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The pros and cons of postgraduate education

You’re in the final year of your undergraduate course, and it’s time to make some decisions; for example, will you leave university behind once you’ve finished your degree and find employment or enjoy a gap year — or, will you continue your education?

While the question itself is simple, the decision can be huge — it could mean the difference between you returning to your hometown or staying in your university town; being free of education or putting your head down for another year to gain another qualification.

We know the decision is a tricky one, so in this article, we’ll run through the pros and cons of postgraduate education, which will hopefully help you to decide.

What is postgraduate education?

Postgraduate education is further education for which an undergraduate degree is an entry requirement.

Postgraduate education can take the form of a master’s degree, a master’s diploma, or a PhD.

The pros of postgraduate education

There are many pros for continuing your education, so we’ll take a look at the main ones below, which are heavily based on career goals.

You’ll be more employable

Postgraduate education is mandatory for some careers; however, where it isn’t mandatory, it can help your CV to stand out amongst others.

That being said, most graduate schemes require nothing over a 2:1 degree, and so a postgrad qualification may not help you out in that situation.

However, it can certainly help you out when applying for other jobs.

Overall, postgraduate education is probably best for those who require it for their career choice and for those who are aiming very high.

It has been found that postgraduates of working age have the lowest unemployment rate, compared to graduates and non-graduates, with just 1.9% of postgrads being unemployed in 2019.

Of course, it’s worth bearing in mind that these figures may or may not have changed during 2020 due to the pandemic.

You’ll earn more money

By investing in a postgraduate qualification, you can reasonably expect to earn more money in your career than if you hadn’t.

Government data shows that in 2019, the median postgraduate salary was £8,000 higher (£42,000) than the median graduate salary (£34,000).

This pay isn’t guaranteed, but your postgraduate studies can certainly open up opportunities and put you in the running for jobs that pay higher salaries.

You can delve deeper into your favourite subject

It’s not all about money and, if you’ve found a passion during your studies, you might find that you want to learn more about it.

On the whole, postgraduate education tends to dive into specialisms, meaning you might sign up for a whole course based on a topic that was covered in just two lectures in your third year!

For example, if you’re currently studying social policy, you may have a desire to niche down into housing or disability studies, and a postgraduate education enables you to do just that.

a male postgraduate student studying in the library

The cons of postgraduate education

There are several cons to pursuing a postgraduate education — some more obvious than others. We’ll take a look at each of them below.

The cost

Postgraduate education isn’t cheap and, when you’ve just paid so much for undergraduate education, I wouldn’t blame you for wanting to get out into the world of work and start earning some money.

There will be course fees to pay as well as living costs, such as rent and bills — not forgetting food!

Course fees will vary depending on the course you choose and where you study, so it’s worth doing your research before making a decision.

As with your undergraduate degree, you will be able to apply for a loan to cover your fees, but you’ll need to arrange the fee payments yourself.

You’ll usually have the option to pay your course fees in a single payment, termly or monthly.

Of course, some students receive a scholarship, and so, if you are one of those students, the course cost won’t be a consideration for you; however, the living costs might.

The reduced supervision

At the undergraduate level, you are set regular work to complete, and the course gradually gets harder; however, at postgraduate level, you have far less supervision and are expected to motivate yourself. Also, you (usually) hand in one or two larger assessment pieces rather than lots of smaller ones.

As Master courses are short, you’ll often find that the first few lectures seem easy and then it will suddenly seem really hard as the pace of the teaching is much quicker.

If you aren’t a self-motivated person who is passionate about diving deep into a subject, then the postgrad life probably isn’t for you.

Your social life

As a postgraduate, your social life may suffer. Firstly, the chances are that there won’t be anybody you know on your course. You’ll make friends, but it takes time.

You will be busy with your studies as a postgrad, too; it’s easy to kick back and relax a bit on a three-year undergraduate course, but you’ll probably want to give it your all as a postgraduate as you often only have one year in which to shine.

The student demographic on postgraduate courses tends to be different to undergraduate courses too, with more mature students signing up — meaning your fellow students are more likely to be busy with jobs, families and kids outside of their hours of study.

So, all being said, your social life may be calmer than it was for the previous three years! However, you may not see that as a bad thing.

A tired and lonely female postgraduate student

So, in summary, there are a few big pros and a few big cons — therefore it’s up to you decide what you want from life after your undergraduate degree.

For example, if you want to make yourself more employable in your field and aren’t too fussed about a wild social life, then go for it!

Alternatively, if you’re a party animal who plans to join a graduate scheme, then it’s probably not worth shelling out for a postgraduate course.

If you are planning to continue your studies in Leeds, then you can browse our postgraduate accommodation here.

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