Postgraduate study in the UK
Not sure whether postgraduate study is right for you? This guide will help you to make a decision.
More and more graduates are considering post grad study as a great way to not only specialise and further their study but also increase their employability.
It’s the opportunity to earn an extra qualification and has the potential to boost your employment prospects, so going back to university for a while can be tempting.
It’s not a decision that you should take lightly though.
If you’re weighing up the pros and cons, this guide will tell you everything you need to know before you make your final decision.
What’s in this guide?
The benefits of post grad study?
Improve your career prospects
You won’t always start on a higher wage just because you’ve completed postgraduate study, but research shows that long-term, you’ll be earning more than your peers who just have an undergraduate degree.
Plus, it’s an extra selling point on your CV that could give you a competitive edge and allow you to apply for jobs that you couldn’t do with just your undergraduate degree.
Change your career direction
If you’re thinking about entering a new field but have little in the way of experience or relevant qualifications, post grad study could be the stepping stone you need.
Study something that you’re passionate about
Some people just love studying. If you’re one of these people, the satisfaction of learning more about your passion could be all the motivation that you need.
Enter a specific profession
Some professions, such as medicine, teaching and law require post grad study. So if you have your heart set on one of these jobs, it could be a necessity rather than an option.
Change your location
You might be someone that loves to travel or just want to discover a new city. Postgraduate study gives you the opportunity to move to another city or university.
You could even look at post grad courses abroad.
Get into graduate schemes
If you got a 2.2 or below at university then you may have noticed that most graduate schemes are only open to those with a 2.1 and above OR a postgraduate degree.
Getting the postgraduate qualification would allow you to apply to those jobs that you couldn’t before.
The negatives of post grad study?
It can be costly
You’ve probably already accumulated a fair amount of debt at university. Do you really want some more?
On top of this, securing funding for postgraduate study is harder than undergraduate funding and a high number of post grad students need to get a part time job in order to support themselves.
You could be working instead
The time that you spend studying further, could be spent in a job. You could be missing out on earning money and establishing your career.
There are no guarantees
At the end of your post-grad study, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get a better job or earn more money. In this sense, it’s a bit of a risk.
You could become overqualified
Some employers will see a postgraduate degree on your CV and assume that you are overqualified for a number of positions because of your educational background.
Even though this may not be the case it might mean that they won’t even see you for an interview.
It might not help you make a choice
Just because you chose a course that you enjoyed and are interested in it does not mean that it will help you to make a solid career choice as you would hope.
It’s still down to you to make the post grad degree work for you.
What to expect from a postgraduate course
You will obviously be working towards a postgraduate qualification if you take on a course.
The two main options to gain your postgraduate qualification are taught courses and research degrees.
These are led by a tutor and you’ll have to attend lectures and seminars, just as you did as an undergraduate. You’ll leave with a Masters degree or a postgraduate diploma. The work will usually involve assessed modules with exams and a dissertation to complete.
You can pick up a master of the arts, science, business and much more.
These involve much more independent study time, though you’ll usually have the support of an academic for a few hours a week.
You’ll complete a research project (usually funded) in your chosen field, and you’ll be awarded a PhD or a doctorate which means that you can put Dr. on the front of your name (how cool).
The cost of post-grad study varies from one university to another, but you can expect to pay between £3,000 and £10,000 per year if you’re a UK student, or double if you’re an international student.
On top of this, you’ll also have to cover your living costs. It can be hard to balance high level study with part-time work, so you need to seriously think about how you’ll cope financially.
Student loans are usually not available for Masters degrees,so many students turn to bank loans instead. Of course, these often have higher interest levels and the terms are nowhere near as good as the loan you’ll have received for your undergraduate degree.
Research Grants UK provides 6,000 post-grads with funding every year, but the competition is extremely tough. You’ll usually need a 2:1 degree classification to be eligible.
Another option is employer sponsorship. If post-grad study would help you to do your job better, your employer may agree to pay a part of or the full amount. A lot of graduate schemes offer this kind of support.
Masters degrees and postgraduate diplomas will usually take one year to complete full-time, or two years if you’re studying part-time.
PhDs and doctorates take between three and four years full-time, or six years part-time.
Tips for choosing a course
Think about your future career path
You should be choosing a course that links directly to the path you want to take with your career. Find out exactly what the course offers and think about how it links to your future job.
Visit open days
Most universities offer open days where you can chat with lecturers and ask questions. It’s a great way to get a feel for the place.
Find out what previous post-grads are doing now
See if you can find any information about what previous post-grads went on to do after they completed their course. If a particular university offers a course that launches a lot of people straight into the world of employment, it could be a good bet.
Consider where you want to be based
The reputation of the university will be important, but don’t neglect the practical matters. If you’re living in London, for example, you’ll have to contend with much higher living costs. If you’re able to live with you parents while you study, you could find that it’s a huge financial help. You’ll be tied to your chosen location for the duration of your course, so choose wisely.
Will you qualify as a professional?
If you’re studying because you want to go into a specific profession, check to see whether the courses you’re considering are approved by the appropriate professional body. A Masters in Law will not qualify you as a solicitor, but a Legal Practice Course will. Find out exactly what you’ll end up with.
Why the UK?
You can do postgraduate study anywhere in the world, but there are a few reasons why studying in the UK can be such a good option.
It’s the best option if you want to work in the UK
There’s no point in going to America to study Law if you want to work in the UK. The legal systems are different, so your qualification will be pretty much worthless when you come home.
Though Law is the best example here, the same applies for many areas. If you study in a different country, the course is likely to be less relevant to work back at home.
Many UK courses are shorter
If you’re studying in Australia or America, the same course will usually take up to twice the amount of time. So studying in the UK means less tuition fees to pay, and less time till you’re back in the workplace.
The UK has many leading universities
The quality of education in the UK is generally excellent. You can pick a university with confidence and know that you’ll be leaving with a widely recognised and respected qualification.
Are you thinking about post-grad study? We’d love to hear your thoughts.