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Public service, charity and social work
Postgraduate study helps get a graduate job in the public sector

Postgraduate study in the public sector

A postgraduate qualification might be the stepping stone you need to get started on your career in the public sector.

Many courses relate specifically to the public sector, including qualifications in healthcare, public sector management and military engineering (which could provide specialist knowledge for a career in the armed forces). Jobs in teaching, social work and environmental health all require a postgraduate qualification. But your postgraduate course needn’t be specifically related to the public sector – a masters in financial services could give you the edge you need to get hired.

Investing in postgraduate study before applying for jobs in public service is more likely to pay off if you are clear about what you want to do, as you are more likely to choose a course that will further your career aims. Generally speaking, you do not need postgraduate qualifications to apply for graduate jobs and schemes in the public sector, though you are typically expected to have either a 2.1 or 2.2 in your undergraduate degree. However, there are some schemes where a postgraduate qualification could be an advantage, particularly if you have a 2.2.

Here are some examples of minimum qualification requirements from the range of Civil Service Fast Stream schemes for 2017 entry:

  • Science and engineering: you need either a 2.1 or chartered engineer status and a doctorate or postgraduate degree in a relevant subject
  • Government Economic Service – you need either a 2.1 in economics or a 2.2 with a postgraduate qualification in economics
  • Government Operational Research Service – 2.1 degree in a numerate subject or a 2.2 with a relevant postgraduate qualification
  • Government Social Research Service – 2.1 degree in social science or a 2.2 with a postgraduate qualification in social research
  • Government Statistical Service – 2.1 degree in a numerate subject or a 2.2 with a relevant postgraduate qualification

To be eligible for the national graduate development programme for local government you need either a 2.2.

Postgraduate study options in public service

There are various different subject options to consider, from social research or economics to the study of public policy and public administration. There are also courses available in public service commissioning and public service management. There is likely to be some overlap in different courses relating to the public sector and the clearer you are about the kind of job role you want in the long run the easier it will be to choose the right one for you. Some postgraduate study programmes are intended for those who are already working in the public sector and others are open to those with relatively little relevant experience.

Postgraduate qualifications relevant to the public sector are available at different levels:

Masters degree (MA, MSc): the most common form of taught course, including submission of a thesis. Many universities offer a research-based masters (MPhil).
Duration: 1-2 years.

Postgraduate diploma (PgDip): taught course that doesn’t include submission of a thesis.
Duration: 1-2 years.

Doctorate (PhD, DPhil): the highest level degree, culminating in a thesis.
Duration: 3-4 years.

On a postgraduate course in public policy you might study the following:

  • Policy analysis
  • Qualitative analysis (analysing issues with the use of case studies, for example, rather than through quantitative methods such as the use of statistics)
  • Management
  • Politics

You might also be able to specialise in a particular field of public policy:

  • The environment
  • Health
  • Urban policy
  • Economics
  • Education

On a postgraduate course in public administration you could cover the following subjects:

  • Leadership
  • Strategy
  • Performance management
  • Human resource management
  • Key public sector developments in different parts of the world
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