Planning for Postgraduate Study? Important Things to Consider!Dr Shafiq
Are you planning for Postgraduate Study? Why study postgraduate degree? After finishing their undergraduate finals, most students wonder, ‘what next?’ There is the option of seeking employment or one to pursue further education. It is tough to make, mainly because there is so much pressure ‘to get it right.’
Depending on your career and life vision, you may decide that having one degree is more than enough. However, continuing with a postgraduate program increases professional expertise and skills. It can also help learners stand out in a gradually competitive job market and gain qualifications to support career progression after university. In fact, according to employee statistics, choosing to complete a postgraduate program could even add an incredibly healthy £200,000 (approx. $288,000) to your lifetime salary.
Choosing the right course with several postgraduate study options on offer can be a difficult decision. Do you want to follow a taught master’s program, or do you want to go with a research-based course? Conceivably you want a mix of both but are dead set on completing a Ph.D.?
Choosing the right school for you, a school within your budget, a school with the infrastructure and the capacity to adequately educate you in your chosen course, can also be a tasking endeavor. Course sizes, former student experiences, and deciding why you want to complete a postgraduate course are all paramount factors when choosing a course. Completing postgraduate study is a significant step in selecting the right course for each student.
Getting a postgraduate degree will always feel good no matter how long time passes. So What are your post study plans? So let’s say you have made up your mind and are planning for a postgraduate study; consider these essential factors:
1. Do you need a break, or do you transition immediately?
This decision can significantly, positively, or negatively affect your life. Do not rush it. First, decide if you want to dive into your postgraduate course immediately or have a break from studying. Unless you are sure, taking some time to ponder the decision will give you clarity. Proceeding with a course, you may regret that not leaving education can be a costly and inconvenient mistake, significantly if you drop out.
2. Define your motivation – why is the postgraduate study important, and why do you want to study for a further degree?
It would be deplorable if your decision to pursue a postgraduate degree were a way of avoiding dealing with the real world. In line with the point above, taking time helps you SWOT analyze your decision.
A postgraduate degree shouldn’t be what you do while figuring out what to do next. Students should consider developing robust and reasonable motivations and underlying reasons behind continuing education. Define your end goals and make them as specific as possible; what do you want from that degree? Ask yourself whether the postgraduate study will help you with those goals.
While Ph.D. courses are more research-orientated, many Masters are linked to a specific career or discipline. Discover which courses will meet your expectations before deciding if a different degree is the right move.
3. Weigh the Potential Positives versus the Potential Negatives
Be as objective as possible while evaluating the expected rewards and the potential downsides of furthering your education. Be honest about what you could gain, like skills, knowledge, and employability, and what you could lose, like money and time spent in classes and writing your dissertation. It is also essential to consider the return on your investment.
Postgraduate study can be time-consuming and costly. Nevertheless, average annual salaries for postgraduate degrees can be over $14,000 more than scholars with bachelor’s degrees and often rapidly balance out the course cost. This is one incentive to go for a postgraduate degree.
Postgraduate study will be more taxing than undergraduate study. On the one hand, it could push you out of your comfort zone and make you realize your full potential. It will also connect you with interesting and like-minded people. On the other hand, it could get too physically and mentally exerting that you fail or drop out.
4. Research Universities
You’ve probably seen numerous adverts of universities aggressively engaging in lead generation strategies to win potential postgraduates over. It can be a laborious and confusing process to sort through. Different institutions have different schedules, structures, and resources.
Therefore, it is essential for you, as a prospective student, to do some research. Decide whether a particular institution is the right fit for your personal and educational needs. Consider department sizes, infrastructure, cost, mode of teaching, and other factors and compare them with other learning institutions.
Factors like student-to-teacher ratio and lecture sizes (for taught courses) can affect a student’s experience. In the UK, students who intend to study a taught course can investigate the quality of teaching through the Quality Assurance Agency for Education.
5. Research the course
Assuming you have settled on a university of your choice, you should next research the course you are interested in. Inquire for course prospectuses and attend open days to get a feel for the programs that interest you before committing. And don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Does the course offer an elective option? Do the modules interest you? What experience has the faculty staff had? Which course have students been incredibly positive about – and which courses haven’t received so well? Take the time to read the curriculum and learn more about facilities and support for postgraduate students. You do not want to commit to a course only to discover that you do not like it halfway.
6. Check the feedback from previous students
Take time researching previous student feedback. Were former students happy with the course? What kind of research and training is on offer? Current and past students will offer honest answers and are good sources of information.
Similarly, it is worth considering a postgraduate degree’s career prospects. What and where have course graduates gone on to do? Will studying for a Master in Journalism or an MPhil in Philosophy ensure you land your dream job?
For this, you can inspect the current job market. Research it thoroughly. If you can, consult with experts in your prospective area of employment. The research will offer you some current insights about your course and might even offer some predictive insight to help you determine whether your study will be worth it in the years to come.
7. Create a financial plan comprising fees, grants, and bursaries
This undertaking will be more costly than the last. Many universities and other institutions offer economic support and bursaries for postgraduate students, with some linked to particular departments or faculties. Unless you come from serious money, look for grants and bursaries. If nothing else, they will make your stay at the university more comfortable.
It is crucial to research when and how fees must be paid – are installments an option, or does the institution oblige that all fees are paid upfront? Financial help and advice are a must for both domestic and international students.
8. Consider your mode of study
Most postgraduate students will choose a part-time study mode to balance their income, work, study, and other obligations. Part-time study can offer you an option to spread out the cost of your degree and afford more time to engage with your course. However, be warned that it can also give your full-time peers a different study experience.
Since postgraduate study is more complicated than undergraduate, you will need to figure out how to split your time. As much as you’d like to focus all your energy on studies, socializing, relaxing, engaging in your hobbies, or even working is just as important. Ask yourself what mode of study will work best for you without placing unnecessary pressure on one aspect of your life while taking away from the other.
Finally, be ready for a challenge.
Your postgraduate experience might seem like an extension of your undergraduate study, but it won’t be in many respects. You will be expected to read more, know more, research more, write more, etc. This will require immense discipline and self-motivation. Thus, work on your mental fortitude first.
There are fewer contact hours per week than you had in your undergraduate study. Granted, the workload might be lighter and not as continuous, especially if you choose a research-based course, but you are expected to effectively plan your time to finish research projects on time.
The best news is that if you are sure about the course you want to pursue and commit to it, it does not matter how detailed and intricate your study gets. You will get a real sense of satisfaction from it. And hopefully, a handsomely paying job!