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June 23, 2022, by Leah Sharpe

Postgraduate Study? – Four Ws to Consider

By Suzanne Mcgregor, Faculty of Arts Careers Consultant

If you are approaching the end of your current course, you may be thinking about embarking on more study.

Here are the Ws you should consider:

1. What?

Your choices are huge, but tend to fall into 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 and would need to be followed by a PhD. There are no guarantees of entering academia at the end of this journey so it’s 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 undergraduate to PhD, but very 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 ‘convert’ your studies at postgraduate level to be at the same point as someone who has studied this at undergraduate level. Essential examples include speech therapy, archives, library and information, professional psychology, planning, medicine and nursing, teaching, 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, do you need relevant experience in order to apply?

Something different

Whilst 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, and media. Whilst 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 into areas like journalism.

2. Why?

There are many reasons for choosing postgraduate study and the ‘What’ section addresses some of them. Here are some more reasons:

‘I will get a better job/more money/stand out’.

If you are doing an essential vocational course, then this is a must. However, just having a masters doesn’t always jettison you to 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 it is important that you make the most of your time whilst 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.

It puts off having to think and buys me an extra year or more

This is understandable, but you need to remain proactive whilst on the course as the time will go by very quickly

3. Where?

This will depend on a number of factors unique to you such as where you can do your subject, do you want/need to live at home, do you want a familiar place or a change of scene? You may want to study overseas.

For the UK application for many postgraduate courses is online directly to that specific university. Some have centralised application routes like teaching and law. Some have closing dates, others don’t but check these individually with the university.

4. When?

Although tempting to bolt onto your undergraduate course, you could also consider some time out to gain experience/save up/have more time to choose what to study.

Consider whether you want to do this study full time, part time, distance learning (if these options are available for what you want to do). It may be possible to work and study flexibly. This could be helpful as further study can be costly.

There are masters loans, possibly bursaries and scholarships (check deadlines for these ASAP) plus charities and trusts that might offer funding. View our Sources of funding webpage.

For further information on all of this, book an appointment to have a chat to us or visit our website.

Posted in Careers AdviceFurther studyGraduating in 2022