Before you start to send off your applications for postgraduate study, there are a number of things that you will need to consider. As well costing money, any further qualifications such as a Master’s Degree will be much harder than your undergraduate study. It is important that it is of benefit to your future career and more importantly, is something you enjoy!
So what exactly should you ask yourself before deciding what you want to study and where?
1) Can you afford it?
The cost of your postgraduate degree will very much depend upon the subject you study, the University running your course and your level of studies. Courses such as a PGDip or MA/Msc can cost £6000 – £9000 for the year, whereas more prestigious courses such as the Bar Professional Training Course may cost up to £17,000.
There are a number of different ways to secure your funding. The majority of students self-fund their qualification and take out a Professional Career Development Loan from the bank. However, this is not the only option; you may also be able to acquire the necessary funding from independent organisations or potential employers for certain courses (such as an LPC).
2) Do you have the right academic grades?
The right academic grades are essential if you wish to pursue a further course of academic study. Most PGDip and MA/MSc courses require potential students to have acquired a 2:1 honours degree, although some institutions will be flexible about this (depending upon your work experience). Similarly, if in the future you decide to study on a PhD course, you will be expected to have successfully completed a Master’s Degree.
You should always closely examine the academic requirements for any course at any level, and check that your experience meets these criteria.
3) Do you have the right level of work experience?
Some postgraduate courses will expect students to demonstrate a certain amount of work experience before submitting their application for consideration. This is particularly the case for more practical courses such as journalism and business and for qualifications such as the Graduate Diploma in Law.
Although a strong academic record is vital, such courses will occasionally favour work experience over grades. If you are doing a course that is more vocational in nature make sure you have gained some voluntary intern experience to demonstrate your suitability and passion for the course subject.
If you’ve just missed out on achieving the acquired grades, your experience might persuade course tutors to consider your application.
4) Taught vs. research-based courses?
The structure of your postgraduate teaching will differ depending upon whether your course is research based or not. Most PGDips and MA/MSc qualifications will expect students to attend lectures as well as continue with their own work outside of University hours.
If you want to pursue a course of study that allows you to conduct your own independent research then studying a Master’s degree is essential. Although the course structure is very similar to that of an undergraduate programme, students are expected to complete a dissertation of their own choosing before graduation which will prepare them for any potential PhD study.
Any future PhDs courses you may take will require significantly less contact hours. Students wishing to study on these courses will be expected to submit a dissertation of their own work, should be self-motivated and capable of independent study.
5) Do you want to study part-time or full-time?
Many Universities allow students the option to study full-time or part-time. The fees the University charges for a part-time course will be higher than the cost of a part-time course, although this doesn’t necessarily mean that the overall cost to the student is lower. Part-time courses allow students to work while studying. This means that self-funding students can take out a smaller career development loan and the amount of interest re-paid to the banks will be lower.
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