Is postgraduate study right for you? A handy guide to help you decide


So the degree is in the bag and the photo of you in cap and gown has pride of place on the wall, your portfolio is bursting with great ideas and the world is your oyster… but sometimes there is still an itch to scratch, something amiss and the world of work and the steady ascent up the greasy pole doesn’t quite yet appeal. It’s a common feeling, and a thirst for knowledge and an added edge to a CV sees thousands of students enrol each year on masters courses and more.

The first question that it is imperative that you answer when considering continuing your studies is “Why do I want to do this course?” Keep asking yourself this question at every step of your research into finding a course and deciding to commit – it will lead to other questions such as “I want a more critical development of my work, what courses offer this?” or “I want to study and work part-time, how do I achieve that?” Everyone will have different motivations, and although this article won’t answer everything, below are some pointers, food for thought and resources that might help guide your decision making.

Employability + Salary

Research from the Higher Education Statistics Agency collates information from students six months after graduation and found that postgraduates are 10% more likely to be employed than undergraduate students, and are 15% more likely to be employed full time. Research conducted by the Sutton Institute found that “somebody with a master’s can on average expect to earn £5,500 more a year – or £200,000 over a 40-year working life – than someone only holding a bachelors degree.” While nothing can ever be guaranteed, what will provide you with the best platform to fulfil your aspirations both financially and professionally.


The average debt for a graduating student is eye-watering, there’s already a hefty price tag on the letters that are now attached to the end of your name. UCAS estimates the cost of an MA is between £7,000 – 11,000 per year, and then estimates around £8,000 living costs on top. The earning potential of graduates is outlined above, but it’s important to consider that in that time one or two year’s career progression, and therefore salary progression, is forfeited. A master’s is an investment in your future, and a considerable financial commitment – something that could be considered a risk.

Find financial assistance

There are a wealth of bursaries and scholarships available that can take the edge off the financial impact of studying a postgraduate course. It’s always worth asking individual institutions what is on offer, as there may be opportunities to receive financial assistance towards course fees. Recently, the government has introduced postgraduate loans but the criteria and maximum amount varies depending on which part of the UK you are based and there are nuances between them – there is an overview of the information available here.

You can also, should you choose to work for a few years before returning to study, discuss the possibility of your employer contributing to the costs of a course as past of your professional development, though this may require a reciprocal commitment to them in terms of your length of service. There are also less conventional ways of finding funding, there are local bursary schemes that might relate to the area or town that you grew up or finding charities or organisations to contribute too. It takes research and time – do your homework and find out if there is a perfect fit for you.

Experience vs Academia

It would be easy to cling on to the cosy world of university in the afterglow of graduation, but do you yet have the requisite knowledge or experience to take full advantage of what a master’s offers? Would a few years trying things out and getting paid work allow you to provide a solid foundation for further education and be more decisive in your actions during the master’s? Many postgraduate courses offer a part-time option that allows you to develop your skills and thinking in tandem. If it is the academic life that appeals, how does a postgraduate course relate to an MPhil or a PHD?

Do you want to use studying to change the direction of your career?

Maybe the course you have taken has provided you with an insight into the subject, and yourself, that has made you rethink what you actually might want to do. Rather than scrap everything and start again, postgraduate study can change your career direction and point you towards great new opportunities. PG diplomas and certificates can open up new pathways through courses that offer practical training – commonly into education and law. Hell, do you want to splash out on an MBA and venture into an entirely different world?

Shop around and maybe go abroad

If you are going to commit, find the course that is perfect for you. Contact tutors and alumni and ask questions about what they offer and how they teach. Each institution will have its own agenda, teaching styles and methods of assessment – looking around you and finding parallels between your expertise and that of the teaching staff is vital. There is a great overview of the types of courses to be found here and of course, your first stop should be UCAS to find the definitive list of all UK-based courses. For courses further afield you start by looking as schemes such as Erasmus.

Supported by A/D/O

Founded by MINI, A/D/O is a creative space in Greenpoint, Brooklyn dedicated to exploring new boundaries in design. At its heart is the Design Academy, which offers a range of programming to professional designers, intended to provoke and invigorate their creative practice.

If you’re after more advice and insight into the creative industries, sign up to Lecture in Progress – It’s Nice That’s new sister company, which was launched to inspire, inform and empower emerging talent with information on the workings of the creative world.

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