menu icon
Book your open day visit nowClick to book open day

Postgraduate Courses: Things to Consider Before Applying

If three (or more) years of studying, writing essays and making the library your second home just weren’t enough, you might want to consider postgraduate education. Of course, that’s not the only thing you’ll want to think about before jumping into further academic study – there are a host of considerations that you should ponder before sending in your applications to universities. You don’t want to end up getting a place on a course only to find you’re not happy with the situation after just one week. Here are my general thoughts on postgraduate qualifications and what you should consider before applying. 

Will my postgraduate degree help my career? 

It’s worth thinking carefully about whether the postgrad degree you want to take is an investment in a career-sense. Undergraduate degrees are quite common these days and the first-degree graduate job market is intensely competitive, but your postgraduate qualification will open doors to further study and specialist job roles. 

If you’re heading for academia, master’s degrees or equivalent qualifications are often the only route into a PhD, lecturing jobs and research opportunities. If you want to move into professional industries, having a qualification above undergrad level allows you to consider highly specialist and focused job vacancies. 

My master’s in English and Creative Writing was a career investment in my eyes because it gave me the tools I needed and the confidence in my ability to make a start on becoming a writer, which is what I’ve always wanted to be. It isn’t a vocational degree, it hasn’t put me in particularly high demand like engineering or IT-based qualification might, but it has been an instrumental step in shaping my personal career progression. 

Do I love my course subject? 

One thing to be sure about before applying is that you love your subject. Whatever course you take, your postgraduate degree will almost certainly involve more independent study, longer assignments, harder exams, the expectation of a more in-depth knowledge base and could include work experience or placements. 

This shouldn’t put you off – if you’re a learning nerd who loves the idea of long seminars or library day trips, you’re going to do just fine. You’ll meet a lot of like-minded people in your seminars, start to delve into the world of academia, be given opportunities to attend conferences, give talks or presentations yourself, get access to fantastic resources and build up contacts in your field. It’s immensely rewarding to learn in an environment where you’re treated almost like a colleague rather than a student. 

However, the second week of your semester is not a good time to find out that Microbiology isn’t really your thing. Be committed to your subject in advance. If you apply in less of a rush than I did, use the summer to get prepared and read around. If your enthusiasm flickers and dies during this period, then perhaps you’re not quite ready for your postgrad course just yet. 

Remember, there is no age limit on doing a degree. If you know you love Ancient Middle Eastern civilisations but could use a break after your first degree, get some work experience, go travelling, explore life, and return to Mesopotamia later. 

Am I ready for a lifestyle change? 

Whether you are coming back to study from a break – be that six months or six years – or moving onto a postgraduate qualification straight after finishing your undergrad degree, it is likely to be a culture shock. 

Postgraduate life can be slightly more isolated than an undergraduate one. The work can be largely independent on many courses, supported by maybe once or twice weekly seminars and the occasional office hour with a tutor nearer to assessment deadlines. 

It’s worth considering living arrangements as well, depending on how much structure you like to enforce on a day. I treated my MA like a full-time job, working either at home or in the library between 10 and 6 on weekdays, and giving myself evenings and weekends to socialise when the workload allowed it. 

A key point to note when considering a postgraduate lifestyle versus a full-time working one, is that you have a great deal of flexibility in your day-to-day organisation of tasks. Every day can be set up differently, helping to stave off monotony and keep you motivated and working at your best. 


When it comes to deciding whether to do a postgraduate course, consider all the factors that might impact you personally, take advice but don’t rely on it, and try to weigh your plans, interests, passions and your lifestyle limitations to come up with a formula for choosing to go to university for postgraduate study. 

Next: Search for postgraduate courses


Receive regular newsletters packed with useful tips.


Don't miss out

Receive regular newsletters packed with useful tips.