To Study Or Not To Study?
Considering Postgraduate study? Well, it can propel you onto better opportunities and provide you with more specialist skills and knowledge, which will serve you well in the long run. However, there are a few things you need to consider first.
Why Do a Postgrad?
If you have a lot of motivation and passion to pursue a subject then it could be an excellent decision. But while all postgraduate courses will help you hone the skills that employers want, make sure you do your research as to whether it will truly help your chosen career. Some careers, such as law and teaching, do require a professional qualification. So if you have a clear idea of what you want to do, and a postgraduate qualification is necessary, then it is the right path for you. On the other hand, if you are considering doing something completely new, then a postgraduate degree can give you access.
If your tutor suggests further study to you, it might be flattering and seem appealing. But it is essentially your decision. Also, there are many options available across the country, so don’t feel you have to stick to the same course or university – it could be a chance to branch out into pastures new.
Remember, sometimes relevant experience is preferable to further study, as you can achieve quite a lot in three years of the working world. If you are simply not sure of what to do, it might help you more if you try out some work experience at different places. Postgraduate study is something that will be of great value if you approach it in the right way. But using it to delay the inevitable will only leave you in more debt. Think about what skills you have to offer, and what you want from a job.
Can you afford it?
You won’t get help from the Student Loans Company, and tuition fees are far more than the average undergraduate degree. Yet 17 per cent of graduates enter postgraduate study, so there are ways of making it happen – you just need to do your groundwork.
If you can’t afford study but have achieved a 2:1 or higher in your degree, then you should apply for a Research Council sponsorship from one of the UK’s eight Research Councils. They have limited funds, but aim to further the academic accomplishments of the UK, so are looking for students with the most potential. You will need to fill out a demanding application form and have a strong reference from your tutor.
Another solution is funding from an employer. If you feel your education will benefit a company that you work for or have worked for, then you could try to persuade the company to pay for it. You may have to sign a contract that binds you to that company for a specified period. However, the course may prove a window of opportunity within the company – it could propel you towards promotion or a much increased salary.
If you have exhausted all other sources of funding then trusts may be the answer. Accessing this source is more difficult, and it may not cover all of your expenses. Charities are often a good idea to explore if you are planning research into a specific area. It is worth looking at the Education Grants Advisory Service website (www.egas-online.org/fwa)
Some postgraduate courses can be studied part-time. So they can be combined with work, thereby helping you fund the course yourself while gaining valuable experience. More than 50 per cent of postgrads choose this method to support their studies. Lastly, many banks offer postgraduate loans.
The main lesson to be learnt here is that a postgraduate degree is a valuable qualification, but only in the right context and if taken for the right reasons.