Deciding whether to continue your studies after graduation is not a decision to be taken lightly. Due to the costs and commitment required, a lot of people find the idea of continuing their studies counter-productive. But, there is a lot to be gained from pursuing a postgraduate degree. Apart from the fact that it makes you more knowledgeable, it also helps increase your job opportunities and pushes you to develop on both a personal and professional level.
Reasons to Pursue Postgraduate Study
1. Makes You More Specialised
The job market is becoming increasingly demanding, as employers are looking for employees that are highly skilled and qualified. A master’s degree, or any other postgraduate level qualification, could help turn you into the kind of professional employees are looking for.
2. Ensures a Higher Salary
The more skilled a professional is, the better their chances to advance professionally, and professional advancement does not just mean more responsibilities and work duties, it also means a higher salary. In fact, according to research, professionals with a postgraduate degree should expect to gain as much £5,500 more a year, which amounts to £200,000 over a forty-year work career.
3. Allows You to Advance Faster
Depending on the postgraduate degree you pursue, you might even be able to start your career in a position that requires expertise. This means that moving up the ranks will be much easier, and even if you start at entry-level, you will be able to advance in the workplace faster than colleagues that do not hold a postgraduate degree.
Types of Degrees Available
1. Taught Programmes
Taught programmes are advanced qualifications that are usually taken after an undergraduate degree. They normally take one year to complete, and they generally lead to three qualifications.
- Master’s Degree (MA, MSc, MEng, MBA)
- Postgraduate Diploma (PgDip)
- Postgraduate Certificate (PgCert)
2. Research Programmes
Research programmes require independent research and they involve in-depth study of a specialised subject. They generally take three years to complete and they lead to the following qualifications:
- Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
- Master of Philosophy (MPhil)
- Master of Research (MRes)
- Master of Advanced Study
3. Conversion Programmes
Conversion programmes are intensive postgraduate courses that allow individuals to pursue a career which they were not prepared for by their undergraduate degree. They are ideal for people who did not have a specific career in mind during their Bachelor degree. They are usually vocational, and they can take either months or years to complete depending on the programme you are interested in pursuing.
Types of Programmes:
- Graduate Diploma in Law: a fast-track route to the Legal Practice Course and the Bar Professional Training Course for people without an accredited degree in Law
- Graduate Diploma in Psychology: for people without an accredited by the British Psychology Society degree who wish to pursue a career in Psychology
- IT Conversion Courses
- Medicine Conversion Courses
- Postgraduate Certificate in Education: qualification that’s required for anyone who wants to be a teacher
- Property Conversion Courses: equip you with all-inclusive knowledge of the property and construction sector
4. Professional Qualifications Programmes
Professional qualification programmes allow people to develop the skills that are required to work in a specific industry or job. Professional bodies award them within the relevant industry or sector and the time that’s required to complete them depends on the particular professional qualification you are trying to gain.
Types of Professional Qualifications
- Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA)
- BCS - The Chartered Institute for IT
- British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM)
- British Pharmacological Society (BPS)
- Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH)
- Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT)
- Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA)
- Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)
- Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR)
- Chartered Insurance Institute (CII)
- Confederation of Tourism and Hospitality (CTH)
- Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)
- ICSA: The Governance Institute
- Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA)
- Institute of Sales and Marketing Management (ISMM)
- Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE)
- National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ)
- Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)
- Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC)
- Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI)
1. Identify Your Motives
To choose the right degree, you need to start by thinking about your end-goal. Do you want to pursue a career in research or the professional world?
2. Do Your Research
Different departments specialise in different things, so it’s important to identify if the department of the university you are interested in specialises in something you want to pursue. By choosing what you want to specialise in, you are setting the foundation for your career.
3. Talk to Past Students
It’s important to talk to past students about an institution because it will help you make your decision much easier. Ask what you should expect, what they liked and disliked about the university as well as any other questions you may have.
Fees and Funding
Costs vary depending on the programme you select, the level and the university. Prices range from approximately £5,000 to £30,000. Generally speaking, certificates and diplomas will cost less (they also take less time to complete) while PhDs have higher fees. A Master’s of Arts, for example, can range anywhere between £3,000 and £8,200 per year, while an MBA at a high-profile university can cost as much as £20,000-£30,000 per year.
It’s important to note that an MBA costs more than a PhD, so you might want to take this into consideration if you are considering pursuing an MBA.
Apart from tuition fees, it’s important to take living expenses such as accommodation and commuting into consideration. Living expenses can cost anything between £8,000 to £11,000 a year, but that is also dependant on where you are located. For example, London is by far the most expensive city in the UK. And although getting a job while studying is always strongly recommended as it helps you gain work experience, you might find that a Master’s degree requires significant levels of commitment and will often leave you with no spare time.
Scholarships and Bursaries
Scholarships: Many universities award scholarships for academic excellence, so do consider pursuing a Master’s in the same university as your Bachelor’s.
Hardship Funds: These funds are awarded to students who face financial difficulties. They are generally given by universities to students from low-income families and/or who are parents themselves.
GTA: Graduate Teaching Assistantships are offered to PhD students for whom teaching experience can be valuable. Although they don’t pay a lot, they can go a long way in improving your job prospects with the university after receiving your PhD.
Bursaries: Many charitable organisations help students with their tuition fees, and there’s no harm in applying to as many as you can find. Many students find that portfolio funding (getting funds from various organisations) is the only way to cover tuition fees.
Career Development Loan: These Co-operative bank loans won’t require you to pay anything for the duration of your studies, but you are expected to start repaying a month after you graduate. They cover tuition fees, learning-related expenses (such as books) and cost of living.
Postgraduate Loans: Much like student loans, postgraduate loans will help with tuition fees by offering up to £10,000, while you are only expected to start repaying them when your income meets a certain amount. Although £10,000 is not a lot, especially if you are aiming for a high-profile MBA course, it’s an excellent way to get started.
How to Apply
Applying for postgraduate degrees is usually done directly to the institution of your choice. Navigate to their website, and you’ll find the application form you need to fill to apply.
Application forms usually need to be accompanied by proof of your academic qualifications and a list of referees. You’ll also need to enclose your personal statement, and some programmes require a research proposal or portfolio.
When to Apply
There usually isn’t a deadline for postgraduate programmes and universities accept applications all year round. Because of this, however, they tend to accept students on a first come, first-serve basis. To ensure that you’ll get accepted onto the programme of your choice, you should send your application at least eight months prior to the course’s start date.
Of course, pursuing postgraduate study isn’t your only option when it comes to taking the first steps in your career, but it’s certainly something you need to consider as it will enhance your employability skills and help make you a better-rounded professional.
Do you have any other questions about postgraduate study? If you do, let us know in the comments section below!
See Also: Graduate Job Basics: Where to Start
This article was originally published in December 2016.