Postgraduate study can provide a great opportunity to further develop your knowledge and skills within your area of interest. It can also prepare you to enter the employment market with additional knowledge and expertise. With a wide range of options available, you can choose between taught or research-based postgraduate study, and some programmes also offer practical placements in addition to academic experience.
Deciding to pursue postgraduate study
Postgraduate study can enable you to build on your existing skills and knowledge, or it can help you to redirect your career path. Students wishing to change their career path can choose to study a conversion course, which is a postgraduate degree designed to prepare students from different academic backgrounds for a new career in a wide range of areas such as law, psychology, finance or fintech, to name a few. See here for information about the requirements to enter different career sectors.
Whilst postgraduate study brings a lot of benefits, it is important to think about your motivation for further study, and to decide if you are prepared to commit the time and funding, before making a decision. Some programmes may require you to undertake studies for 1 to 2 years (masters) or up to 4 years (PhD). When researching postgraduate programmes, think about how you feel this would benefit you. Define what you hope to achieve as a result of doing further study, and then investigate whether the course(s) you are considering are likely to lead you there. There will often be some alumni profiles on course pages, but don’t limit yourself to that information. Use LinkedIn to find people who have studied the course(s) and look at their career paths before and after the course – did it lead them to where you want to go? What was their background before the course? Where are they working now? This type of research can be very helpful in deciding what route to take to reach your own career goals.
If you’re not yet sure what you would like to do in the future, it might not be the best idea to do postgraduate study simply to delay career decision-making. For support in planning your next steps, see Career Planning and book and appointment with your Careers Consultant via MyCareer.
Choosing a postgraduate study option
Some factors to take into account when choosing where to undertake postgraduate study include:
- Course content
- Interest in the subject
- Likelihood of the course leading to desired career outcomes
- Prestige of the institution
- Reputation of the course
- Research track record of your supervisor (for postgraduate research)
- Language requirements
Types of postgraduate course
- These may help you to move into something more vocational
- The subject area may be different to that studied in your first degree
- Sometimes it is possible to convert into a masters on completion of the diploma through further study
- A degree is required, the quality of degree required will depend on the course entry requirements
- Taught programmes generally involve course work plus thesis, the average time to complete is 1-2 years
- May include placement experience
- Can be required for certain career paths or to convert into a new career direction
- Intensive self-directed research guided by a supervisor, and more independent approach towards learning compared to the taught option
- It takes less time and is less demanding than a PhD
- An original contribution to knowledge
- It takes several years to research and write a doctoral thesis
- A very good quality degree, i.e. first class or upper second class honours, is usually needed
Financing postgraduate study
- Postgraduate Diploma and Masters you may have to pay in full out of your own funds.
- PhD: universities may have funds (studentships, scholarships) to attract the best students. Funding can come from national governments, funding agencies and from within universities. See our list of funding opportunities to find out more.
- Note: 1/3 postgraduate students are funded by parents initially
6 step plan to making an effective decision about postgraduate study:
- Talk to academic and Careers Service staff.
- Decide on the subject matter you would like to study.
- Think about your goals and research whether the programme is likely to move you in the right direction
- Decide on the type of postgraduate programme you want - taught or research.
- Clarify funding options.
- Find out more about:
- Closing dates to apply for courses/PhDs and to apply for funding
- When offers are made
- The timeframe for accepting offers
More information about personal statements.
How to find a PhD
More information about how to find a PhD.