What’s your motivation?
There are many reasons for deciding to continue your studies. It could be to gain an industry-recognised qualification or to continue studying a subject you are enthusiastic about. A postgraduate course is also a big commitment (financially and time-wise) so take the time to think about your reasons and research into your options to make sure you make the best decision.
What do you plan to do afterwards?
Postgraduate study does not guarantee you a job. If you’re taking the course to improve your chances of entering a particular industry, look at current job descriptions for the sort of roles you want to apply for in the future to see if they specify that a postgraduate qualification is required. And if so, is there a particular subject they prefer? Speak to employers at career events or contact them on LinkedIn to hear their perspective and find out which (if any) qualification is most desirable.
If you are not sure what you would like to do after your degree, book an appointment to speak to a Careers Consultant to talk about your options. It’s fine if you don’t know the exact job you would like, but taking a course won’t necessarily help you to work this out. Think carefully if your main reason to study is to delay having to think about choosing a career or finding a job.
Remember that in some industries employers may prefer practical experience (where you learn whilst you work on the job) rather than qualifications. It is also possible to study part-time, take distance learning or short courses, or work for a few years before you start further study. These options allow you to combine work and study and can help spread the cost of fees.
Get some work experience
Get work experience related to the area you are applying to, especially if you have not worked in that field before. Not only do you need to make sure that your chosen career is right for you, but you will also gain valuable practical experience that will make you more employable when you graduate. Don’t fall into the trap of being overqualified for junior positions when you have finished your postgraduate course, but not having enough experience to apply for roles which are the next step up.
Know what’s involved
Postgraduate study is much more specialised than an undergraduate degree. The form of examination may be different, there may be fewer lectures or seminars and the cohort of students may be smaller. The academic year is also longer and commonly runs from September to September. Attend open days, speak to lecturers and previous students to understand what to expect before making a decision.
Have you thought about funding?
The reality is that securing funding can be very difficult, so many students will take out loans and also work to fund their studies. Part-time study may be worth considering if there is no funding available. It could be a chance to spread the cost and work part-time to cover your living expenses. Thoroughly research the fees and likely living costs. Some universities may offer scholarships and have further details about other sources of funding that previous students have successfully secured. Investigate potential funding options early, as deadlines can be early. The Prospects graduate study website also has a large amount of information on sources of funding.
Choosing a university
Think about what’s important to you when choosing where to study, e.g. reputation, facilities and whether the course is accredited/recognised by a professional body. Your choice may be restricted by the location of a particular course or supervisor, but it’s worth considering practical factors like the proximity to archives or specialist libraries, and access to work/networking opportunities. Attend open days to speak to the teaching staff and students who have taken the course.
Applications and interviews
Normally you will be required to send an application form or CV outlining your academic record and research interests, along with both academic and employment references. Most will require a personal statement demonstrating your motivation for choosing the course, and previous experiences etc. You will apply to each university directly, rather than through a central system like UCAS. Some courses may have an early deadline if they are particularly popular, so take care to allow yourself enough time. Book a 1-2-1 appointment with a Careers Consultant for feedback on applications, CVs and cover letters, or to attend a mock interview.