This is a common question among graduates. When I get this question I always ask the graduate the reason for doing post-graduate studies. Many do not have a clear vision of their career goals. They just simply want to add degrees to their CV thinking it might give them better career opportunities. This is not always true. Additional degrees can be a double-edged sword. You might be over qualified for many jobs.
So here is my answer: Nothing beats industry experience. Universities can only offer academic knowledge and in many cases they could be irrelevant to what the industry is looking for. But I am also not saying that post-graduate degrees are a waste. They must be tailored to your career goals, interest and market demand.
I would suggest graduates to get into the job market, gain experience, explore the various areas related to their field, build network, and explore your own interest and what the market is looking for. This would give you a good lead to the field of post-graduate studies that will benefit you and suitable to your interest and talent.
By doing this, you will reduce the chances of being unemployed after your Masters or PhD. There is another advantage to this. It is common for your research to fail while doing your post-graduate studies or there might be time you need industry expertise and when this happens, the contacts that you built while working will be of great help. You will not be in the dark and you will immediately know where to go for help.
Many simply choose a field of study just because it was offered by their supervisors only to find later that their research does not have market value. There are also those who are unable to identify their field of research due to lack of exposure. This would be different if you have exposed yourself to the industry. You will come across areas that you have never heard before and that is really in demand.
If I have had done my PhD immediately after my Masters, I would have gone into fermentation technology or molecular biology only to realise later that I did not want to be a practicing scientist. My PhD would not really add value to my career development. I had a calling for science communication after being exposed to this field and my PhD in this field has led me to be an internationally recognised science communicator.
I had so much of difficulties in my PhD due to it being a new field in Malaysia. My supervisor was of very little help. But through my network I got my university to appoint a consultant from Australia to help me who in fact, stepped up as my “supervisor”. I couldn’t imagine my fate if I was a fresh graduate without any exposure.
And lastly, there is big difference between a PhD holder with industry experience and one without. The job market outside the university makes you think out of the box and look at things in a different perspective. Again, nothing beats the experience in the real world.