Why do postgraduate study?

People’s motivations for deciding to apply for postgraduate study vary hugely. Whilst deciding if postgraduate study is right for you there are several questions you can ask yourself. It is also useful for you to consider the pros and cons of postgraduate study (see below).

You might also find some of the tools and strategies in the career planning section of our website useful. You may also benefit from a careers discussion appointment with one of our careers consultants to discuss your thoughts and options.

You might find it helpful to ask yourself:

Why do I want to do further study?

Are you hoping your postgraduate qualification will enable you to move into a particular career? Are you doing it for the love of the subject? Do you just enjoy being in an academic setting? Are you looking to study abroad and gain international experience? Do you want to change careers? Are you putting off deciding on a career path? Are you scared to join the jobs market?

Be honest with yourself, and then finally ask yourself if your reasons are reasonable and sensible enough to invest your time (and money!) in a postgraduate qualification.

What are the potential pros and cons of postgraduate study that I should consider?

Pros

  • Studying, learning and researching can be highly enjoyable and satisfying
  • Over your lifetime your pay may increase more quickly. However, starting salaries of postgraduates verses undergraduates are not significantly different (given similar work experience)
  • Entry into some sectors may be easier; some jobs require a postgraduate qualification i.e. teaching, academia and law
  • Your increased specialist knowledge compared to undergraduates could help when applying for the same job
  • Gain transferable skills including project management, research, organisation, networking and team work
  • Convert to a new subject/ professional area

Cons

  • Postgraduate courses receive less funding than undergraduate courses. Many postgraduate students have a part time job
  • Does your desired job role require a postgraduate qualification? Many roles will only ask for an undergraduate degree. Sometimes a role will require work experience over a further qualification. Research into your sector's requirements before committing to postgraduate study
  • Quite often postgraduate salaries and roles are similar to undergraduates (sector dependent)

Is the postgraduate course necessary / useful / relevant for what I plan to do afterwards?

Many students cite wanting to do a postgraduate qualification for the career opportunities it will bring. Whilst this is a valid reason, do your research to check how necessary the qualification will be for your chosen career path.

You can conduct this research by looking at desirable job descriptions for their academic requirements and comparing these to what you are considering doing, by getting advice from people who do the role you aspire to, by reading case studies and by coming into LSE Careers and speaking with a careers consultant. You may find that postgraduate study is essential, preferred but not essential or not necessary at all to achieve your ambitions.

Is the postgraduate qualification sufficient for me to reach my career goal or is there specific experience I will also need?

Having researched the previous question you may have found that you do need a postgraduate qualification to progress into your dream role. However, if you lack experience in the market place which is also required for the position, how will you make this transition?

Conduct research to discover what type of work experience you might need to have on your CV alongside your postgraduate qualification, or if there is a more junior role you could enter the market at to gain the necessary experience. For example, most financial services and banking employers will expect you to have gained an internship within the sector prior to applying for their graduate schemes once you begin postgraduate study. Perhaps you will need to intern in a relevant company or position the summer before your course starts.

Do I need any extra experience to get onto the course? What would I need to do to gain that experience?

Courses such as Master's in Management, MBAs and MPAs will ask for some previous work experience (anything from 3 months to 5 years). Check the admissions information for your course to make sure you meet the requirements. If you do not, you will need to consider how and when you will gain this relevant experience.

Which style of course would I like to do (e.g. taught course or research, full time or part time)?

Just like when you were considering which undergraduate course to do, you may want to consider the style of course you would be comfortable with. As well as deciding if a taught or research course is for you, consider what the assessment methods are (coursework or exams); does the course assessment play to your strengths? Many LSE students take their postgraduate course part time; would this suit your life style?

It is advisable to find out as much as you can about the course; speak to current students, talk to lecturers at open days, and have a look at what people are saying about the course online.

What subject will I study?

This may be the main driver behind your decision to complete postgraduate study so may not be a difficult question to answer. However, will you purely study one subject or combine two or three? When researching specific courses you might like to consider how reputable the course is academically and also within the sector you want to move into.

Looking for courses in the UK? Try searching for them via UKPass (not all universities use this system).

Wanting to study in the UK or Europe visit? Try FindAMasters.

Masterstudies is a good place to start your worldwide search.

Where will I study?

The country and university you study in is an important part of the decision making process and should be researched thoroughly, and maybe something you have considered prior to conducting your research.

Check the Times Higher Education World University Rankings or QS Top Universities for the university’s reputation and teaching standards.

See researching postgraduate courses and studying abroad for further advice.

What are the entry requirements and can I meet them?

A really basic question to ask yourself, but check carefully that you have the requirements they are seeking, whether these are educational achievements and knowledge or work experience. If you don’t meet their requirements you will need to consider if that course is right for you, or have a longer term strategy that helps you address those requirements.

How do I apply and what is the application timetable?

This will vary from country to country (and often university to university). Check carefully to make sure you are applying with plenty of time in case you need to get together references, personal statements, certificates and other documentation.

As a guide, if you are applying in the UK then you will need to start your research no later than the start of the academic year before you plan to commence your postgraduate studies. If you are applying outside the UK then you need to do this 18 - 24 months in advance.

How will I fund my studies?

Just like with your undergraduate studies consider the cost of living, cost of travelling to and from your university from your home country and from your university accommodation, the cost of fees, books, stationery, money for bills and food and money for social and personal pursuits.

Many LSE students get part time jobs whilst they are studying for a masters degree with many also opting for part time study so they have more flexibility to work more hours. When considering work remember to check your visa stipulations (where necessary) and also see LSE’s guide to working during your studies.

Many students are also able to gain other funding such as scholarships, grants, awards and loans so do look into these alternatives too, see costs and funding in the UK. If you are interested in studying in the USA, see funding and visas. If you want to study in another country, have a look at scholarship or funding within that country and also within your home country.

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