Steps to Postgraduate Study : Why choose taught postgraduate study?
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Steps to Postgraduate Study

A guide to asking the right questions about taught postgraduate study in the UK

Why choose taught postgraduate study?

Will postgraduate study help me get a better job?

Some employers place more value on a postgraduate qualification - but not all. It depends on the career and the employer.

For some specialist roles, employers require a postgraduate qualification.

Ideas to try: Professional careers advice could help you decide if a postgraduate qualification is necessary for your career.

The careers service at your undergraduate institution could offer advice in this area.

Other possible sources of advice are:

  • a local university or college careers service (some services will help non-alumni)
  • your Human Resources department (if you are working)
  • the National Careers Service (if you are in the UK)
  • the careers section of the nidirect website (if you are in Northern Ireland)
  • Careers Wales (if you are in Wales)

Would a postgraduate course help my career?

A postgraduate course should lead to a qualification at a high level, which will be recognised either professionally or academically.

How this helps your career will depend on many factors: the course, qualification, the sector of work, personal experiences, aspirations and drive. So a lot depends on the circumstances.

Speaking with friends, colleagues, lecturers or careers advisers should help to take these factors into account.

It is also worth considering that:

  • Some professional qualifications are specific to the UK, so for international careers it’s important to make sure the qualification is relevant.
  • Speaking directly with an employer or a professional association should clarify whether a course is well-suited to a particular career path.
  • If an employer is prepared to fund your study, it is a good indication that the qualification will be useful.

Will a taught postgraduate course help me change career?

A postgraduate course could help you change career, but a lot will depend on your circumstances. So it’s best to seek professional advice.

You can do this in different ways. You could, for example, contact:

  • your previous university or college’s careers service (if you are already a graduate)
  • a private career adviser or coach
  • a professional organisation in the profession you are considering.

This could help you find out what employers are looking for and if a postgraduate qualification could help.

Ideas to try: Ask the institution you are considering if you can contact any current postgraduate students from your own country to learn about their experiences.

Do I need a taught postgraduate qualification to do postgraduate research?

The qualifications for postgraduate research vary between different subjects.

  • In some subjects, students progress to doctoral research either straight from their first degree or from a masters (for example, in physical and biological sciences).
  • In other subjects, many students will gain a masters qualification before doctoral research (for example, in the humanities).

A postgraduate qualification is rarely a requirement. But, if you have an interest in particular research institutions, or areas of research, you should ask what the requirements are.

How difficult is postgraduate study?

You may worry that some aspects of postgraduate study could be challenging, especially if you have been away from study for many years.

A postgraduate course such as a masters will be more demanding and more intensive than an undergraduate course. You will be introduced to a range of new ideas, and sometimes new ways of working. Be prepared for an intensive start.

Support for study

Universities and colleges can support postgraduate students in their studies. They may offer:

  • help to identify the skills you will need
  • facilities or support to help you study
  • language and academic writing courses for international students (these may cost extra and international students will need to make sure their visa covers them).

Ideas to try: Think about any study skills you used in the past and whether you still have these, even if you now use them in a different way. Which would you need to improve? What other skills have you acquired since then which could be useful in postgraduate study? Course descriptions on institution websites could reveal the skills you have and those you might need to develop.

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Practical considerations