For some, the thought of further study is out of the question, and seeking employment is the right choice. However, for others, postgraduate study is a viable option. But have you got what it takes? Kathryn Hills investigates
According to Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa), 18.4 per cent of graduates began a postgraduate course last year, after they had completed their first degree.
But further study does require commitment, determination and motivation. So, if you’re unsure where to go in terms of career choice, it’s best to first cover all your options.
"I always ask students to make sure they’ve thought through their reasons," explains Karen Barnard, Head of University College London’s careers service. "Some just think there’s no better alternative, which is clearly not a good reason."
It’s never a good idea to jump into postgraduate study without doing any research. "The advice I would give is, ‘be clear why you’re doing it’," says Tim Reed, careers adviser at the University of Kent. "It’s either to enhance your employability or because you enjoy the subject. Ideally, it should be both."
There are three key advantages to postgrad study says Reed. "More time to consider the real range of career options available to you; to enhance your qualifications; and, if you undertake a vocational degree, you could enhance your employability."
It’s also important to research different courses, says UCL’s Barnard. If you do intend to study a vocational degree, it’s important to know the difference between a PhD and a
Masters. "It’s crucial to understand the mechanics of the two courses," she explains. "Masters degrees normally involve teaching and an aspect of self-sufficiency. Whereas a PhD is at the other end of the spectrum, it requires far more independence."
Conversion courses – thereby altering your career area – may also be worth consideration. For example, the MSc in Information Technology is designed for non-IT graduates who intend to work in computing. While, for non-law graduates, there is the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), a one-year programme that covers all the key areas in a law degree.
It’s also crucial to consider costs. Postgraduate courses aren’t cheap and, as a postgraduate student, the Student Loans Company will not fund your study. However, other loans are available, the most popular being Career Development Loans (CDLs). But, as with all loans, it’s important to check your eligibility. There are also institutional studentships, which involve companies paying your student fees, if the job is related to the skills that they require. In addition, says Reed, "private organisational funding, scholarships from universities, government research organisations and charities and trusts all provide possible sources of funding for postgraduate students."
So, you’ve considered all the options. You know that you want to study the subject you enjoy further, you can finance it, you have the time and you’re certain that you won’t be left high and dry with no career prospects. With this in mind, postgraduate study can be a really productive experience. Although the amount of work can appear daunting, if it gets you closer to the job that you really want, then it probably is the right choice.
Aristea Beni, 26, is Personal assistant to the vice-president of a Greek hotel chain. She talks to Real World about her postgraduate study
What was your first degree?
It was a BSc in Tourism Management (a four-year course) from the Technological Educational Institute of Athens, graduating in 2003.
And your postgraduate degree?
An MSc in Tourism Management and Marketing in Bournemouth University (one year), graduating in November 2006 with Merit.
Why embark on postgraduate study?
I had a scholarship from the Greek Organisation of Tourism Education and Training. It was a unique chance to improve my knowledge of the tourism business.
How useful was postgraduate study in terms of finding of a job?
The acquisition of an MSc was very important and helped me to find a very good job. In Greece, it is considered extremely important to have a masters degree and, after gaining the MSc title, I had more interviews (during my job hunting) than I had anticipated. And it gave me important knowledge about the contemporary issues of the tourism business.