 help available through our online service.
For some career choices, further study may be essential, or it may simply give you an advantage in a competitive job market. Take your time to consider your options, and if postgraduate study is right for you.
Before you apply
Before applying, remember that studying for a postgraduate qualification is a big commitment that will require a lot of time and effort. Ask yourself the following:
- Is it required for the career you would like to go into?
- Will it give you specialist knowledge and/or training that you haven't gained from your undergraduate degree?
- Will it help you get closer to your career goals?
- Can you afford it?
- Can the same or a similar degree be obtained through a graduate scheme?
- Do you know what you want to do afterwards?
Postgraduate diplomas and certificates
If studying a postgraduate course will help you get closer to your career goal but you don't want or need to study for a full Masters degree, a Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip) or a Postgraduate Certificate (PGCert) might be a good option for you.
Therse qualifications are at the same level of study as Masters degrees, but they're shorter and don't involve significant amounts of academic research.
You can study full or part time, with a full-time PGDip usually taking two terms (30 weeks) of study to complete, and one term (15 weeks) for a PGCert. If you change your mind, universities will often let you convert courses, for example if you enrol on a PGDip, you can go on to complete a dissertation to convert it into a Masters degree. Conversely, if you're studying for a full Masters degree but leave your course early, you may still be awarded a PGDip or PGCert providing you've gained sufficient credits. Always check with your institution to find out what is offered.
Some common professional training courses that allow you entry to regulated professions are also classified as postgraduate diplomas and certificates - for example the Legal Practice Course (LPC) for aspiring solicitors, the PGDip in Social Work, and the Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching (PGCE) or Professional Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) for those seeking a career in the classroom.
Search postgraduate diplomas and certificates on Prospects.
Fees vary by subject and university, but PGDips and PGCerts are usually cheaper than Masters degrees, as they're shorter courses, with the average cost being £5000 for a UK or EU student. However, funding options may be more limited if you study a PGDip or PGCert. Many scholarships are available only to those enrolled on the full course, and you cannot apply for a postgraduate loan.
- Less expensive and less of a time commitment than a full Masters.
- Allows you to enter certain professions, such as law, and allows you to change careers.
- Gives you specialist knowledge in a subject area.
- Improves your career prospects and increases your earning potential.
A professional qualification can help you develop the skills you need to impress employers in your chosen job or industry - and for some careers they are essential.
Professional qualifications are vocational training courses in a specific industry or career path. Some can be taken directly after completing university, while others are aimed at professionals with several years of experience who are looking to develop their career further.
They are typically regulated and awarded by professional bodies within the relevant industry, and are designed to ensure that everyone employed in a particular job meets the minimum required standards of professional expertise.
For some jobs, a professional qualification is essential. For example, to work as a qualified solicitor you must take the Legal Practice Course (LPC), and to become a chartered accountant you'll need to pass the relevant exams. In other areas of employment, professional qualifications aren't required, but nevertheless look great on your CV and improve your chances of success by demonstrating your skills and knowledge.
Professional qualifications are more vocational than Masters degrees, and act as an entry or promotion route in specific industries. They are accredited by professional bodies.
Some Masters degrees are accredited, for example, our MSc Accounting and Financial Management is accredited by the ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) and the CFA (Chartered Financial Anaylist) Institute. You can choose to take either of these pathways during the MSc. Our MSc in Sustainable Water Management is accredited by the CIWEM (Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management), and we have many more to chose from.
If you've already studied for a Masters degree that isn't accredited by the relevant industry body, you can usually still take the professional qualification later.
Professional qualifications in the UK
There is some form of professional qualification available in most industries in the UK. Among the best known are those awarded by organisations including:
- Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA)
- BCS - The Chartered Institute for IT
- Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)
- Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE)
- Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
If you're unsure about which professional body is most relevant to your chosen career, ask your department or contact us.
How long do professional courses take to complete?
This can range from a few weeks to a few years, depending on the qualification and whether you study full or part time. For example, the ACCA Qualification for accountants takes a minimum of three years to complete, including exams and work experience. Some professional bodies simply offer an exam and it's up to you how many hours of preparation you do beforehand, either through independent study or by attending a course run by a training provider.
In some cases, when courses are offered on a part time or modular basis, you can take as long as you want to complete your studies. You should check the length of your course with the relevant professional body or training provider before making a decision.
What do professional courses involve?
If you study a full-time vocational course, you'll probably train for around 40 hours per week. Part-time study usually takes place during the evenings and weekends - the pace is slower, but can be just as intense when coupled with your work and/or family commitments.
Professional bodies increasingly provide multiple ways for you to study, including online distance learning, face-to-face and blended learning (which combines the two).
Vocational courses do not necessarily have fixed terms. Instead, courses often run a number of times throughout the year at locations nationwide. Assessment is usually through exams, coursework, a portfolio, or a combination of the three. Many courses are structured around a number of modules that you must pass to gain the qualification.
This varies dependent on the qualification. Some courses are open to anyone, some require A-levels or a degree in a particular subject, and others demand a number of years of experience. Many professional bodies offer different levels of vocational qualification, suitable for school leavers, graduates and experienced professionals. Typically, when you complete one exam, you become eligible to work towards another qualification at a higher level.
Possessing some relevant work experience or having a demonstrable interest in the subject is often essential. In addition, if English is not your first language, you'll need to prove your language skills.
Cost depends on a range of factors and varies significantly. The expense of a course will generally reflect its intensity and how important it is in the context of the career path you want to follow.
Different training providers can charge different amounts for the same course, so research your options thoroughly. You should also check whether there are additional fees for taking exams or whether that cost is included. There is usually no difference in fees for home and international students.
One potential advantage of studying for a professional qualification as part of a Masters degree is that you may be eligible for a government postgraduate loan.
Will my employer pay for the course?
If the qualification you're interested in is essential for career progression, or you can show your employer how it will benefit them for you to gain new skills and knowledge, you may be able to convince them to pay for your course and exam fees.
This is particularly common if you work at a company with 'Investors in People' status. Bear in mind, however, that in return your employer may contractually oblige you to continue working for them for a set period following the course. Learn more about employer sponsorship.
- It can be the first step towards achieving chartered status, which will see you registered as a member of the professional body and a recognised professional in your area of work.
- It will help you to meet your employer's expectations of continuing professional development (CPD) by keeping your skills and abilities up to date.
- Many professions require you to possess specific qualifications, meaning that if you're serious about forging a career in one of these areas you will have to take the course.
- Recent research for the Consultative Committee for Professional Management Organisations (CCPMO) showed that, on average, having a professional qualification increases lifetime earnings by £81,000.
- You will gain skills, recognition and contacts through improving your specialist knowledge - demonstrating your ability to employers, and giving you greater opportunity to progress or change careers.
A Masters degree is a level 7 qualification - above Bachelors degrees but below PhDs. Study is intense and typically involves completing a series of modules and writing a dissertation.
While having a Masters qualification can greatly improve your career prospects, the high costs and academic demands mean this method of postgraduate study isn't for everyone, so research your options thoroughly before making a decision to go down this route.
Masters degrees shouldn't be confused with the Scottish Master of Arts (MA), which is an undergraduate degree awarded by certain universities.
How long is a Masters degree in the UK?
Full-time Masters degrees usually involve one or two years of study, while part-time programmes last between two and four years.
What is the difference between undergraduate and postgraduate study?
The term 'undergraduate' refers to first-degree students studying for a Bachelors degree, while 'postgraduate' is used to describe graduate students studying a second-cycle qualification, typically a Masters, postgraduate certificate (PGCert) or postgraduate diploma (PGDip). 'Postgraduate' is also used to describe those studying PhDs.
Compared with undergraduate degrees, Masters degrees are usually:
- focused on one particular area of a wider subject, giving students a greater amount of specialist knowledge
- more flexible in terms of modules and study options
- more intense, advanced and faster-paced
- smaller in terms of class size
- cheaper (but more expensive than PGCerts, PGDips and PhDs).
PGDips and PGCerts are qualifications at the same level as Masters degrees, but they're shorter and you don't have to write a dissertation.
MA, MSc, MBA, MRes - what do they all mean?
The Master of Arts (MA) is usually awarded to those studying courses in social sciences, art and humanities, and business, consulting and management. MA programmes often involve research, discussion, essay writing and practical exercises.
The Master of Science (MSc) typically covers science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programmes. However, some social sciences and business, consulting and management courses also fall into the MSc category. Programmes are typically theory-heavy with an emphasis on reading and research.
More commonly known as the MBA, the Master of Business Administration is an advanced, prestigious postgraduate qualification ideal for those who want to increase their professional reputation, boost salary and expand networks.
A Master of Research (MRes) is a one-year, full-time research degree, which focuses more on independent study. Courses exist to train researchers for a profession or PhD study.
Types of Masters degrees
Masters can be either taught or research-based.
Taught Masters degrees are similar in style and structure to undergraduate degrees. They typically consist of lectures, seminars and practical assignments, with work assessed through exams, essays, dissertations and group projects. Students are encouraged to work independently, yet receive close tutor support.
The Master of Arts (MA) and Master of Science (MSc) are by far the two most popular taught options. Others include:
- LLM (Master of Laws)
- MArch (Master of Architecture)
- MEd (Master of Education)
- MEng (Master of Engineering)
- MFA (Master of Fine Arts)
- MLitt (Master of Letters)
- MMus (Master of Music)
- MSt (Master of Studies)
- MPH (Master of Public Health)
A PhD, or Doctorate of Philosophy, is the highest level of degree that a student can achieve
PhD students independently conduct original and significant research in a specific field or subject, before producing a publication-worthy thesis typically 80,000-100,000 words in length.
While some Doctorates include taught components, PhD students are almost always assessed on the quality and originality of the argument presented in their independent research project.
How long is a PhD in the UK?
Full-time PhDs typically last three or four years, while part-time PhDs last six or seven. However, the thesis deadline can be extended by up to four years at the institution's discretion. Indeed, many students who enrol on three-year PhDs only finish their thesis in year four.
Most PhDs begin in September or October.
Do I need a Masters to do a PhD?
The majority of institutions require PhD candidates to possess a Masters degree, plus a Bachelors degree graded at 2:1 or above. However, some universities demand only the latter, while self-funded PhD students or those with significant professional experience may be accepted with lower grades.
You may be required to initially register for a one- or two-year Master of Philosophy (MPhil) or Master of Research (MRes) degree rather than a PhD. If you make sufficient progress, you and your work will then be 'upgraded' to a PhD programme. If not, you may be able to graduate with a Masters degree.
What does a PhD involve?
A standard PhD is typically split into three stages. By way of illustration, a three-year PhD may follow the following pattern:
- First year - You'll meet with your supervisor to discuss your research proposal and agree an action plan with deadlines. You'll then complete your literature review, in which you'll evaluate and critique existing works to inform the direction of your project and ensure that your research will be original.
- Second year - Your focus will shift to gathering results and developing your thesis, and potentially begin writing chapters of your thesis. You may also present your results and ideas at academic conferences, gain teaching experience, collaborate with other students on similar projects, communicate the benefits of your research to the general public through workshops, lectures and presentations, or submit work for publication in an academic journal or book.
- Third year - This phase primarily involves writing your thesis, though your primary research may still be in progress. After your supervisor gives their approval, you'll submit your thesis before undertaking a one-to-three-hour oral exam (viva voce) in which you'll discuss and defend your thesis in the presence of at least one internal and external examiner.