Further study is a popular option among students and there are many reasons for choosing postgraduate study or research, but it’s not for everyone. This section of our website describes some of the issues to consider, including the main types of higher degrees and information on funding.
There are different types of further study. These include:
- Master’s degrees, which exist in the full range of academic subjects
- ‘Vocational' or professional diplomas/master's degrees, for example in teaching, law and nursing
- Research degrees such as PhDs
If you really enjoy studying your subject, postgraduate study or research will allow you to deepen your knowledge and specialise in certain aspects of it. Meanwhile, gaining a postgraduate qualification may help you get into the career you have in mind although this is not automatically the case.
For example, in some careers having a master’s or PhD may be required or desirable, while some employers may relax their entry requirements for master’s students. However, in many cases, a postgraduate qualification does not automatically give you an advantage over an undergraduate degree in the job market, or necessarily lead to a higher starting salary.
Before applying for further study, make sure to research the possible routes into the careers that interest you, so that you understand how postgraduate study might fit in with your career plans as well as how you can fund your studies.
|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.
To help find and apply 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.
|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.
To help find and apply for a course:
Studying outside your home country
Choose your course carefully if you plan to study a professional or vocational qualification in one country but want to work in a different one. Do not assume qualifications awarded in some countries will automatically be recognised in others.
|How to get funding||
Funding for PhDs
The funding system for postgraduate study can be very complex so seek advice from the Careers Service if you need it.
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 on their websites.
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:
Funding for Master’s, Diplomas and Certificates
There are a range of funding sources available for courses:
1. Find courses via databases such as:
2. Contact the institutions you are interested in to find out more about the course
You may also want to ask about the careers that graduates from the course go on to do.
3. Explore funding
4. Prepare your applications
For links to further information and advice, see the Thinking about further study section of our Information Resources.