Inquisitive professional mindset
Professor Elizabeth Gammie is currently head of Aberdeen Business School at the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, Scotland. Under her leadership the school has achieved the coveted AACSB accreditation, was the first school in the world to achieve Business Graduate Association (BGA) accreditation, has been shortlisted for the Times Higher Ed business school of the year, and most recently was identified as the top business school in the UK for student experience based on national student survey results.
When is the right time career-wise for Master’s degree studies?
Students undertake Master’s level study at many different points in their career journey. For some students, the best time to do this is immediately after completing an undergraduate degree, when they are in the habit of studying. Others engage with further study after gaining some work experience, by which time they are clearer about their specialist interests and the professional pathway they wish to follow. A further typical entry point is when a student finds themselves in a management role for the first time and recognises that a Master’s qualification and professional body membership can help not only to advance their careers but also to make them better managers. The message is that there is not one “right” time, but rather that you will benefit from studying towards a Master’s qualification whatever stage you are at in your career.
What is the competitive advantage of a Master’s degree in the dynamic job market today, and in the long term?
Our focus at RGU is firmly on developing our students as professionals. All of our courses are professionally accredited and we work very closely with these accrediting bodies to ensure that the curriculum of each course reflects the latest and most innovative thinking in the relevant discipline. However, we want our students to not only learn what is already known but to really understand the importance of continuing to learn throughout their professional lives. Students have the opportunity to develop professional networks through their studies which can not only help with that all-important first step on the career ladder but can support and sustain continuous learning throughout their career.
How do Master’s degree studies boost career progression?
Studying at Master’s level develops an inquisitive professional mindset which is highly valued by employers. Being able to identify business problems, examine them from multiple perspectives, and then work with a range of stakeholders to implement appropriate solutions and effect change are all skills that are developed in the classroom and then practised in applied settings. Working with like-minded individuals will fuel your ambition to plan for and then achieve career success – whatever that means to you.
Are Master’s programmes for career changers or for those who already have relevant academic background and experience in the chosen field?
Definitely either. The pandemic has made many people re-evaluate their career – some by choice and others through redundancy. Some courses require a commitment to a specific specialist discipline such as HR, Project Management or Accounting and Finance, whilst those courses which are accredited by the CMI (Chartered Management Institute) are more focused on the skills of management.
Are applicants expected to have clear career plans when applying for admission to a Master’s degree programme?
Not at all. RGU has an exemplary graduate employment record and we have a dedicated team within our Employability Hub who work with our students throughout their studies to prepare them for and then support them through the graduate job search. That support doesn’t terminate on graduation either – we are very happy to continue working with you as your career progresses and even to welcome you back to share your experience with future cohorts!
How do business schools make sure the knowledge and skill set they build are relevant to the business reality?
Change is the only guaranteed constant in our lives and such change requires curricula that are constantly evolving to maintain relevance and currency. We work very closely with professional bodies as well as a range of industry partners to ensure that we bring cutting-edge thinking to the classroom. Many of our academic staff have distinguished professional careers and are always keen to help students apply their knowledge to real-life situations. All of our Master’s courses incorporate an optional year-long placement which provides the perfect testing ground for the appropriateness of our curriculum, and we work closely with our placement employers to continually refine our courses based on their feedback.
What is the healthy balance between theoretical knowledge and practical training? How is each of these elements of a degree programme important for professional development?
Theory is important but it is the ability to understand why and how to apply that theory in new and different contexts that makes a graduate employable. By engaging in a course which encourages students not just to accept theory but to question and challenge it, we develop the professional mindset that is so important to the future direction of their working life. For students who choose our placement route, the opportunity to immediately apply their theoretical knowledge in a practical context provides that perfect introduction to professional life.
What else in the student experience, beyond academics, helps build the career success of Master’s students?
It’s all about networking! Students need to take every opportunity beyond the classroom to build and nurture their network – and at RGU they have so many opportunities to do this. It can be anything from engaging with their relevant professional body at events and conferences, undertaking work experience through live projects, or volunteering, or even participating in one-off events like innovation challenges or hackathons. Building an experience base and having a network ready to support you will set you up for your working life.
What are some of the most attractive Master’s programmes at RGU and why?
At RGU, we were the first institution in the world to achieve the coveted BGA accreditation. This demonstrates our commitment to responsible, sustainable and ethical business practice across our teaching portfolio. Our region is at the forefront of the global energy transition, which makes our MSc Energy Management and MBA Sustainability and Energy Transitions courses particularly cutting edge. Our recently validated suite of Master’s courses in Business Management offers routes in areas such as strategic leadership, innovation, and strategic risk management whilst our suite of Specialist Master’s courses having ever-enduring popularity complete the portfolio with Project Management and Human Resource Management. All of our MSc courses offer a year-long placement option and this opportunity to gain work experience has proved very popular, particularly with international students.