You can undertake postgraduate study for lots of reasons, and if you’re already in employment it can herald the start of a new career, help you get a promotion or simply expand your options within your current job.
But diplomas and degrees don’t come overnight, and so people can be put off postgraduate study because they’re not sure how they’d make it work around their existing job, or because they don’t have the money to take time out of the workplace.
But does postgraduate study mean giving up work? Not necessarily...
If you’re serious about pursuing a postgraduate qualification and think you’re up to the challenge of managing your time efficiently, consider studying part-time.
Part-time courses will usually last for a couple of years, and contact time will be limited to a few hours each week – usually in the evenings – making it possible to keep your job as you study. This also means you’ll have a regular source of income to help pay fees and manage your living expenses.
If the course you want to do is particularly relevant to your current job, talk to your employer about ways they might be able to help. After all, gaining qualifications makes you a more valuable asset to the business, so they’ll stand to benefit, too. They might allow you to combine work and study, or take a sabbatical to complete the course on a full-time basis. Some employers may even be willing to help financially.
"I’d been working at a marketing company for a few years but felt I couldn’t climb the career ladder because I didn’t have any formal marketing qualifications," says 32-year-old Sarah Thomas. "I spoke to my boss, and because I had a good track record with the company and was eager to get ahead, they partially sponsored me and allowed me to take time out of the office to attend classes."
Most employers probably won’t be happy making allowances for you if it means you’ll end up leaving them. In this instance, you have two choices: seek out a part-time course for study in your free time; or leave your existing job to focus solely on studying for your new career.
If you decide to leave your job, you’ll have to make sure you have a nest egg to fall back on – a sum that will cover your living expenses and, potentially, your fees, since getting funding isn’t always straightforward. This may mean staying in your job for a while longer while you save up.
If you’re considering postgraduate study because you’re after a promotion, investigate whether you really need to commit to a diploma or degree to get there. Could a shorter business-focused qualification help you up the ranks? Could moving to a new company give you more seniority?
If you’re considering a complete career change, make sure you’re totally committed to your new industry before you make the leap. Speak to people in your field of interest to get a good understanding of the sector you want to move in to, and consider taster courses or volunteer work to help you really decide if that new direction is right for you and worth committing your time and money to with postgraduate study.
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