Further study and funding
There are many reasons for considering postgraduate study. For some, further qualifications are essential to access a particular career, for others the focus is on improving job prospects or allowing for a change in direction. Alternatively, it may represent academic challenge, specialisation or more time to decide on your career options. Whatever your motivation you should be clear in your own mind what you hope to achieve by continuing your studies and the opportunities further qualifications may or may not provide.
Taught Master's courses (MA, MSc, MRes, MBA)
Taught Master's are usually one year full-time or two year part-time courses. Successful completion often involves passing exams at the required level and submitting a dissertation on a relevant topic. Courses usually start in September/October and exams are often held at the end of each taught element. The dissertation is usually completed by the following September.
Having a Master's qualification may make you more employable. It is always advisable to undertake the work experience module of your course as this will increase not just your employability but also your knowledge of the employment world. Employers will always place emphasis on your employability skills, such as teamwork, problem solving and European languages, as requirements for the job. A Master's qualification can also be the first step to further research study qualifications such as an MPhil or PhD.
MBA courses enable you to study business related topics in depth, add formal qualifications to relevant practical experience and potentially improve your earning power.
Professional qualifications and conversion courses (PGCE, LPC)
Professional diplomas and certificates enable you to study a subject that is specifically vocational in order to enter a profession that requires specialist pre-entry training, eg Law or Teaching. Generally the course will include periods of practical work experience so that you can experience the job role at first hand.
Conversion courses allow you to change subject or your career direction. For example if you did not study an accredited undergraduate law degree and wish to become a solicitor or barrister you will need to take the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL).
There are many others and you should research your career ideas to find out if any vocational training is required. Some courses require applications to be made through a central clearing system, others direct to the individual university.
Research degrees (PhD, MPhil, EngD, EdD)
Postgraduate research can enable you to spend time researching a topic of particular interest to you, become expert in a specialist field, develop new ideas and research methods and take your first steps towards an academic career.
It represents two to four years of original research and you may be required to have completed a Master's qualification first. It represents a significant commitment and you should feel passionate about your subject and be able to write a convincing and articulate research proposal at the time of application. It is examined by thesis and viva.
Professional doctorates, eg in Education or Public Health, focus on real-world research and include taught modules to support your academic and professional development.
The New Route PhD is an integrated programme that combines research with a structured programme of advanced training in discipline specific and generic skills.