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Why you should apply for a masters degree in 2020

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Before you finish your undergraduate studies, it's okay if you are unsure whether you want to continue with your education and sign up for a postgraduate course or just dive straight into the so-called real world and find a job. It's an important decision, but you're not alone. We're here to help you understand how postgraduate study can help you in your career.   

According to research conducted by The Student Room, of 10,000 students from last year, only 26% of them were confident of further study, while 66% were not even sure if they wanted to consider postgraduate study at all. Furthermore, 60% of surveyed students don't feel informed about postgraduate study and that could be the main reason why only a quarter of them want to have a go at a masters degree. If you want to improve your employability and your knowledge, then you really should consider a postgraduate degree.

Watch more about postgraduate study at the University of Sunderland

There are three types of postgraduate course: taught, research and professional. Taught courses include MScs and MAs, which we will focus on in this article. Research courses usually lead to a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) or MPhil (Master of Philosophy). Professional qualifications offer you an entrance into a particular profession.

A masters degree is usually one or two years long, while part-time courses last between two and four years. When comparing postgraduate study with undergraduate, there are a few key differences. Postgraduate courses are more intense and require more time on campus.

They are also focused on one particular area of a wider subject (for example, you can study different areas of journalism, such as magazine, sports, business and more) and cheaper. Other than MSc, MA and MEng, you can also look into studying a postgraduate certificate (PGCert) or postgraduate diploma (PGDip), which are qualifications at the same level as masters degrees, but shorter and you don’t have to write a dissertation.

I studied history in my undergrad degree and I found that it left me unfulfilled. I had always wanted to be a sports journalist but I felt that I could not afford to do it. Then the graduate loan scheme came in and I applied for the course straight away. I met with the lecturers and knew that this was the place where I wanted to study. The facilities are brilliant and I utilised the radio studios, TV studios, and Adobe software during my time while making priceless contacts. It was a great year, and I would recommend anyone with any desire of being a sports writer to come to the University of Sunderland."

Connor Bromley
MA Sports Journalism graduate and SportsByte Editor

Postgraduate tuition fees can range from £4,900 to over £30,000, according to UCAS. The average, however, is around £11,000 per year. If you're an international student, you will pay more than a UK or EU student. If you're from the UK or the EU then you can apply for a postgraduate loan of up to £10,609 which can cover your tuition fee, study costs, and living expense.

Now that you understand what postgraduate study is, let’s explore why you would decide to sign up for it. There could be a million reasons why, but according to Higher Education Academy's Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey from 2017, these are some of the most popular reasons for undertaking a masters: developing a personal interest, progression in a current path, improving employment prospects, and meeting the requirements of a current job.

Students working together

In a highly competitive jobs market, having a masters degree is a big advantage since potential employers always appreciate higher-level qualifications. If you're looking to change career then postgraduate study could be your thing since it doesn’t have to be completely related to what you’ve studied before. Also, if you're looking to progress within your organisation, a masters degree could help you with that while your employer may support you financially through sponsorship.

If by any chance you are thinking of enrolling to a postgraduate course then you need to know that there are some qualifications that you need to satisfy. For a masters degree, you usually need at least a 2:1 at bachelors level, or an equivalent qualification. Don't be disappointed if you don't meet these requirements as those with 2:2, or no undergraduate degree at all may still be considered if they meet other criteria set by a university. International students will need to prove their proficiency of English language with a recognised language test which could be: IELTS, TOEFL, PTE Academic or Cambridge English Language Assessment.

In case that you are happy with everything outlined in this article, you still need to know when you should apply. Most masters degree courses start in September and October, but some of them start in January, February and March. UCAS suggests, in order to be safe, applying at least six months in advance, which should be enough to sort out your accommodation, finances, and visa if you are an international student. Also, you will need to obtain some documentation, such as written references from your previous tutors or employers and official transcripts and records that prove your achievements to date.

Students studying and talking

Luiza Jakubowska is doing an MSc in Human Resource Management at the University as her ambition was to equip herself with a masters degree ever since she was a teenager: "Having a masters degree is the standard in Poland. Most of the people there have a masters degree and bachelors doesn't have a big recognition. Also, masters degree is one of the basic requirements for the majority of jobs in Poland, but also in other countries in Europe and North America.

"As my passion is traveling, I want my degree and level of education to make it easier to be able to enter the workforce and be competitive everywhere in the world. Moreover, apart from a degree, my postgraduate course gives me CIPD level 7 qualification, which is important to me as an HR professional and essential to get a higher level HR job in the UK."

Read more about postgraduate study at the University of Sunderland.   

Published: 4 February 2019