University of Leicester
2019AUKNDSocSci.pdf (2.55 MB)

An exploratory study on the role of master-level studies in career mobility of young graduate workers in Hong Kong

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posted on 2019-09-04, 10:58 authored by Kwok Nin Au
Informed by human capital theory as well as signalling and screening theory, I have conducted qualitative research using a hybrid of deductive and inductive approaches to understand the new role of master’s-level studies in the career mobility of young Hong Kong graduate workers. Rather than regarding master’s studies as a ‘direct’ vehicle for upward mobility, graduate workers view it as a vehicle for ‘investment’ in their human and social capital that may be mobilised in exchange of superior career opportunities to gain upward mobility immediately or sometimes represents a form of locked capital that has delayed activation under different conditions. The hierarchy of study’s needs and goals outlines the landscape of motivation for their biographic learning when negotiating a risk society. I have also created the term object of recognition to identify the roots of different forms of career advancement as well as the engine theory characterised by the metaphors – human engine and social engine as explaining the mechanism of getting upward career mobility resulting from education. I have found that through master’s studies, students aim to make internal and external changes to increase/update their knowledge and skills as well as to upgrade their academic or professional qualifications. I suggest that graduate workers equip themselves with the human engine and the social engine in order to climb the social ladder. This enrichment in mobility language helps us understand today’s social reality. This paper ends with practice-based tips for prospective master’s students and careers practitioners. Based on the findings of the research, these tips provide them theoretically and practically informed new insights into enhancement of young Hong Kong graduate workers’ early career outcomes by making use of master’s education.



Smith, Charlotte; Courtney, Richard

Date of award


Author affiliation

School of Management

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • DSocSci



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