Should I study beyond a bachelor?

As you come to the end of your bachelor’s degree, you may be asking yourself “what next?” Is a job search on the cards? Perhaps you should do an honours year, and then even continue onto a PhD?

Three Griffith marine science alumni recently shared how their study choices affected their career outcomes in a career Q&A with students at Griffith. Watch the video below for some highlights of the talk with students.

Bachelor’s degree

Name: Helena Karatvuo
Degree: Bachelor of Marine Science, Major in Coastal Research Management
Position: Graduate Environmental Scientist at SeaPort OPX

Tell us about your role

I work for a Danish software company, which operates in 30 countries providing operational assistance to ports. Some of the work they do includes calculating numerical models on how ships can get in and out of ports with minimal water required. The company are moving into more environmental fields such as climate change management tools, sedimentation and other environmental forecasts. I work on the climate change program in a varied role that includes a lot of science communication and client training.

How did you get your role?

I was employed through an internship that I did through the Griffith Industry Affiliates Program with DHI. I chose an internship in an area I had less interest or experience in because I saw potential for growth in the company. 6 months after completing my internship I later received a message on LinkedIn from my manager, went to have a coffee and I was offered a job, which I now absolutely love.

Do you think Honours or other further studies would have changed your career outcome?

I’m a very impatient person and after 3 years didn’t see myself doing a PhD because I can’t stick to something too long. I need a job that gives me some variation so went straight into the workforce. I probably want to do a masters degree in the future but I’m not entirely sure in what, I might want to do science communication or something different.

I’ve been really lucky in the industry to find out where my passion lies, and I’m working in a company that gives me lots of options. I work in communications, client management, training and it’s an exciting environment as we are all very multi-skilled and have transferable skills across different sectors. In that way I’m glad I went straight into the workforce; getting the experience early on has been really valuable.

“ I’ve been really lucky in the industry to find out where my passion lies”

Honours degree

Name: Rachel Janes
Degree: Bachelor of Science (Honours), Major in Marine Biology
Position: Fisheries Scientist at Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

Marine biology student with turtle

Tell us about your role in Fisheries

I work at the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries on the fishery monitoring team. I assess the status of fish docks and the sustainability of fisheries to understand resources for current and future generations. My role focusses on the recreational side of fishing, which mostly entails a state-wide fishing survey involving data checking and analysis. For example, I analyse the distribution and catch of a certain species in QLD. I also perform data requests for different stakeholders such as researchers.

What do you think Honours have given you that you didn’t get in your Bachelor’s degree?

I felt like I needed to expand on my technical skills and knew I wanted a job in government. I thought completing an honours would make me more competitive for the type of role I wanted. I did consider doing a PhD, but wasn’t sure of a topic and didn’t want to rush into something I may not have been dedicated to. I got a job in fisheries straight out of my honours and have know I always have the option to go back to do my PhD.

Doctor of philosophy (PhD)

Name: Shannon Klein
Degrees: Bachelor of Science (Honours), Major in Marine Biology, and PhD 
Position: Postdoctoral Research Fellow at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST)

Tell us about your journey from a bachelor’s to a PhD

I did Bachelor of Science with a Marine Biology major, followed by my honours, where I spent 10 months doing a project on jellyfish polyps. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after honours but had realised I really like research and wanted to keep going, so I did a PhD. During my PhD I was lucky to go to many conferences where I met a professor who I spoke with a lot. Towards the end of my PhD I emailed him, and he offered me a job – 4 months later I was on a plane to Saudi Arabia and I’ve been here 3 years as a post-doc research fellow.

What does your role entail?

KAUST is one of the fastest rising research universities in the world and my career is research intensive. I’m not only doing research on jellyfish as I did in my PhD. Most of my role is around conducting research on corals, climate change and many other things. I conduct experiments and data analysis and write papers. University set me up to critically think and create work that is simple to understand and able to publish.

Where does a PhD take you that a Bachelor or Honours wouldn’t?

[The Discipline Head of Marine Science] Professor Kylie Pitt once said to me that an honours is a sprint, and a PhD is a marathon.
They’re two different things and they give you completely different sets of skills. If you want to go into academia or research a PhD is a good pathway for you, but it’s also a really good way to get into more senior levels of industry as well.

There are two main pathways you can do with a PhD. You can go into industry; you don’t do a PhD just to go into research or academia. Many people I know have gone straight into higher level roles in government and fisheries for example. Whereas if you finish with your bachelor or honours, you’re more likely to go into an entry level position. In saying that, even if you do a PhD you still need work experience to do higher roles, so it’s important to understand what you need to get to the position you want. For me, a PhD is a great way if you want to gain critical thinking skills; it teaches you persistence and of course you get Dr in front of your name as well.

To find a course that suits you visit the Griffith University course finder.

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