Is further study for you?
There are many reasons why you may want to continue studying, but you need to consider carefully how much another course will help you in your future career.
Good reasons for further study
- You are passionate about your subject, enjoy studying and can afford the time and money involved.
- You want to move into a career which requires a specific qualification such as social work, teaching or law.
- Likewise, conversion courses are valuable if your degree is unrelated to the area you wish to work in, eg IT, human resources and librarianship (although there may be routes into these areas without further study).
- If you are interested in an academic career a PhD is almost always a requirement.
Not such good reasons
- To 'cancel out' a poor first degree result - some graduate schemes will still require a 2:1, regardless of further study undertaken.
- To give yourself more time to decide about your future. Some taught courses can be very intensive and leave little time for reflection or job-hunting, so you may graduate a second time with no clearer ideas about your future.
- If you feel that you need time to think about your future then consider alternatives such as short-term or voluntary work.
- A higher degree does not always give you an edge over others in the market. Many employers are as interested in personal qualities as academic attainment, and might be wary of 'overqualified' candidates.
- Canvass the opinion of prospective employers and speak to your careers adviser before making any decisions. Remember that a postgraduate qualification does not guarantee a job.
- Most employers want to know you are intelligent, flexible and willing to learn. Many consider applicants from any degree discipline, and will provide the necessary training.
Is a PhD for you?
- You must be self-motivated and sure that you will enjoy carrying out the research.
- Some students feel isolated and unsupported, despite the exciting demands of original research. Conversely, in some areas of science students complain about not getting on with other members of the close-knit groups in which some of them work.
- You must be interested in your topic and have enjoyed dissertation work in your undergraduate course. Check out the work, hours and lifestyle with current postgraduates. Think of a PhD as your first job. Select a supportive department and above all a helpful supervisor.
Should you stay at The University of Edinburgh?
- Staying within the same department can be an attractive prospect. You know the staff and they know you well; you will probably be aware of their research interests (which may or may not match your own).
- Finance may be available for you to continue studying, as there is often additional funding for graduates who stay within the same institution.
- On the other hand, it is important to consider whether changing university might benefit you more in the long run.
- Making a change helps you to broaden your network of academic contacts, which may be crucial to getting a job later.
- Change also allows you to give top priority to selecting the best supervisor for your area of interest when choosing your research topic.
Getting help with decisions
If you are contemplating further study you can clarify your ideas by:
- Discussing it with your Personal Tutor, course tutor, dissertation supervisor or other members of your department.
- Consulting your careers adviser.
- Finding out relevant employers’ attitudes to further study.
- Attending talks on postgraduate study run in semesters 1 and 2.
About Postgraduate Study - this AGCAS publication provides concise information and advice on all aspects of postgraduate study. Available in our information centres and at the link below.
Your PhD, what next? - this publication is available in our information centres and via the link below. It enables you to consider the wide range of options available after completing a PhD.
Your Masters, what next? - helps you consider the range of options open to you with a Masters qualification. This is also available in our information centres and at the link below.
There is a further study section in both of our information centres, containing reference and takeaway material to help you consider if it is right for you.
We deliver talks on further study in semesters one and two. You can find details of our next session in our talks and events section.
Listen to students talk about considering further study:
You can watch a short video about further study online here (only available within the University of Edinburgh domain):
This article was published on Apr 12, 2013