Postgraduate Studies for Early Planners

Hey everyone, at the end of last year I wrote a general blog about postgraduate study. But here I want to just say a few words to encourage early research and planning if you’re thinking of this option, especially if you’re thinking of doing it outside Northern Ireland. So if the end of your degree is still a way off, what sort of things might you be thinking about already with regards to further study?

Is it for me?

Well, if you can think of nothing other than getting done with University as soon as possible, then maybe not…studying isn’t for everyone. But for many of you, postgraduate study might just be the perfect next step, not just in terms of getting a valuable qualification but also for giving you breathing space and the opportunity to work out where you want your career to go.

That said, studying as long as possible isn’t always the best career move. Postgraduate qualifications aren’t necessary for many careers. In such cases work experience or a graduate job might be better options. The ‘Types of Jobs’ section of Graduate Prospects and the ‘Jobs With Your Degree’ section of Gradireland are a very useful way to check entry requirements for loads of different careers – dip in and see what you can find out.

But with other careers, a postgraduate course may be a requirement or, if you’re intent on one day reaching that top rung of the career ladder, you might well need to start out with a Masters Degree, or PhD, or get one en route. And even when they’re not a prerequisite, they might help you to stand out from the crowd. Last week we discussed networking, and postgraduate study can be a good opportunity to network with others who’ll be working in your field, particularly as classes tend to be smaller and you’ll have more contact with lecturers and academic staff.

But if you’re unsure whether postgraduate studies will help you, check out the above websites or look at job adverts targeted at graduates in your field: they might give you an idea of what employers expect. You can also discuss this with a Careers Adviser through the drop-in service at the Student Guidance Centre, or make an appointment with the Adviser linked to your subject area. Call into the Student Guidance Centre or phone 028 9097 2727.

The advantages of forward planning…

If you’re in your penultimate year (or even before that), starting to think about your postgraduate study options now might bring you some real advantages. For example, I’m in my second year of my Politics course, and I found out recently that if I want to get into politics (in Germany) it’d be really advantageous – if not essential – to get a postgraduate qualification.

Also, if you are interested in studying abroad – maybe in the USA, Australia or closer to home in Europe – you need to start early. From my experience, applying to study in a different country always takes longer than you think it will, and of course, preparing for moving and all the little details that go with it can be complicated. So make sure you get a head start. Starting the process of researching courses and universities in other countries and making contact with them needs to be started ideally in your penultimate year. The ‘Country Profiles’ section at Graduate Prospects has information on lots of different countries around the world, and each profile includes information on postgraduate study. Organisations such as the Fulbright Commission which specialises in information about the USA are also a great source of info.

Next steps

If you’re considering postgraduate study you should start to think about:

What kind of course am I interested in?

There are probably parts of your degree you enjoy most, or feel most comfortable with (ideally they’re the same thing!). So keep a look out for corresponding postgraduate courses. Don’t forget though that a non-vocational Masters or Diploma won’t necessarily improve your job prospects. On the other hand, if you’re feeling disillusioned with your current course, postgraduate study might be the perfect opportunity to do something slightly different.

Which are the leading universities in my field?

The world doesn’t begin and end at Queen’s! As well as considering what QUB has to offer it’s worth giving some thought to applying to other universities because:

  1. They may offer courses which are a closer match with your interests
  2. Their courses may be the best ones in that particular field in terms of teaching, research and reputation
  3. Greater potential for networking, from which you can benefit afterwards. They may also have good contacts with industry leaders – just the sort of people you need to be talking with.

When should I apply?

Check out the relevant postgraduate pages on the Queen’s site, and at other universities. Some vocational courses have early closing dates, such as PGCEs, while others are later.

Oh, and one last thing. There is of course an elephant in the room – I haven’t said a word about funding so far. Well, it’s certainly a thorny issue. But here’s perhaps not the best place to go into that again – if you’re worried about money take a look at the Blog from November for some thoughts on this.

So, whatever you’re thinking, and whichever stage you’re currently at in your university career, now is the perfect time to start thinking about how you can make the most of all those opportunities!

See you all next week!

2 Responses to “Postgraduate Studies for Early Planners”

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