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Could a postgrad degree fast-track you to a role you love?

Take it from these graduates
Professional man looking at camera in an office setting

If you want to accelerate your career, going back to uni could be the fastest way to do it. Take it from these graduates.

Sam Wright started off doing work experience at Ambrosiussen The Business Accountants in Toowoomba in 2007.

Today, he’s a Director.

It’s been something of a dream run for the accountant, who is now also the Vice President of Toowoomba Chamber of Commerce. But a few years ago, Mr Wright realised he wanted some more professional growth.

“I saw that I needed to develop my skills and my critical thinking outside the areas of simply accounting and finance,” he said. That put him on a path to completing his Master of Business Administration (MBA) at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ).

Similarly, Julie Pemberton was looking to deepen her knowledge and industry experience when she enrolled in postgrad study: the Master of Education (Guidance and Counselling) at USQ.

Now, she runs her own counselling business and has a job that reflects her core values.

“My values are about supporting people to seek a better life,” said Mrs Pemberton. “Counselling puts me in a position of being on that journey with someone – experiencing their growth and empowerment.”

The pandemic’s prompted a lot of people to reconsider what they want from their professional lives.

In 2020, record numbers of mid-career professionals returned to university: enrolments in master’s degrees rose nearly 27%. So how can postgraduate study accelerate your career advancement and get you into a job you love?

Expand your industry knowledge

As an accountant, Mr Wright enjoys having a positive impact on the lives of his clients.

“A lot of what we do is providing insight and advice to small businesses, mainly family businesses, and medium to large not-for-profits,” he said.

“When you're giving advice, you really need to have well-rounded experience and the skill set to know how the numbers interact with other areas of the business, and how the business interacts with the economy and society at large.”

He wanted to do the MBA to quickly expand his knowledge of all areas of business – from marketing to data and AI to economics.

“Rather than relying on on-the-job training or accounting-related professional development, the MBA gave me skills and fast-tracked my experience with a whole range of different areas of business that I wouldn't have got in the same timeframe without studying,” he said.

For Mrs Pemberton, further study enabled her to look more deeply into areas that she was passionate about within counselling.

She said this included gaining a stronger “understanding of the issues that people face, especially when addressing how people interact with the world when experiencing trauma”.

Build confidence, quickly

As well as providing new knowledge and skills, postgrad study can help bolster your self-belief.

“Something the MBA’s really done is built my confidence,” said Mr Wright.

“I’m feeling more confident in myself and in taking a more strategic view of different decisions and different considerations in the business.”

He added that postgrad study like an MBA demonstrates you’re committed to continuously improving professionally.

“It shows that you're committed to something that's difficult. It shows that you're committed to your own education and your own expansion of thinking,” he said.

This also gives clients confidence.

“It means that our clients know that the leaders of the business practice what they preach and invest in their own education and in constant improvement – instead of resting on laurels.”

Expand your opportunities

Postgrad study has allowed Mrs Pemberton to access more jobs and opportunities in the counselling industry.

“Adding to my knowledge gave me the opportunity to access further roles and gain experience which has been acknowledged in the work that I do,” she said.

Many USQ postgrad courses include industry placements and real-world learning opportunities, to help students put their knowledge into practice – and build industry connections.

“Being able to take my education further gave me the opportunity to be able to see the world with different eyes and put that into my practice for positive outcomes,” said Mrs Pemberton.

Find a job you love

In her current role, Mrs Pemberton has two main focuses: supporting clients and training students to be counsellors.

It’s challenging but satisfying work. She draws on her knowledge base and critical thinking skills to provide guidance – but she’s always learning more.

“My day gets full on, in assessing students and in addressing clients’ issues. This comes with a lot of processing and researching through my scope of practice to make sure that I am addressing their needs and not just assuming I know best,” she said.

“When counselling, I see this as an opportunity to walk with people on their journey. More like a co-traveller than someone who is the expert.”

Her advice for those considering a career shake-up?

“Do not wait too long to go for your dreams, no matter what age, no matter if you are a new parent or new to study,” she said.

“Postgraduate study is right for anyone who has the passion and desire to do it. We all need to believe in ourselves and stop using the word ‘failure’ as a barrier. Instead, we can look at it as the opportunity to gain more experience.”

Want to learn more about postgraduate study opportunities at USQ? Visit usq.edu.au/postgrad to see how it could help fast-track your career development.