Serial masters degrees

One reason we reject some candidates before interview is because they recently did another masters degree, including an MBA. On occasions the applicants are doing one masters while applying for another. This might seem as if we’re rejecting people with lots of academic credentials but there is such a thing as being over-qualified.

If you look at it from the point of view of a future employer, a person who has two consecutive masters degrees looks a bit odd. Does it mean they rather like being a student too much? Or that they lack self confidence so they stay studying rather than actually get a job? Or they couldn’t get a job so they did another degree? Or they can’t make their minds up what to do? And on top of all this, the candidate will have at least two years out of the job market before their next job.

There may be some occasions when doing two masters degrees in a row is sensible. A former MBA student of mine here at Cambridge went on to do a real estate finance masters in the US, having discovered during his MBA that this was what he really wanted to do. And the job market was terrible at that time, so the whole thing made sense. But this is a rare combination of circumstances.

I’m particularly doubtful about people who already have a masters degree in finance from a respectable¬† university, acquired in the last three years, and yet want to do the Cambridge MFin. It’s difficult to decide what is the worst signal sent by this sort of application. That their first masters was a waste of time? Or that they didn’t work hard enough to learn anything? Or that they couldn’t get a job afterwards so they’re having another go? This is not the sort of student you want to be teaching. And it looks terrible on a CV.

The majority of people in finance in the City of London have a single degree, MBAs being still relatively rare in this country. Many are sceptical about masters degrees but are willing to look at applicants who have been admitted to a good university. Adding yet another masters is unlikely to improve the odds of getting a job with them.

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