Why should I consider further study?

Jim RealiFinal Year, Further Study, Postgraduate

Now, that’s an interesting question and there are quite a few reasons why it could be good for you (as well as one or two reasons why it might not be right for you). Here are some of our initial thoughts:

A postgraduate course can be a necessity for some careers

If you look at different job profiles on the www.prospects.ac.uk website, each one has a ‘qualifications’ section, which identifies what undergraduate degrees will be accepted typically and what other qualifications may be required.

For example, if you wanted to be a Clinical Psychologist, it states, “You must be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) to work as a clinical psychologist. This involves completing three years of postgraduate training leading to a Doctorate in clinical psychology, or equivalent, approved by the HCPC.

Taking a different example, for Town Planner it states, “You can get into town planning with a degree in any subject but specific degrees in planning are available. To become a chartered town planner you will need to complete a RTPI accredited degree, either at undergraduate or postgraduate level, completing either a combined qualification or a spatial qualification and a specialist qualification.”

A Masters can boost your income

OK, this is a bit of a sweeping statement and you need to use it with caution: we’ve just seen that there are some careers where further study is an absolute necessity. There are other roles where a Masters is highly desirable, but there are many others where it is a ‘nice to have’, but isn’t a stipulation. However, in most instances, graduate recruiters aren’t just focusing on the short-term and what you can bring to a role immediately. They will also be interested in your longer-term potential to progress and develop within the role, taking on new responsibilities. A Masters can evidence your abilities and help you to progress more quickly (or to specialise), once in a graduate career. To put this in context, the ‘Should I Do a Masters’ page on the Prospects website identifies:

On a positive note, postgraduates earn considerably more than their undergraduate counterparts. Graduate labour market statistics: 2017 reports that full-time employed, working-age postgraduates had a median salary of £39,000 in 2017, compared with £33,000 for working-age undergraduates. What’s more, full-time employed postgraduates under 30 years of age had a median salary of £28,500 in 2017, compared with £25,000 for young undergraduates.

Further study can help you to develop some great skills, building upon those you’ve developed at undergraduate level

For example, as you undertake a dissertation as part of a Masters, so you will develop your critical analysis skills and also a variety of research skills. This can be a helpful springboard to undertaking a PhD for example, where it will be imperative that you are able to demonstrate your ability to conduct research.

If you have been awarded a 2:2 or lower from your undergraduate degree, sometimes having a postgraduate qualification can offset the impact of a lower undergraduate grade.

However, this is not a hard and fast rule and you shouldn’t apply for further study only for this reason. Remember that you will still need to convince an employer that you can undertake the role for which they may be recruiting, so you need to ensure that a further study course has the necessary content. If you work hard in your postgraduate study and achieve a high grade, as well as developing a wealth of evidence to demonstrate your abilities, then this will reflect well upon you.

Further study can help you to stand out from the crowd at interview

We’ve already identified that you shouldn’t only apply for a further study course if you’re assuming that there will be a lot of graduate careers available to you, which aren’t available to undergraduates; there are some, but not necessarily lots. However, if you’re competing against undergraduate applicants, your Masters qualification can really help you to come into your own, particularly if you also have some professional experience (such as your placement) to evidence some of your skills.

A Masters is a big commitment and employers recognise this: it is another year (or more) of your life and will often cost you in excess of £10,000, so they know that it won’t (hopefully) be a decision that you’ve made lightly. If you go into a Masters with a clear plan of how it will help you, you will gain a lot from it (aside from the specific course content and technical knowledge), which will impress employers. This includes being more autonomous than you were as an undergraduate, with improved budgeting skills (how did you secure funding, for example?) and personal organisation. You will have had to develop your communication skills, addressing a broader audience and championing more convincing academic arguments. You will also have chosen to specialise in a topic of interest to you, which you wish to take into your career and should be confident explaining to an employer how this more specialised knowledge may be of benefit to them, should they offer you a role.

Develop your passion for your subject

If you have a genuine love of your subject and would like to enhance it further, then a Masters (or even a PhD), could help you to achieve this. However, do undertake sufficient research before committing to a course and ensure that you won’t be repeating some of the same material you’ve covered already in your undergraduate studies.

Expand your horizons

Whilst you can undertake a further study course at the institution where you studied for your undergraduate degree, there can be some compelling reasons to look further afield. Increasingly, employers want to engage with candidates who are flexible, curious, adaptable and resilient. If you stay at the same university, there can be a risk that you will be perceived to be remaining in your ‘comfort zone’.

Instead, why not experience somewhere new, by making a break with the past? A new environment with new peers will give you a diverse new range of experiences to call on when you’re applying for jobs. You will also get new insights from different academics. Remember that you can use websites such as www.findamasters.com to compare and contrast courses from several institutions, to see which might be best for you.

Applying for further study means that you don’t have to decide on what career you want to do, for another year… WRONG!

This is NOT a good strategy. Remember that, when you do eventually leave university, employers will want to know why you chose to continue your education. If you tell them that it was because you couldn’t think of anything better to do, then perhaps you should question how this might sound to them. What sort of impression will you give? (Clue: not a good one!)

Instead, make some time to undertake career planning before you decide on a course of further study. Talk to a Careers Consultant to discuss your options. By identifying some career goals (even if they’re vague and subject to change), you can then determine which further study courses may be most likely to help you develop the skills and experience necessary for them.

Hopefully these points will help you to recognise some of the pros and cons of further study. We can’t make the decision for you, however we would be very happy to discuss your circumstances with you and explore options together. If you’d like to book an appointment with a Careers Consultant to do this, you can do so through the ‘Contact Us’ section of our website, or via the ‘Appointments’ section on Aston Futures.

In the meantime, if you’d like to find out more about some of the reasons to consider undertaking a Masters, you might find it helpful to read this ‘Value of a Masters’ article, or the rest of the ‘Should I Do A Masters’ article from the Prospects website. If you have decided that further study is the best choice for you, then take a look at our ‘Further Study and Funding’ web page.

Happy decision-making!