May 18, 2021, by indybamra1
Thinking About Postgraduate Study?
By Suzanne Mcgregor, Faculty of Arts Careers and Employability Consultant
As you approach the end of your current course, you may be thinking about embarking on more study. This is a popular option and our careers team spends a lot of time with students discussing what, why, where, when, and how.
Your choices are huge, so what do you want to do? Options tend to fall into these broad categories:
- More of your current subject: if you have a passion for what you currently study, the prospect of studying it at a higher level is very appealing. This is essential if you have any thoughts of a career in academia, that would need to be followed by a PhD. There are no guarantees of entering academia at the end of this journey so it is always a good idea to have a plan B or C. If you are thinking about a PhD, it is very important to talk through your research interests with relevant academics. If you are studying a STEM subject, it is possible (though not a given) to progress straight from an undergraduate degree to a PhD. But this is rare in arts and social sciences.
- A vocational course: for some careers, it is either essential or highly desirable to have a relevant postgraduate qualification or to ‘convert’ your studies at the postgraduate level to be at the same point as someone who has studied this at an undergraduate level. Essential examples include speech therapy, archives, library and information, professional psychology, planning, medicine and nursing, teaching, and social work (although there are other routes into the last two). Desirable examples include journalism and translation. Look out for any accreditation by a professional body, is there a compulsory or optional placement, or do you need relevant experience to apply?
- Something different: while not strictly vocational, you could also consider further study in another academic subject which does not require prior study in it such as international relations, business, politics, or media. While not essential to a future career in those fields, it might help to demonstrate knowledge and commitment.
It is also worth remembering that a masters is not the only study option for some subjects! There can be diplomas and fast-track courses in areas like journalism.
There are many reasons to choose a postgraduate study and below are some reasons:
- ‘I will get a better job, more money, and stand out.’ If you are doing an essential vocational course, then this is a must. However, just having a masters degree does not always put you at the top of the pile. Many employers use generic online assessments which you must get through regardless of what level of study you have. Others value experience over additional qualifications. The onus is often on you to demonstrate the added value of your further study.
- ‘It will help me make up my mind.’ It might do, but we see many postgraduate students who are still confused about their next step so you must make the most of your time while on your course and the opportunities around it.
- ‘All my friends are, and they have a spare room.’ Surprisingly common but not the best reason to do postgraduate study!
- ‘It buys me an extra year (or more) to decide what I want to do.’ In these times this is understandable, but you need to remain proactive while on the course.
This will depend on a number of factors that are unique to you such as, where you can do your subject? Do you want or need to live at home? Do you want a familiar place or a change of scene? You may want to study overseas to experience a new country or culture.
Although it is tempting to bolt onto your undergraduate course, you could also consider some time out to gain experience, save some money, and have more time to choose what you want to study.
For many postgraduate courses, applications are online directly to that specific university. Some have centralised application routes like teaching and law. Consider whether you want to do this study full-time, part-time, or through distance learning (if these options are available for what you want to do).
Funding may also be an issue. There are masters loans, possibly some bursaries and scholarships (check deadlines for these ASAP). Some charities and trusts might also offer funding and you have free access to the Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding.
Are you considering further study? Take a look at our applying for courses webpage. We also have lots of information on sources of postgraduate funding. For further information on all of this, book in to have a chat with us and visit our further study webpage for more support.
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