Think about further study

Further study

You may be considering some form of postgraduate study once you graduate. This could be a 'vocational' course in an area such as teaching, law and nursing or a Master's degree or PhD.

Getting started

There are many reasons for choosing postgraduate study or research.

  • You might find that completing a further course provides an industry recognised qualification or training that enhances your career options. Bear in mind though that further study may not necessarily make a big difference for some careers and relevant work experience might be more useful.
  • A PG qualification could be advantageous to the career you have in mind. It could be that some employers may relax their entry requirements in lieu of a master’s, or have a preference for postgraduate students.
  • Finally, if you are really enjoy studying your subject, postgraduate study or research will allow you to deepen your knowledge and specialise in certain aspects.

Before you start applying for further study, make sure you have researched the various possible options, so that you understand how they fit in with your career plans, and how you can fund yourself.

If you want to discuss your reasons, come and talk to a careers adviser.

Higher degrees by research

The degree of Doctor of Philosophy, usually shortened to PhD (or DPhil at some universities) is awarded primarily on the basis of a thesis, which is the product of an original research project.

Tips to consider before you apply for a PhD

  • Contact your prospective supervisor(s) first to find out as much as you can about their project outline or, if you are submitting a research proposal, their specific areas of expertise. This discussion will also allow you to explore practical issues with them, such as whether they can offer you the time and support you will require as a research student.
  • Read our advice on CVs, applications and covering letters, which includes tips for writing a personal statement, a CV or PhD research proposal.
  • Search the Find a PhD database which lists prospective PhD’s sorted by subject, institution and country.
  • Read the Postgrad.com - studying for a PhD website which offers a practical guide to help you prepare for a PhD.

Careers after a PhD

A PhD is often viewed as an ‘apprenticeship’ for aspiring academics, but can also be a basis for employment in research, either in industry, government or the voluntary sector.

If you choose to do a PhD as the basis for an academic career, be realistic - each year, roughly half of those who obtain a PhD in the UK move into a research or teaching post in a higher education institution but this is often on a fixed-term basis of one to three years.

Some estimates suggest that only about ten percent will eventually obtain a permanent academic position, although the actual number varies across different disciplines.


Postgraduate taught courses

A typical master’s degree includes a mixture of teaching through lectures and seminars, a research project, a thesis or dissertation plus examinations.
In some cases, you can study a subject as a 'conversion course' which can open up a wide range of careers not related to your undergraduate degree.

Additionally, some master’s courses offer a ‘fast-track’ into a profession for those with a relevant undergraduate degree, for example, a bioscience graduate could undertake a two-year master’s course in physiotherapy or dietetics rather than completing another 3 year bachelor’s degree.

Tips to consider before applying for your course

  • Do your research. Find out as much as you can about the course, the institution and its staff. Postgraduate courses | targetpostgrad.com | postgrad.com - are databases that list courses by subject area and also include information on funding sources. You may also want to check the careers that graduates from the course go on to do.
  • Contact the admissions tutors if you have questions but make sure you avoid asking anything that is clearly covered in the course literature, or on the departmental website. Read the Steps to Postgraduate Study - HEFCE - a guide to asking the right questions about taught postgraduate study in the UK.
  • Register on our Ask a Masters Scheme (available in the autumn and spring semesters) which will help you decide if postgraduate study is the right choice for you.
  • Find out how to apply. For the vast majority of postgraduate courses there is no centralised application system; you simply apply direct to the institution concerned using their application form.
  • Check the closing date. In many cases, there is no fixed closing date, but you do need to check this with the institution. Generally speaking, it is advisable to apply nine to twelve months before the intended starting date, especially as this may improve your chances to obtain funding.
  • Read our advice on CVs, applications and covering letters, which includes tips on writing personal statements for further study.

Interested in - law | teaching | medicine and dentistry | UCAS

If you are interested in law you will need to apply through a central clearing house and in most cases there will be a fixed closing date for applications. Teaching, social work, nursing, medicine and dentistry require you to apply through UCAS.


How to get funding

The funding system for postgraduate study can be very complex so seek advice from the Careers Service if you need it.

Funding for PhDs

The majority of ‘home’ postgraduate researchers in the UK have their fees paid and receive a maintenance allowance via a studentship from one of the seven government funded Research Councils.

Each Research Council has responsibility for funding researchers in a specific group of subjects, and you will find details of these bodies and the subjects they cover on their website.

Research Councils do not accept applications directly from individuals. Instead, they allocate funding to universities and research centres and invite them to nominate suitable candidates. To find out how studentships are provided for researchers in your discipline check with your chosen institution and look at the relevant Research Council’s website.

To be eligible for a Research Council studentship you will need to have been resident in the UK for purposes other than study for at least three years prior to taking up the award and be free of any restrictions on your right to live in the country.

Other possible sources of funding are:

  • Employment by a University, being funded to do a PhD as part of the role, e.g. research technician
  • Individual universities’ scholarship schemes
  • Research charities (especially for medical research)
  • Sponsorship from a private company, either directly or through a ‘Knowledge Transfer Partnership’ between the company and a research council
  • Your own savings or those of your family

Funding for Master’s, Diplomas and Certificates

There are a range of funding sources available for courses:

  • Make a start on the Funding postgraduate study Prospects website which includes information on different sources of funding and loans.
  • There are loans of up to £10,000 for UK postgraduate students under 60 years old, subject to certain conditions. Further information is available on the UCAS and on the UK Government websites. In addition to this, awards of £10,000 are made available to ‘underrepresented’ students via eligible universities.
  • Research Councils may provide studentships for some master’s courses (see the above section on funding for PhDs for more information on Research Councils) and individual universities offer scholarships and bursaries, so check with the institution you are applying to.
  • Specialised funding schemes exist for some vocational courses but you need to investigate the websites of professional associations. Ask at the Careers Service if you need help with this.
  • Trusts and charities may be able to help with associated costs such as maintenance, fees, books, equipment, travel, childcare, etc. However, the resources are limited. A typical award would be between £250 and £800 and allocated to strictly defined criteria, so do not apply unless you are sure that you fit them. 
  • The Alternative guide to postgraduate funding contains advice on finding funding opportunities, completing formal applications and making speculative approaches.

Funding for international students

The British Council provides information to help you obtain scholarships if you are an international student.


Studying internationally

Postgraduate study in the UK for international students

If you are an international student, you should begin researching postgraduate courses as early as possible and check with the university for their individual application procedures.

The UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKISA) is the UK's national advisory body serving the interests of international students and those who work with them. It includes useful information covering ‘Making a Tier 4' (general application) to extend your permission to be in the UK as a student under Tier 4 of the points based system.

Our information resource can support you if you are interested in studying internationally.

Use it to do your research before you apply, for example, you will need to consider qualification equivalents, residency criteria, application procedures, possible funding support etc.

Choose your course carefully, especially if you plan to study a professional or vocational qualification in one country but want to practise in a different one. Do not assume qualifications awarded in some countries will automatically be recognised in others.

Postgraduate study for disabled students

If you are a disabled or dyslexic student, you may wish to discuss your needs with the university you plan to apply to prior to making an application. Expert advice appears on the Disability Rights UK’s website.

Additional support and funding may be available to help cover disability-related course costs, for example via Disabled Students Allowances. You can find more information on the section of the Prospects website, Funding for students with disabilities