It May Be Hard but a Second Degree Will Pay; Gaining Extra Qualifications Can Be Tough but It Could Give You the Edge in the Employment Market. Kate Crockett Looks at Postgraduate Study

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WITH up to 200,000 first-degree graduates joining the workforce every summer, and employers becoming increasingly choosy about who they recruit, it has never been so vital to have something that makes you stand out from the crowd. A good first-degree and solid work experience is essential, but a postgraduate qualification can give you an even greater advantage in the job scrum.

What is available?

Postgraduate qualifications are essential for many jobs, including teaching, academic posts, scientific research and law.

Masters courses are the most popular route for further study and you can go straight onto a Masters from your degree.

MAs, MScs and MPhils are available as taught or research-based courses, and normally take one to two years to complete. It is also possible to take part-time courses, a popular option with fulltime employees.

Melanie Klinger, 30, an IT professional at Lambeth Council, is about to enter the second year of her archaeology MA at Birkbeck College, University of London.

"I wouldn't have been able to do the course had it not been part-time," she says.

"There are fees to pay, I need to earn some money and I have a good job, so I didn't want to give that up."

Gaining a Masters can open doors to further qualifications, such as PhDs, which are essential for anyone interested in pursuing scientific research or careers in academia.

If you need vocationally-focused skills to get started in your chosen profession, a raft of other postgraduate certificates and diplomas are available, from the postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE) to law conversion courses. Visit the further study section at for more information on the options open to you.

What will it cost?

The cost of doing a postgraduate qualification varies enormously, from around [pounds sterling]3,000 in fees for a one-year Masters up to an average of [pounds sterling]13,000-plus for an MBA. Annual living expenses are estimated to be at least [pounds sterling]6,000 on top of that - so choosing postgraduate study is not a decision you will take lightly. Up to 10,000 postgraduate studentships - which cover tuition fees and a maintenance grant - are available each year from the Research Councils and the Arts and Humanities Research Board, but competition is fierce. Some postgraduates receive funding from other charitable sources or through employer sponsorship: however, the majority fund themselves through loans and part- or fulltime work, such as graduate teaching and research apprenticeships. …


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