The Postgraduate Journey, What? When? How? And Why?

One of the big decisions you will have to make when you finish your undergraduate degree is whether you want to do a postgraduate course.

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There are many factors that will effect your decision, such as cost, time and if the qualification will offer you better employment opportunities. You also need to decide if you would like to do a ‘taught’ postgraduate qualification or a ‘research’ postgraduate qualification. A ‘taught’ postgraduate qualification is a lot like undergraduate programmes, where you attend lessons and modules on specific subjects. A ‘research’ postgraduate qualification is more independent and self directed. You may attend some modules but much of the work is done in your own time.

What is a Postgraduate degree like? A postgraduate degree differs from an undergraduate qualification as you will become more specialised in your area and eventually something of an expert. You won’t be writing as many assessments as you would do at undergraduate level but the assessments you do write will be longer and more in depth. The degree will end with a thesis that is more expansive than an undergraduate dissertation might be. This can seem daunting but it is also an opportunity to really explore something that you are interested in.

A big advantage of any postgraduate degree is that there are often less lectures and more research, this means you get more of a say in how you manage your time and what you focus on.

When should you do a postgraduate degree? Postgraduate degrees can be done at any point. Some people do postgraduate degrees to further what they have learned at an undergraduate level, while other people might use one to build up skill in a whole new area.

You might do a postgraduate degree for practical reasons such as helping you advance further on your career path or you may wish to study for the equally valid reason that you’re simply really interested in the subject you’re studying.


How can you get a postgraduate degree? Now we get into the nuts and bolts of the process! One of the good ways to browse research and taught postgraduate degrees is to look at individual university’s websites. Your results will depend on what you want to study as some postgraduate degrees might only be offered at certain universities.  It is also worth searching ‘’ for a full range of research postings at various institutions.

Once you apply for your postgraduate degree you might need to go through a formal interview process but that is a useful skill to learn for the future. In an interview, for a research based postgraduate qualification, it is always good to show what you can bring that area. This is the key difference at postgraduate level compared to undergraduate, you’re trying to bring new knowledge to the course, sometimes in an understudied area.

For research programmes, in some instances, the university might give you a bursary towards your fees. Particularly,  if you have studied there before or are a particularly good candidate.

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Why study for a postgraduate qualification? Ultimately a postgraduate degree should satisfy you. Just because you’re a postgraduate doesn’t mean you should feel reluctant to ask for help and you should be comfortable in where you are. Master’s degrees tend to last about a year or so full time whereas a full PhD is usually longer at often three years’ full time.

Really, a postgraduate degree is all about you taking charge of your own learning potential and direction. So read up on your chosen subject, think about what the course can offer you and make your decision.

All the Best,