Postgraduate study can help you advance or change your career, but it isn't an easy option and the qualification in itself is no guarantee of a (better) job.
Employers look for evidence of skills and ask for relevant work experience as well as qualifications, so it's vital to find out what former students have gone on to do and talk to potential employers about how they view the benefits of the postgraduate qualification you are considering.
Why do a postgraduate course?
There are various reasons to embark on postgraduate study, such as:
- you love your subject and want to explore it in more depth
- you need to specialise further in order to pursue your career goals
- certain careers (such as teaching, law and social work) require a postgraduate qualification
- you want to convert to another subject or career area, such as computing, property or law
- you'd like to develop your research skills
You should think carefully about enrolling on a postgraduate course if:
- you simply can't decide what to do next
- you assume your job prospects will be better. (This is not always the case – check with employers)
- you think it will override your first degree result (not necessarily true)
- you think your current degree is not relevant for the job you want and think a postgraduate qualification is necessary (not always the case)
- you're not totally committed to studying further, but most of your friends seem to be staying on at University
If you're interested in teaching, you may want to apply to our Explore teaching programme to gain work experience in a classroom.
If you're unsure whether postgraduate study is the right option, get in touch with one of our careers consultants for a one-to-one session.
Visit the University's student funding pages for information on postgraduate funding options currently available to you.
The following sites provide more information on postgraduate funding options.
Choosing a course or qualification
Postgraduate study can lead to a variety of qualifications, including a postgraduate certificate or diploma, a masters (taught or by research), an MPhil or PhD.
Advice on qualifications and courses (both in the UK and abroad) can be found at:
When and how to apply
There is no single application process for postgraduate study – you need to apply individually to each university.
Some applications are via UCAS Postgraduate, whilst others have their own online process.
Some vocational subjects have specific application procedures:
- PGCE Primary and Secondary Teaching: You can apply from early October and early applications are encouraged as most providers work on a first come, first served basis. Visit the Department of Education 'get into teaching' website (England and Wales).
- Legal Practice Course (LPC) and the conversion Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL): Open in October, but apply as early as possible via the Law central applications board for full-time courses. Applications for part-time courses are made directly to the course provider.
- Bar Professional Training Course: Applications open in mid December and you should apply as soon as possible, visit the Bar Student Application Service.
- Social work, medicine and nursing: Apply via UCAS.
Have a look at the Prospects advice on applying for a PhD
Preparing your postgraduate study application
Personal statements are often required in your application for postgraduate study, in which you will be asked to provide evidence to support your application or address specific areas.
When writing your personal statement, make sure that you:
- Target your personal statement to the course and university you are applying for - don't use the same statement for different courses or institutions
- Make sure you clearly communicate your motivation, including why you have chosen this course, subject area and institution. Be specific about what appeals to you about this particular course and institution as opposed to other available options. Relate these reasons to your own experience, including reference to relevant modules and assignments in your first degree, work experience etc.
- Tell them why you think you should be selected for this course/degree. What relevant skills and knowledge have you gained during your studies, work experience and leisure activities? Why do you have the potential to do well on this course?
- How does this course fit into your overall career aims? At this stage, this may still be a general direction rather than a specific career goal.
- Provide clear information about your academic record, including your grades and any employment history if not already covered.
- Give your statement a clear structure with a beginning, middle and end, and make sure it is clear and concise - you don't want the important information to get lost in lengthy paragraphs.
- Proofread your application for spelling and grammatical errors and ask a colleague to check through it.
- Follow the institution's instructions about supporting documentation, such as references and transcripts. Supply them as soon as you can.