There are plenty of good reasons to consider studying for a Masters Qualification, not least the fact that postgraduates have higher employment rates and earn more than their undergraduate counterparts – current graduate labour market statistics suggest working-age postgraduates have a median salary £39,000 versus £33,000 for working-age undergraduates.
However, prior to committing to this extra level of study it is important to ask yourself some serious questions and to seek some professional guidance in identifying and applying for courses. In this blog, we share the top questions to ask yourself before applying.
Why do you want to study for a Masters?
It’s important to be clear about your motivations for studying for Masters – is it because you are passionate about your subject and want to specialise and know more about a particular aspect of it? Are you doing it because you need to have the additional qualification in order to get into your chosen career? Are you doing it because it will help you to stand out from the crowd? Or are your doing it because you are not quite sure what to do when you first graduate and studying further will buy you some time to decide? All of these are valid reasons but it is important to be clear about why you want to study and what you are going to get out of it.
Is it necessary for your job prospects?
To work out if you really need a Masters it is worth looking at job adverts for the areas that you are interested in and see what employers are looking for. Certain Masters incorporate industry certifications or accreditations that can be very useful for future employability, for example if you are thinking about marketing or banking or HR check out the different courses to see which include exemptions from professional exams.
Some are designed as a conversion course for example the Post Graduate Certificate of Education (PGCE) or the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) are ways of turning your degree into a teaching qualification or a law qualification and are essential requirements for entry into the profession. However, if you are looking to turn your History or English degree into a vocational skill then a Masters in Marketing or Journalism can be a useful next step.
If you are planning to go on to study for a PhD then a Masters is an important next step. It’s important to work out if a Masters study will significantly improve your CV over and above your existing undergraduate degree. Whilst it is common to top up a US degree with a Masters for many students with a specialist degree from the UK this can easily be sufficient to join the work place.
What sort of Masters is the best fit for you?
The Masters programmes on offer vary hugely from course to course. Some are focused on professional or vocational pathways whilst others are designed to develop academic expertise. Some courses are very research based and others offer real world projects working with companies who use the area of expertise. Some will be very lecture based and others will be more project orientated both will require lots of independent reading and preparation time.
Check out the number of contact hours you will have and look at the assessment criteria – if you hate exams then looking for a course with continual assessment will give you a better chance of success. Don’t forget there are different ways of studying for a Masters. Whilst you can study full time at a University, it is also possible to do a Master’s part time whilst you work or to take a blended learning approach with some taught time and some online learning. There are also plenty of providers who can offer a Masters via distance learning.
What are the entrance criteria for a Master’s programme?
Most Masters require a minimum of a 2:1 degree or equivalent as part of their entrance criteria and for some it will be critical to have a relevant undergraduate degree to give you the necessary background. However, some Universities will take into account relevant work experience that would support an application alongside a lower degree qualification or one that does not provide a direct lead into the subject. In addition international students may need to demonstrate their level of English via an accredited assessment such as IELTS.
How do you apply for a Master’s programme?
There is no centralised system to making a Master’s application, each one is done directly to the University and this means that each application has to be personalised to that course. It is important to check out application deadlines as they vary at each University and some operate on a ‘first come first served’ basis, so it is advisable to start applying early. Most applications will require a detailed personal statement or letter of motivation explaining why you want to pursue this course and you will also need to have academic references to submit with the transcripts from your degree.
How much will a Masters cost?
The big question to ask is can you afford to do a Masters degree in terms of study costs and living costs? The cost of studying varies from course to course and university to university and whilst some scholarship or government funding maybe available most Master’s students are self funding. This means another year or living on a student budget, working harder and partying less whilst your contemporaries enter full time employment with a salary cheque!
Studying for a Masters will require you to be self-motivated and enthusiastic about your chosen area of study in order to succeed but once you do you will have acquired a highly regarded additional qualification, developed some transferable skills, created a network of useful connections and industry contacts and proved that you are capable of completing a challenging and demanding academic course. In an ever more competitive labour market this could be just the qualification to make you stand out and give you a competitive edge.