Many students who pursue a master’s degree do so with one goal in mind: career advancement. They’ve done their research and know that, along with providing specialized expertise, earning a master’s degree will afford them many advantages in the marketplace, including greater employability, higher pay, and increased access to job opportunities.
But as they climb the career ladder, it’s critical that prospective employers also understand the worth of their master’s degree. Luckily for job seekers, employers today are becoming increasingly aware of the value of hiring candidates with a graduate education.
In the past five years, 33 percent of employers have raised their educational requirements, now hiring workers with master’s degrees for positions that had previously been filled by bachelor’s degree holders. The reason for this, according to employers, is that workers with master’s degrees demonstrated increased work quality, productivity, communication skills, and innovation once hired. Not all employers, however, may be aware of how earning a master’s degree has set you uniquely apart from other candidates with similar credentials.
So, if you’ve recently earned or are considering pursuing a master’s degree, it’s important to understand how to market your degree to employers upon completion. It’s no longer enough to simply refer to your master’s on your resumé. It’s imperative to make it clear how completing a graduate program has made you a better candidate for the specific role in consideration, how it has set you apart from other applicants, and how it increases your value to the prospective employer.
Below are six ways to highlight your accomplishment and demonstrate the value of your graduate degree to attract potential employers.
Highlight Specialized Knowledge
In today’s competitive job market, specialized knowledge and skills are at a premium. Industry tools, technologies, and best practices change so rapidly that employers require highly adaptive teams with hyper-relevant skill sets. A master’s degree demonstrates that you possess these industry-specific skills for immediate application.
Even if post-graduate education is not mandatory for hire, having a mastery of specialized knowledge can put you at the front of the applicant pack. Be ready, however, to go beyond general statements and talk specifics about your degree program and how your courses have prepared you for the job at hand.
Start by doing your homework before interviewing. Explore the company website, read news articles about the prospective company, and analyze the job description to understand what attributes they’re looking for in their next hire. Make sure to communicate relevant skills you’ve gained throughout your coursework, and articulate how those skills will translate to the job you’re seeking.
When speaking with the prospective employer, make sure to refer to specific course modules and assignments that relate directly to on-the-job requirements. And, don’t forget to update your resumé to include the skills, competencies, and tools that employers in your field are looking for.
Emphasize Hands-On Experience
Some employers may value real-world experience over advanced qualifications. Be sure to demonstrate how your graduate education has armed you with both.
After you update your resumé to include any hands-on experience you may have gained in grad school, be sure to highlight these valuable experiences in your interviews and other conversations with potential employers.
Certain graduate programs, such as those at Northeastern, focus on experiential learning opportunities, including internships, research, and project-based work with leading organizations. By discussing these hands-on projects, you demonstrate to employers that you are equipped to solve real-world problems and can take your education beyond theory and into practice.
Accentuate Transferrable Skills
Just by successfully pursuing a master’s degree, you illustrate to hiring managers that you’ve honed many of the core qualities companies are looking for in prospective employees, including:
- Analytical skills: In the course of your studies, you’ve gained experience gathering research, analyzing data, interpreting new information, and finding unique solutions to complex problems.
- Interpersonal skills: Working with other students on group projects, you’ve learned to give and receive constructive feedback, work with different personality types, and build consensus within teams.
- Organizational skills: While balancing work, family, and school, you’ve mastered the arts of project management, time management, and prioritization.
- Critical thinking skills: Moving beyond technical knowledge, you’re now equipped to tackle large projects, conduct and synthesize complex research, and deliver actionable recommendations.
- Communication skills: Through presentations, papers, and in-class discussions, you’ve become a more effective communicator. You’ve improved your written, verbal, and non-verbal communication styles to enable a clear expression of ideas and articulation of well-thought-out arguments.
- Multicultural awareness: Being in class with students from diverse backgrounds and industries, you’ve developed a more global perspective. These experiences enhance your ability to lead and collaborate across cultures, which many professionals struggle with—bringing even more value to your next employer.
When discussing these transferable skills you’ve gained in grad school, provide specific examples of complex assignments where these skills have helped you succeed. In doing so, you’ll simultaneously demonstrate your willingness to respond to difficult tasks, manage multi-dimensional projects, and synthesize information effectively.
Showcase Your Network
On your path to a master’s degree, you’ll work alongside students and faculty from a variety of disciplines and organizations around the globe. These professionals not only broaden your perspective, but open up access to valuable industry connections.
When you pursue a graduate degree at Northeastern, for example, you gain access to a global network of more than 3,000 employer partners and 230,000 graduates spanning 150 countries. The set of professional contacts you’ll gain in grad school will help connect you—and your next company—with valuable business partners and organizations within your industry.
Let your prospective employer know about the meaningful business relationships you’ve cultivated, and will bring with you, because of your network membership. (Bonus points if you can identify particular contacts you plan to target upon being hired to further their specific business goals.)
Stress Your Commitment to Continuous Learning
Earning a master’s degree shows that you’re committed to continually expanding your skills and broadening your knowledge. Employers are eager to hire professionals who consider themselves lifelong learners, as studies show they tend to help others, accomplish their goals, and remain well-rounded employees long-term.
Don’t be afraid to show your passion for the field. Articulate the reasons why you pursued the master’s program in the first place, including your desire to stay ahead of trends in your industry. As you cite your continued commitment to, and investment in, your discipline, be prepared to field questions about how you continue to stay ahead of the curve as your career progresses.
Emphasize Your Ambition
Earning a graduate degree takes time, hard work, and the dedication to complete complex projects while balancing additional responsibilities. Emphasize any challenges you’ve overcome on your path to your master’s, not only in your classes, but by opening yourself up to new and different environments in the pursuit of learning and growing.
Your achievement signals to employers that you’re motivated to succeed by putting in the work needed to achieve your goals. With a master’s degree, you demonstrate to employers that you’re productive, ambitious, and take initiative in both your studies and your career—all traits you’ll bring to your next role.
Be sure to emphasize your initiative and desire to grow and develop not only as an individual, but with the company as you add value to their bottom line. Armed with these strategies, you’ll be well equipped to land your next role and advance your career.