Last week we talked about careers in the time of the coronavirus and how the pandemic has created an uncertain job market. For many, postgraduate study is now something you are probably giving more thought to. But is postgraduate study the right option for you?
Here we break down what postgraduate study is, the application process, why people undertake further study, funding, and finally highlight some of our own students’ postgraduate experiences. Hopefully this will go someway in helping you decide whether postgraduate study is an option for you.
What is postgraduate study?
It’s pretty self-descriptive. It’s a continuation of study after you gain your undergraduate degree. However, there are a variety of postgraduate degree options – not just Master’s and PhDs.
- The most common is a Master’s degree, which typically consists of two semesters of lectures followed by four or five months independent work culminating in a dissertation or project. You can do masters in all subject areas including the arts, humanities, law, music, science, education.
- Some Universities also offer a Master of Research (MRes) which is slightly different, preparing you for doctoral research by including extensive research training (rather than taught elements).
- You can also do a Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip) or Postgraduate Certificate (PGCert). These are normally shorter in length (six months for a PGCert, nine for a PGDip), where you can expand on your bachelors degree without submitting a dissertation.
There are also a lot of varied learning options with many Universities offering full-time, part-time or distance learning study. Therefore postgraduate study often tends to be more flexible than undergraduate study.
Applying for postgraduate taught degree
Unlike when you applied for your undergraduate degree, the application process for further study is different. For a start there isn’t a single application process through UCAS* and there isn’t one fixed deadline. Therefore if you are concerned it’s too late to think about apply for further study, it’s not, you still have time. So what’s the basic application process?
- Choose your subject – the first thing to do is decide what subject or course you are interested in studying. FindAMasters is a great starting point to look for all the different courses options you have. Alternatively if you were thinking of staying at Manchester you could browse all of our courses here: https://www.manchester.ac.uk/study/masters/courses/list/
- Check the entry requirements – The qualifications and skills you need vary depending on the course, so make sure you read the course information clearly.
- Look for a closing date – as previously mentioned there isn’t one application deadline, and most taught courses don’t have official closing dates for applications; however there are some exceptions. So if you know you want to apply for a particular course it is advised you apply as soon as you can.
- Apply – different institutions will have different application forms – so make sure you know what the process if for that particular course.
- Think about funding options – If you intend to apply for funding or the postgraduate loan (for UK/EU students), make sure you know the application closing dates for the relevant funding bodies.
- Finally if your application is accepted, you’ll be offered a place and you’re good to go!
It’s also worth noting at this point that due to the current coronavirus there may be changes to the start dates of the course or how it will be taught (e.g. first semester online). Therefore when researching courses see if they have any specific information for applicants. Manchester has a page on ‘Information for applicants and offer holders‘ so check to see if other Universities have something similar.
*The exception is PGCE application, which must be made via UCAS: www.ucas.com/teacher-training
One big consideration to think about with postgraduate study is finance and funding. Different courses will charge different fees so check the individual course, but the average cost of a UK masters for 2020 in the UK is £7,946 (FindAMasters), so there is a considerable cost involved.
However, there is funding available for postgraduate study, similar to undergraduate. There is the Postgraduate Study Loan which is available to UK/EU students and can be used to help cover the course fees and living costs. https://www.gov.uk/masters-loan
Individual Universities and courses also offer grants, bursaries and scholarships. For example at Manchester there is an alumni bursary for recent graduates of the University for a variety of course. Again it’s best to check course details to see what’s available.
The University also has a bursary for students who are looking at studying a Master’s at Manchester and meet specific criteria. The Manchester Master’s Bursary is now open for applications up until 31 May.
Why students consider postgraduate study?
Finally the most important thing there is to think about when deciding if postgraduate study is for you, is to think seriously about why you might want to do it. Although it might seem like an attractive option at the moment, it is an intensive year of study and will incur a financial cost.
So what are the reasons for students pursue postgraduate study;
- You absolutely love the subject you have been studying at undergraduate level. You still have a passion for it and feel you still have the enthusiasm and commitment for further study.
- Furthering or enhancing your career prospects. There is a word of caution attached to this school of thought. Whilst academic ability is one of the skills a graduate employer will be looking for, you will need to be able to to articulate all the additional skills your extra studies have given you.
- That said, postgraduate study is a prerequisite for some jobs (for example, postgraduate conversion courses can enable you to enter a profession you have not studied at an undergraduate level) and can be desirable in others.
- You’re looking for a change of direction. So you are passionate about a subject – just not exactly the one you’re doing? Many postgraduate courses accept people from a range of related academic backgrounds, so don’t necessarily be put off by your undergrad course. Also some postgraduate courses can act as conversion courses if you want to enter a different job sector, but make sure you do your research about which courses employers are looking for.
So there you have, a long(ish) but basic introduction to postgraduate study, how to apply and why students do it. If you are still unsure about whether postgraduate study is for you, visit the Careers website, or watch this ‘Introduction into Postgraduate Study’ presentation by one of our careers consultants.