Postgraduate study can offer you the chance to improve your career prospects and stand out from the crowd, while specialising in a subject you enjoy.
Postgraduate study is studying at a higher level than undergraduate, and includes taught degrees such as postgraduate diplomas, MAs, MScs and MBAs, and research degrees like PhDs.
Approximately a fifth of geography graduates return to university to undertake postgraduate study. Many undertake a Master’s degree that allows them to specialise in a specific area, such as geographical information systems (GIS), remote sensing, conservation, water resources, or environmental management. Others choose a postgraduate course in a different subject, to give them the professional skills they need to share what they learned in a geography degree, for example teaching, surveying, planning, management or finance. These degrees are often a planned step in a career plan.
When choosing a postgraduate course, keep in mind what you want to be doing at the end of the course - what knowledge and skills do you need to make the next step in your career? What are the particular specialties of the programme? Will you go straight from your undergraduate degree into a masters, or do you need prior work experience?
Do you want to take a course which has specific employability programmes built into it? Some courses include placements, or give you an opportunity to carry out dissertation research at an external organisation
Consider all the other aspects of the course – where do you want to study, what resources are available, how much contact time is there, how will your work be assessed, how much will it cost and are there any funding opportunities?
Tuition fees for postgraduate courses can vary widely - most will be several thousand pounds annually for UK and EU students, and higher for international students. Funding options include:
Some taught postgraduate courses will offer a number of scholarships – this should be shown in the course information.
PhD studentships advertised on specific projects will often have a source of funding confirmed for around three years.
If you already have a job, some companies will pay for part-time courses, but you will usually have to make the case about how it will benefit your work.
Other grants may be available to cover your course, including from universities or external organisations. The Graduate Prospects website allows you to search for other funding.
There are a number of ways to search for postgraduate courses, including:
Use the Graduate Prospects, Postgraduate Studentships, Masters Compare, FindAMasters and FindAPhD websites to search for and compare postgraduate geography courses.
Take a look at our directory of UK university geography courses.
Ask your department contacts or careers service what they would recommend in your case.
Check individual university websites for adverts and news about postgraduate opportunities.
Talk to someone in the area of work you are hoping to go into about what to study and when (sometimes a period working in a relevant job might give you a better idea of what to specialise in).
There are a number of factors to consider when deciding where to study:
For taught Masters degrees, it is important to consider that certain institutions may specialise in specific areas. It may be worth researching into the key places offering courses on a topic you wish to study. This will enable you to make the most out of your postgraduate study.
For PhD study, try researching the authors of papers published in your area of interest, to see if they have projects for PhD students. Alternatively, search for academic research centres in your area and look at the projects and people associated with them.
You might want to study at a different institution than your undergraduate University, to get a wider exposure to academic influences.
You can apply for postgraduate courses in a number of different ways:
A few universities use the UCAS service, UKPASS (UK Postgraduate Application and Statistical Service), but most universities have their own application systems.
Applying for a taught postgraduate course will usually involve filling out an online application form, submitting a CV, writing a statement supporting your case, and requesting references (usually academic - such as your dissertation supervisor).
PhD studentship applications may have similar requirements, but in addition may involve an interview.
You may be able to get help with these steps from your university careers service – they often support alumni as well.
Deciding when to apply for postgraduate study is crucial:
Applications for postgraduate study generally open between October and February before September intake. Application open and closing dates vary between institutions, so it is best to look specifically at these dates. For many, it is in your interest to get applications in early.
It is also important to consider at what stage you want to study at postgraduate level. For some career paths, it may not be wise to apply for a masters degree straight after undergraduate degree. Work experience may be more advantageous and help to focus interests on a particular area. Talking to someone in the area of work you would like to go into is a good way of understanding how postgraduate study can fit into your career path and help you to get the most out of it.
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