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We've been helping students find the right postgraduate course for over a decade.
Choosing a Masters degree, or any postgraduate course, can be a difficult decision. With the wealth of information available on the internet, the research required might seem endless.
Whether you’re looking for a Masters to help your employability, wanting to extend your current education, or are simply wondering if postgraduate study could be right for you, we’ve compiled some key information to help you make some decisions.
In order to know the best degree for you to pursue, you need to consider a few things about your current education, commitments, and future goals.
The most influential factor on your postgraduate course decision will be your current state of education and work experience.
If you have completed a recent undergraduate degree, achieving a 2.1 overall, then you should be eligible to enter most Masters courses in a subject related to your Bachelors. If you received below a 2.1 then the amount of institutions you could be eligible for will be more limited but that’s not to say it’s not possible and many people with lower class degrees do go on to study Masters. We've written up a handy guide to let you know how you could get a Masters with a lower class degree.
Many universities also accept work experience credentials as part of entry requirements for certain courses. Requirements will vary institution to institution but overall will depend upon your current career and chosen degree programme. In fact, courses like the MBA (a prestigious business qualification) will only admit people with a significant level of work experience behind them.
If you’re looking for a Masters without a current degree, or significant work experience, then you might consider applying to a Masters Foundation Programme (MFP) or a Pre-Masters Programme first. These are particularly common for international students. Alternatively, integrated programmes (usually four years in length) combine undergraduate programmes with Masters and are very popular in STEM subjects.
It’s the general unwritten rule that taught degrees are best for students looking to expand their subject knowledge but don’t necessarily have the experience yet to conduct their own research. A taught course might be best if you’re entering postgraduate study straight after completing an undergraduate degree or are looking to re-enter higher education. If you’re thinking about pursing a career in psychology, specialty social work, or higher education for example, then a taught postgraduate degree is often recommended due to the emphasis on increasing specifically chosen knowledge. This will then sometimes be followed by a research degree such as the PhD that will also build improve upon skills and experience.
On the other hand, if you already have experience in conducting research and running projects then a research degree might be better suited. If you’re looking for more independent study, with only a few taught modules then it might be worth looking at degrees such as the MRes or MPhil.
Finally, if you want to focus on building practical experience then a professional or vocational degree could be the better option. Law, teaching and architecture are just a couple of professions that often require a masters or postgraduate qualification. Additionally, if you work in business or engineering, for example, completing a practical-based Masters could help you qualify for more advanced levels of work.
The final thing to consider is flexibility. Are you looking for a standard one-year full-time degree, or will you be balancing work, family commitments and maybe finances? If you are likely to be the latter, a part-time or online degree might be more suitable.
Part-time degrees allow you to stretch tuition costs over a longer period. It’s also a good option if you have a lot of commitments as you can complete the degree over two years instead of one.
Online Study also allows for greater flexibility. As long as you have an internet connection and a laptop or computer then you are able to study. Additionally, you can usually plan your study schedule more effectively around any current commitments.
There are many different types of Masters degrees out there, but here are the most common ones you will come across.
An academic degree is designed to build upon your current subject knowledge, allowing you to specialise in a specific topic. The most common academic taught Masters are the Master of Arts (MA) and Master of Science (MSc) whereas for research degrees it’s the Master of Research (MRes) and Master of Philosophy (MPhil).
We’ve written a comprehensive guide to academic Masters degrees to help you out.
Whichever you choose, all will take between one and two years to complete and carry the same level of academic weight.
Professional degrees are intended to train students for specific careers and rely heavily on facilitating practical work experience and placements. If you already have your heart set on a specific industry, then a professional degree could be extremely beneficial for career progression. Some professions, such as teaching, require a postgraduate qualification to achieve a fully qualified status.
Your current work experience and education will dictate which degree will be more suitable and each degree length will vary profession to profession.
Social work, engineering, psychology, fine arts, business, teaching, law and architecture are the main professions that encourage professional degrees. For more information on each you should check out our guide to professional Masters degrees.
Looking for the most employable Masters can be difficult. All Master degrees are technically employable. In fact, according to a recent report by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), months after graduation postgraduates will earn on average 18% more than undergraduates finishing with a first degree.
If you’re considering entering a high demand field, such as business administration, health administration, engineering or the computer sciences then it’s likely a Masters degree will be extremely beneficial to your future.
But, having a Masters doesn’t automatically guarantee you a job. Instead, it will provide you with more skills to help sell yourself during the application process. The real question is what do you want to be employed for?
A postgraduate degree won’t make or break your future. While some jobs require a postgraduate degree, many don’t and ultimately the leg work for career progression comes down to you. Read more about how a Masters degree could impact your future employment and earnings.
Apart from the course specifics, the institution is also something to consider when deciding upon what Masters course to enrol on.
There are many different factors involved in choosing the right institution for you, and your priorities will undoubtably be different from someone else’s. Some things you should probably take into consideration are location, available support, tuition fees, and potential funding opportunities.
A university’s reputation might also be a factor in your decision-making process. Ranking tables can give you an indication of the most prestigious universities, and therefore the most prestigious courses. While it can be useful to look at the international – or national – university rankings, each university tends to have their specialist subjects and departments. For postgraduate study, it would probably be more useful to consult subject specific rankings.
If you’d like to read more about university rankings, we’ve put together a guide for postgraduate students.
Cost will also be an important factor in the decision-making process. There is no set tuition fee for Masters courses. Prices will vary from institution to institution and from course to course.
There are, however, a variety of funding options available to prospective students. Most universities offer a number of paid scholarships each year to those with proven academic excellence, though the demand for these are often high and can be extremely competitive. You should also check if could be eligible for a need-based bursary at your chosen institution. These are intended to support underrepresented students in postgraduate study but will not usually be granted alongside any scholarships.
Alternatively, if you’re in the UK, you can use our regularly updated guide to check if you could be eligible to receive a postgraduate loan.
Finally, if you’re thinking about studying internationally then we also have several funding guides for you!
Last updated 07/08/2020