Postgraduate support services mean you don’t have to go it alone.
Doing postgraduate studies, particularly a Masters by Research or a PHD, can be isolating. But there are plenty of networks, postgraduate support groups and helpful products out there to help you complete your work, share strategies, or even just talk to someone who you can relate to.
Your university is a good starting point. Universities offer postgraduate support services for students, like counselling, courses through the libraries and graduate student groups. Some also provide social media platforms and apps to connect students. Ask the careers centre, student services and your faculty office to find out what’s available.
The growth of social media means there are also plenty of other online communities, blogs and social media platforms out there for postgraduate students, giving you helpful advice and resources. These include the Thesis Whisperer, Research Degree Insiders, #PhD chat and Research Whisperer. Plus, social media platforms like Twitter can give you a platform to promote your own research.
Another way to connect with your fellow students and get some work done is Shut Up and Write! – writing workshops (with no talking) that can be held on or near a university campus, or even virtually. And every November is Academic Writing Month – a whole month dedicated to improving your writing productivity.
Other handy tools for your studies include apps, like the handwriting app Penultimate for scribbling your thoughts and Things for to-do lists. For iPhone and iPad users, Outliner assists you in organising your thoughts when writing papers. Google Drive and Dropbox allows you to access your papers when you’re not at your desk, My Weekly Budget helps you manage your cash… there are plenty out there, so check the online communities and blogs, and ask your fellow students to see what they recommend!
Jump-start a stellar career and build agile skills by forging your industry links early.
Let’s face it, taking on undergraduate and postgraduate studies can sound like a slog. But that investment could pay off big time through a rewarding career.
The ultimate destination of most postgraduates is with industry. Australia’s 2014 Postgraduate Destinations survey showed the private sector employs more than a third of postgrads (38.3%). A further 25.5% of postgraduates find work in education, 15.8% in health and 11.8% in government.
Whatever the industry, today’s workplace is changing rapidly. Traditional employment models are being replaced by agile work environments focussed on the ability to respond to fast-changing global markets.
Employers want people who are flexible and adaptable – often described as T-shaped – who have deep skills in a specialised area but are also able to apply their talents more broadly.
Postgraduate degrees can be highly specialised, but during your study you will develop agile skills across a range of other useful areas. Information technology and communication skills are good to acquire if you can, especially with businesses looking towards graduate to help keep their organisations digitally up to date.
Andrew Purchas, the national account manager at GradConnection, says employers value the deep analytical and research skills postgraduates have. “A lot of students have in-depth knowledge in a niche field, but also present themselves to employers with transferable skills from their study,” he says.
These include time management, organisational ability, presentation skills, research capability and networking – but they can also encompass talents that are in demand in your chosen field. Postgraduates who make connections with industry early – during their studies, for example – are well placed to develop the agile skills they’ll need to score amazing jobs.
An Environmental Edge Through Agile Skills
Michelle Senerman Finkelstein worked with consultancy firm Edge Environment while doing a Master of Sustainability at the University of Sydney. She helped develop a proposal for an app that helps consumers assess product lifecycles by scanning supermarket barcodes.
“I think it’s vital for postgraduates to build industry links while they’re studying,” Michelle says. “It helps tie the two together – your work has context and your studies make more sense.”
Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) senior research scientist Dr Krystyna Saunders worked in labs analysing naturally occurring radioisotopes in lake sediments while completing her PhD on the human impact on environments. This work led to her current research-based role.
“You need to be open to different opportunities as they arise, even if you don’t know exactly what you want to do in the end,” she says.
Race Ahead to the Endgame
Forensic chemist Dr Adam Cawley is science manager at Racing NSW, where he heads the Australian Racing Forensic Laboratory and works at the forefront of forensic drug analysis.
Much of his PhD, which looked at the detection of androgenic steroids in athletes, was done during an industry partnership with the National Measurement Institute, the organisation responsible for Australia’s measurement standards.
He says agile skills are critical in his field. “My work has evolved from organic chemistry to managing a research project on gene doping.”
Adam says students can focus on their degree endgame through industry-PhD partnerships, completing research that will jump-start their career.
“There are advantages for everyone – industry receives the benefit of a really good academic project and students are able to spend a large amount of time in labs with access to real data,” he says.
Amy Jo Vassallo knows the importance of being flexible – and not just because she is passionate about dance. Her career in medical science has seen her work in government, hospitals, and research centres, and finally led her to studying what she loves as part of her PhD.
Her medical science research, inspired by her own experiences as a dancer, is trying to better understand the kinds of injuries that are common among dancers.
“I’ve always been interested in the human body and how it works, and I think my early dance training – and associated injuries! – is what prompted that fascination,” Amy says.
“Dance is a physically demanding activity that has many health benefits, but also has an inherent risk of injury. Some can be minor, but others can be life changing.”
“By better understanding the magnitude, causes and effects of dance-related injuries we can more effectively prevent them.”
Amy started her career with a Bachelor of Medical Science at the Australian National University (ANU), and took her skills to the next level with a Master of Community and Health Development. Her postgrad knowledge led her to a job with the ACT government offering policy advice on health, where she found working in government to be a learning experience in its own right.
“It really opened my eyes to the inner workings of the health system,” Amy says.
That big picture consideration taught me that evidence isn’t just about the data, but also about community consultation and ensuring your research is relevant.”
Amy believes that the key to her career in medical science is that she’s never stopped learning.
“If you had told me in high school that I would be using statistics on a regular basis and actually enjoy analysing large amounts of population health data I would not have believed you!”
“But as my career has evolved, so have my skills.”
After a working as a research officer at the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, largely in a medical assistant role, Amy found herself fascinated by the idea of pursuing medical science research of her own. This inspired her to start her PhD in dance injury research, but she still doesn’t know where it will lead.
“I’m starting to realise that I genuinely don’t know what my future career goal is or what I want to be when I grow up. But I certainly know what I don’t want, and I’m taking the opportunity during my PhD to meet and talk with as many inspiring people in health and science as I can to try to work it out.”
CONSIDERING MEDICAL SCIENCE? AMY’S ADVICE:
1. Do it! It’s a much broader, diverse, interesting and exciting field than you might expect!
2. Get to know people in the field you’re interested in, they genuinely enjoy talking about their work and want to share their experience with others.
3. Be a yes person, take advantage of any opportunities that may come your way.
>> Bachelor of Medical Science, Australian National University
>> Master of Community Health Development, University of Canberra
>> Policy adviser, Canberra hospital & ACT Department of Health
>> Postgraduate Diploma in Nutritional Science, University of Canberra, part time
>> Research officer, National Center for Immunisation Research and Surveillance
>> PhD, studying dance injury epidemiology, University of Sydney
IN THE ERA OF MASS EDUCATION, IT’S TIME TO CHANGE OUR UNIVERSITY GRADUATE EXPECTATIONS.
BY DR ALAN FINKEL AO, AUSTRALIA’S CHIEF SCIENTIST
In 2012, Victoria hit a tipping point: 52 per cent of Year 12 school-leavers progressed to university. From that year on a bachelor’s degree would be the majority choice, growing in popularity with every new college cohort. It is the mark of an unmistakeable national trend: the era of mass tertiary education has arrived.
Higher education providers have been swift to remake their operating models – in the vocational education and training sector, often to regrettable ends. Australia’s universities, by contrast, stand today with their enrolments greatly expanded and their reputations intact.
But if the providers have been swift to change, our expectations have proven resistant. We seem to be amazed at outcomes that are simply the logical extension of the massification message we have embraced.
THE RESULTS OF MASSIFICATION COME DOWN TO SIMPLE MATHS
Consider, for example, the fall in minimum ATAR entry levels observed across institutions and courses. If we recruit more students, it is a mathematical certainty that we will accept students we would have turned away before. Why the surprise? It’s just the tenacity of the old expectations.
Then there is the current preoccupation with the growing number of graduates from professional degrees who cannot find linked professional roles.
Again, simple maths: in the mass education era we will have many more graduates competing for the specialist jobs.
IT’S INCREASINGLY UNLIKELY THAT YOUR PROFESSION WILL BE THE SAME AS YOUR DEGREE
Today we produce 15,000 law graduates every year and a legal profession with only 66,000 jobs, thus the odds of a graduate enjoying a long-term career in law are slim.
Only one in 20 economics graduates becomes a professional economist. Medicine is on the verge of oversupply; with similar talk of gluts in teaching and accounting.
So when graduates pivot from professional degrees into other worthy roles, why report it as a great revelation? And if we divert aspiring science students into other fields, what should we recommend – arts, music, accounting, economics?
THE MOST RELIABLE PREDICTOR OF SUCCESS IS THE CAPACITY TO PIVOT
Of course, there are genuine concerns regarding the preparedness of today’s school leavers to enter universities. It is unethical and unfair to lower entry standards too far in order to achieve the recruitment targets of the university.
Equally important, it would be wrong to lower exit standards, because we have a responsibility to give graduates something of value in exchange for years of work and possibly decades in debt.
But let’s start by acknowledging how much of our thinking is still limited by the old instincts.
It is time to recognise that it is not a failure to progress to a job that has no obvious link to one’s degree. In the mass education era, the capacity to pivot is probably the most reliable predictor of success.
STEM DEGREES ARE EXTREMELY USEFUL FOR PROBLEM-SOLVING IN ALL TYPES OF JOBS
Why do so many more jobs require tertiary credentials today than in the past? A modern economy, increasingly centred on services, demands workers with excellent analytical and communications skills. Skills acquired through a science, technology, engineering and mathematics degree happen to be extremely useful for complex problem-solving in a technology-rich world.
However, it is worth noting that when analysts suggest that 75% of new jobs will require STEM skills they do not necessarily mean the depth of expertise that comes from a bachelor’s degree. They mean proficiency at using technology for daily tasks, which graduates from arts, law, medicine and indeed all degrees will need to display.
Universities have never turned out graduates who are “job ready” – robots ready to slot into the workplace.
Their value proposition is to produce graduates who are “job capable” – experts in their disciplines with the foundations of workplace skills.
Engineering students need to learn computational mathematics. Other skills such as communication, teamwork and project management must also be taught, but these workplace attributes will be honed year after year on the job.
Having mastered a discipline once, at university, it is not as difficult to do it a second time, on the job. I was trained as an electrical engineer, but my first working career was as a neuroscientist. It was an unconventional progression that might not have had an obvious link to my degree, but it was the first of several pivots that worked for me.
It is time for the narrative to change, in fairness to our graduates and in anticipation of the national needs.
Let’s abandon the historical expectation that degrees and careers should be tightly linked. Instead, let’s unchain our thinking and embrace the opportunities.
UTS has committed to applied innovation and developing high-impact research. The University aims to produce research that benefits Australian industry and the wider community. Ultimately, UTS research activities are about helping to shape the world we occupy positively.
As part of the University’s research strategy, UTS has chosen to build research capacity and performance in five focus areas. These are aligned with the overall UTS vision: to be a world-leading university of technology. The five focus areas are health, data science, sustainability, future work and industry, and social futures.
UTS focuses on translational and social justice in the University’s health research. UTS remains strongly engaged with the health sector, industry participants, health practitioners and the global medical and health research community.
2. Data Science
Data science and big data analytics represent an emerging field of ongoing significance. The focus area encompasses the data science theories and, notably, applying data science techniques across the dimensions of human endeavour.
The University’s sustainability research extends to all faculties, covering both in-depth disciplinary and cutting edge trans-disciplinary research. Individuals subjects includes cleaner energy, urban city futures, climate change adjustment, water management, food production and distribution, and using natural resources.
4. Future Work and Industry
Understanding technology and social changes to work arrangements and production globally is vital. The future quality of everyday life and the economic prosperity of Australia are technology dependent. Research in this area happens in the context of new industries emerging and others adapting to evolving conditions.
5. Social Futures
Research into Social Futures at UTS is influenced by increasingly complex societies. Especially relevant are the technology-driven changes in Australian and overseas communities.
UTS Research Centres
UTS has research hubs and centres across the University. In addition, UTS collaborates in joint research centres with foreign universities and in large joint research programs. Some noteworthy examples are ARC Centres of Research Excellence and the Cooperative Research Centres.
By combining STEM skills with other fields of interest, you can customise your career.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that jobs requiring STEM skills (science, technology, engineering and maths) has grown at about 1.5 times the rate of other roles in recent years. Yet only 18% of the Australian workforce has STEM qualifications.
Design, engineering, science, transport and ICT professionals are the fastest growing occupations. This has created a strong need for skilled workers in areas you might not expect.
The Australian Industry Group is a dedicated national advocate for the advancement of STEM skills and knowledge, which are fundamentally important for the growth of the Australian economy.
Our Survey of Workforce Development Needs indicates that almost 44% of employers continue to experience difficulties recruiting STEM qualified technicians and trade workers.
Around 20% have difficulties finding appropriately trained professionals and managers.
STEM expertise can transform our society and economy.
Despite this need, Australia’s international performance in STEM lags behind many other comparable countries, which are improving their provision, participation and performance more rapidly.
In the tertiary education sector, participation in STEM-related disciplines is in decline in absolute terms, in contrast with comparable nations. We need many more STEM graduates and postgraduates.
If you’re considering a postgraduate degree, these fields offer many rewarding job options beyond academia. STEM expertise can transform our society and economy, while enabling you to work across a broad range of exciting new career areas.
To find out more about building a fantastic career through cross-disciplinary skills, read about pairing science and engineering with business and leadership in Cross-disciplinary Edge, learn about being agile and forging industry links in Staying Agile, and discover how to increase Your Earning Potential in the process!
Graduates of Executive MBA programs who participated in the Executive MBA Council Student Exit Survey reported increases in their salary and bonus packages from the start to the end of their programs.
In 2010, the average salary and bonus amounts of students in the survey rose 11.4 percent from the start to end of the program, compared to 9.4 percent in 2009. Students’ average salary and bonus package at the start of their EMBA programs was $127,955, increasing to $142,534 by the end of the program.
The Executive MBA Council conducts the Student Exit Benchmarking Survey to track the perceptions and opinions of EMBA program graduates and to help measure the return on investment of the degree. The survey included 3,674 students from 116 programs.
In addition, 37% of students in the survey reported receiving promotions and 68% reported receiving new responsibilities during their time in the program.
“Executive MBA students continue to do well in this challenging economy,” says Michael Desiderio, executive director of the Executive MBA Council. “Survey data shows the return on investment for EMBA students remains significant.”
Graduates in the survey hang about loyal supporters of the EMBA experience. The survey’s loyalty index helps demonstrate participating students’ satisfaction with their program. The loyalty index is a combination of students’ rankings of program quality (8.4 on a 10-point scale), students’ willingness to recommend their program to a colleague or friend (8.8); and the likelihood of supporting the program as alumni (8.2).
“The loyalty index shows that EMBA students continue to be satisfied with their programs and education experience,” says Desiderio. “It also shows that alumni are willing to stay involved with programs.”
To help prospective students search and compare MBA programs worldwide, the Executive MBA Council recently launched the council’s 300 member programs by geographic location, specialty, start date, program length or tuition. Each program summary includes a brief description and a link to the program’s website.
About the Executive MBA Council
The Executive MBA Council provides a forum for programs to share best practices and gathers industry data for member use. Survey analysis was conducted by Percept Research, an independent market research firm and the council’s research partner.