Career Development Centre
Here are some of the most common reasons given by students for undertaking further study. Which applies to you? Are these always positive reasons? Have you others?
Needs more research. This is probably the most common reason that students give for choosing postgraduate study as an option. It is important to research the area of work you wish to enter to identify how potential employers would view applicants with postgraduate qualifications. In some cases a postgraduate qualification will enhance job prospects. In others, however, employers may be interested in the transferable skills and work experience offered by applicants rather than additional paper qualifications.
Positive reason/more research needed. In terms of motivation, clearly this is a very positive reason for undertaking further study. However there are issues about long-term and short-term goals. Will the programme help you with your longer term career planning? That does not mean that you should only consider postgraduate programmes related to your area of work interest. All further study programmes will enable you to develop skills that you could market to an employer. However, if the content is unrelated to the job area you apply for you will need to help the employer understand why you chose the course and why now you are seeking to work in a field unrelated to it, and what relevant skills you can offer.
Positive reason. Some career areas do require a professional qualification, for example law, teaching, social work or clinical psychology. For other employment areas a postgraduate qualification, whilst not essential, will provide a distinct advantage to applicants, particularly when competition for places is fierce. It is important that you research the area of work that interests you to identify whether a postgraduate course would be necessary or advantageous to you.
More research needed. Many postgraduate programmes provide a way of converting to particular career areas. These may be taught Masters or diploma/certificate qualifications. Courses are available in a wide range of career areas. It is also possible to convert to a new career area through employment. Many recruiters offer employment opportunities for graduates of any discipline and provide the relevant professional training in a wide range of career areas including information technology, accountancy, personnel and marketing.
The course will give me time to make up my mind. Negative reason. This reason sounds warning bells in careers advisers whenever they hear it. Past experience suggests undertaking a further year or more or study is unlikely to lead to careers inspiration! If you choose a course for this reason it would be really important to actively use the duration of the course to research what options are open to you, what skills you have to offer and what you want out of a job. The computer aided guidance program Prospects Planner, available in most higher education careers services, is a useful tool to help with this process.
Another reason that may sound warning bells. Students are sometimes offered places on courses by their tutors, possibly with a guarantee of funding attached. Understandably this can be seen as a very tempting offer and it's nice to feel someone likes and respects you enough to want to go on teaching or supervising you. However, this does not mean it is necessarily the right option for you. Is the course or research programme of real interest to you and does it link with your long term career goals? Postgraduate study may be a very appropriate option, but is staying at the same university the right option, or are there other institutions that are more appropriate for the area you wish to study? Successful completion of a postgraduate course requires a great deal of commitment and motivation and choosing a course because someone else, however expert, said it was a good idea, can lead to problems if it has not been researched thoroughly.