How to choose the right Postgraduate course
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How to choose the right Postgraduate course

For many students, completing one degree course is more than enough. But choosing to continue with a postgraduate program not only increases professional expertise and skills, it can also help students to stand out in an increasingly competitive job market and gain a qualification which will help career progression after University.  In fact, choosing to complete a postgraduate program could even add an incredibly healthy £200,000 (approx. $288,000 USD) to your lifetime salary, according to the Guardian.

With so many postgraduate study options on offer, choosing the right course can be a difficult decision. Do you want to follow a taught masters program or do you fancy going it alone with a research-based course? Perhaps you want a mix of both, but are dead set on then completing a PhD? Course sizes, previous student experiences and deciding why you want to complete a postgraduate course are all incredibly important factors when choosing a course. Deciding to complete postgraduate study is a big step. So too, is selecting the right course for each individual student.

Read on to find out why it’s worth taking time to choose a postgraduate course, and what to look for before taking the plunge:

Why study a further degree?

A posgraduate degree shouldn’t be a ‘stop-gap’ while you work out what to do next. Students should really consider their motivations and underlying reasons behind choosing to remain in education a little while longer. Ask yourself whether postgraduate study will help you with your specific career goals.


Students at Queen Mary University of London. Credit: Queen Mary University London

While PhD courses are more research orientated, many Masters are linked to a specific career or discipline. Other courses, such as the Postgraduate Certificate in Education are essential for becoming a teacher. Try to discover which courses will meet with your expectations before deciding if a further degree is the right move.

Research the course

Ask for course prospectuses and attend open days to get a feel for what the programs and universities that interest you are really about before you commit. And don’t be afraid to ask questions. Does the course offer an elective option? Do the modules interest you? What experience has faculty staff had? Which course have students been incredibly positive about – and which courses haven’t been so well received? Do take the time to read into the curriculum and find out more about facilities and support for postgraduate students.

What have previous students thought?

Take time researching previous student feedback. Were previous students impressed with the course? What kind of research and training is on offer? Current  and past students will offer honest answers and are a good source of information.


Students at Aarhus University. Credit: Aarhus University

Similarly, it is worth considering what career prospects that a postgraduate degree can offer. What and where have course graduates gone on to do? Will studying a Masters in Journalism or an MPhil in Philosophy really ensure that you land your dream job?

Return on investment

It is also important to consider the return on your investment. Postgraduate study can be time consuming and expensive. However, average annual salaries for those with postgraduate degrees can be more than $14,000 higher than students with bachelor degrees, and often quickly balance out the course cost, according to The Big Choice.

Size and ratings

Prospective students should also consider department size and comparisons with other institutions. Factors such as student-to-teacher ratio and lecture sizes (for taught courses) can really affect a student’s experience. Students who intend to study a taught course in the UK, for example, can investigate the quality of teaching through the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education.

Fees, grants and bursaries

Many institutions also offer economic support and bursaries for postgraduate students, with some linked to particular departments or faculties. It is worth researching when and how fees must be paid – are instalments an option or does the institution require that all fees are paid upfront? Economic help and advice is a must for both domestic and international students.


Lecture at the University of Glasgow. Credit: University of Glasgow

Read on to find out more about some world-class institutions offering postgraduate study options worldwide:

Located in the heart of East London since 1887, the Queen Mary University of London is one of the UK’s leading research focused institutions. A member of the prestigious Russell Group and voted 9th in the UK in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, Queen Mary offers its 20,260 students state-of-the-art facilities and excellent teaching and postgraduate research opportunities in a thriving campus setting. Faculty and staff help students to build on their undergraduate knowledge and expand their learning thanks to the university’s excellent Schools. Queen Mary welcomes and supports international students wishing to complete further study in London, with students and staff from over 150 countries forming an active part of campus life. Read the full profile…

Monash is a global University with campus presence on four continents. It is ranked in the top 1 percent of world universities – 73rd in the world – according to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2014/15. A young University, Monash provides a progressive and optimistic outlook, welcoming students from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines. Monash offers over 300 postgraduate programmes, including graduate certificates and diplomas, Masters by a combination of research and coursework, PhD qualifications, and Professional Doctorates. Students are even able to study many of the University’s coursework-only degrees off campus. Read the full profile…

Founded in 1928, Denmark’s Aarhus University (AU) is proud of its long-lasting partnerships with some of the world’s best research institutions. Aarhus is currently ranked 149th of 17,000 universities by the Times Higher Education World University Ranking. AU has a strong commitment to the development of society, completed through its collaboration with government agencies and the business community. AU’s Master’s degree programmes cater to a wide range of postgraduate studies and personal interests. Students can enjoy life in the attractive city of Aarhus while forming part of a thriving and supportive postgraduate campus life.

During the past five centuries, the University of Glasgow has produced outstanding graduates thanks to its long academic tradition. Glasgow is proud of its world-changing campus and plans to invest some £80 million in new buildings and equipment and £55 million on refurbishing facilities over the next five years. Glasgow offers a range of excellent postgraduate study options, in the form of taught or research degree options. Students are encouraged to challenge current opinion and thought, thanks to Glasgow’s high-caliber research opportunities. Taught postgraduate students now have the option to commence their studies in January.

The University of Auckland is New Zealand’s largest University with over 40,000 students and four specialist campuses. The University is New Zealand’s largest research organization with more than 12,000 staff and postgraduate students involved in fundamental and applied research. Postgraduate students are welcomed into a buzzing student environment, within the warm and welcoming city of Auckland. The University is proud of its ongoing research tradition, and supports new research projects and programmes. Auckland is home to a broad academic community, helping students to challenge current beliefs, form and test new ideas, and embark on an enriching and fulfilling career.

Featured image courtesy of Monash University

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