Staying-on after twenty-one: the returns to postgraduate education

Pamela Lenton


The expansion of higher education in the UK has led to an increase in the number of postgraduate as well as undergraduate students. This paper investigates the wage return to postgraduate degrees, differentiating between traditional Masters degrees, vocational postgraduate degrees and PhDs, over the period 1993-2014. We additionally, differentiate between the area of study for Masters degrees. Results show that wage returns to both undergraduate and all postgraduate degrees have increased over time. The subject undertaken at Masters level is more important in determining wages for males. Females holding a Masters degree in any subject earn a significant wage premium. There is also evidence of growth in the wage returns to other, vocational, non-Masters degrees. The findings of this paper imply that not only are postgraduates highly skilled individuals but that the provision of postgraduate courses, and thence postgraduate degree holders within the UK labour market should be increased.