What's the point of masters degress, Phds and work experience?

The Graduate


I recently fell at the first hurdle of the civil service fast stream selection process - I didn’t pass the situational judgement test or the psychometric test. What annoys me is that there is no real way to prepare for these tests (other than looking at the competencies of the civil service - which I did), and there was no way of making myself stand out prior to this test as someone with more qualifications (plus I have a first) and work experience where I have demonstrated many of the competencies the civil service look for.

My question is what’s the point of these degrees, and work experience, if the graduate recruitment process is not even set up to screen for these things - they are more interested in random tests which for me seem to be a crapshoot that do not reflect people’s genuine capabilities in realistic scenarios. Additionally what is the point of striving for a first if you don’t even get to tell people you have a first before you go in for selection? Surely having a first demonstrates a level of dedication and hard work above a 2:1? I’m just a bit frustrated right now as you can imagine, and I don’t know how I’m going to make my additional qualifications and experience count for anything applying for other graduate schemes.


PhD graduates are rare, and PhD jobs are incredibly specialised. Anybody who does a PhD because they think it might make them more employable in the eyes of the HR people at Big Firm X is a fool. PhDs only make you more employable in very specific areas. For example many patent attorney firms only hire PhD graduates.

And the same goes for Master’s degrees to an extent. To many employers, they won’t care if you have a Master’s. In fact, the Big Four don’t even require you to get a 2:1 anymore, because they know that grades aren’t indicative of a candidate’s abilities or strengths.

But this is because large recruiters like the Civil Service and the Big Four have large recruitment departments and they can afford to look at everyone’s application. For smaller companies, it saves them a huge amount of time if they can just bin half their applications by having an arbitrary grade barrier.

So yeah, your grades and experience will help in some scenarios, but they don’t do much if you’re going for a large recruiter like the Civil Service, who focus on your actual strengths rather than a number on a certificate.


Well seeing as I teach university students I can tell you that the difference in character between the kind of student who gets a first and a 2:2 is not just a ‘number on a certificate’. People who get firsts tend to turn up on time, do all the required work and go out of their way to do additional work, and can actually form coherent sentences and arguments, something which a lot of 2:2 students can’t do. Relegating that difference to just a ‘number on a certificate’ ignores this difference in effort and character, and is just insulting to people who actually took their university education seriously.


As a previous graduate recruitment employer, I understand your frustration. Believe me, the hard work is worth it! It may seem that isn’t the case but employers are looking for a strong academic achievement which is subsequently indicative of the applicant’s ability to transfer that commitment and dedication to the workplace. With regard to whether Masters or PhD adds value in terms of employability, the Masters degree will give you an extra edge for sure. The PhD is much more specialist and definitely narrows your choices - I believe PhD to be the right choice for students who wish to remain in academia/research/other specialist careers. Safer to choose the Bachelors and/or Masters option.

Better luck going forward.