Choosing a postgraduate degree
There are many different routes in to academic study or research at postgraduate level, and deciding which is the best one for you will depend on your study and career objectives. This guide will help you choose the right path.
The period leading up to the point at which you begin your application should be one of research and self-reflection to ensure that your application is most effective. You should reflect on your:
- interests and career aspirations
- knowledge, skills, experience and qualifications
- circumstances: should you consider part-time or online study?
This will give you the best chance of enjoying a positive and fulfilling academic experience, and will also help the staff who are reviewing your application to ensure the University and programme is suitable for you.
Taught or research?
Most masters are designed to develop specialised knowledge or techniques in a subject you have studied at undergraduate level. Other programmes act as conversion routes, allowing you to change or develop your area of specialisation from that undertaken at undergraduate level.
Research programmes have traditionally been seen as an entryway to an academic career; however, there is an increasing number of research programmes, particularly in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), that are designed to facilitate a career in industry.
Full-time or part-time?
Most of our programmes are available to study full-time or part-time. There are advantages to both modes of study, but the mode you choose will depend on your ongoing commitments, your financial resources and your individual study preferences.
If you require a visa for study purposes, you will not normally be permitted to study on a part time basis.
Studying full time
Studying full time allows you to focus intensively on your academic development.
If you are taking a career break or aiming to strengthen employment prospects, full-time study will allow you to complete the programme and return to work in the shortest time possible.
Studying part time
Some taught programmes are only available to study on a part-time basis. However, other programmes are available to study on either a full-time or part-time basis, and deciding which option is best for you will depend on your circumstances. Do check the degree finder to check if your programme of interest runs part-time.
You may wish to combine academic study with work or other commitments and, as a result, take longer to finish your degree. For example, if you are studying a professionally related degree, it might be to your advantage to combine work and study; experiences gained in your professional life will add depth and relevance to your academic development.
Some degree programmes at Edinburgh are available to study on a “part-time intermittent” basis, which means you study – and pay for – each course (or “module”) at a time. We refer to these programmes as “Invoiced at Course Level (ICL)” for fee purposes. This refers to the fact that you will pay the tuition fees for each course as you study it (rather than paying for all your courses at the same time).
Loans and scholarships tend to not be available for programmes that are “Invoiced at Course Level” (ICL), so be sure to check the eligibility requirements for any funding – including studentships – you intend to apply for.
It is important that you consider your funding situation right at the start of the application process. To make a successful application, you will need to demonstrate not only your suitability for a particular programme, but also your ability to fund it.
Most scholarships and loans require you to have an application submitted, so keep this in mind when looking at deadlines and your timeline for applying.
Impartial advice about postgraduate study
The "Steps to Postgraduate Study" website provides free, impartial advice and guidance on postgraduate study in the UK.
It is designed to help you identify important questions to ask yourself and universities when deciding what and where to study.