For many students, completing one degree course is more than enough. But choosing to continue with a postgraduate program not only increases professional expertise and skills, it can also help students to stand out in an increasingly competitive job market and gain a qualification which will help career progression after University.  In fact, choosing to complete a postgraduate program could even add an incredibly healthy £200,000 (approx. $288,000 USD) to your lifetime salary, according to the Guardian.

With so many postgraduate study options on offer, choosing the right course can be a difficult decision. Do you want to follow a taught masters program or do you fancy going it alone with a research-based course? Perhaps you want a mix of both, but are dead set on then completing a PhD? Course sizes, previous student experiences and deciding why you want to complete a postgraduate course are all incredibly important factors when choosing a course. Deciding to complete postgraduate study is a big step. So too, is selecting the right course for each individual student.

Students at Aarhus University. Credit: Aarhus University

Credit: Aarhus University

Read on to find out why it’s worth taking time to choose a postgraduate course, and what to look for before taking the plunge:

1. Figure out your motivation – why do you want to study a further degree?

A postgraduate degree shouldn’t be a ‘stop-gap’ while you work out what to do next. Students should really consider their motivations and underlying reasons behind choosing to remain in education a little while longer. Ask yourself whether postgraduate study will help you with your specific career goals.

While PhD courses are more research orientated, many Masters are linked to a specific career or discipline. Other courses, such as the Postgraduate Certificate in Education are essential for becoming a teacher. Try to discover which courses will meet with your expectations before deciding if a further degree is the right move.

2. Research the course

Ask for course prospectuses and attend open days to get a feel for what the programs and universities that interest you are really about before you commit. And don’t be afraid to ask questions. Does the course offer an elective option? Do the modules interest you? What experience has faculty staff had? Which course have students been incredibly positive about – and which courses haven’t been so well received? Do take the time to read into the curriculum and find out more about facilities and support for postgraduate students.

Credit: Queen Mary University London

3. Check the feedback from previous students

Take time researching previous student feedback. Were previous students impressed with the course? What kind of research and training is on offer? Current and past students will offer honest answers and are a good source of information.

Similarly, it is worth considering what career prospects that a postgraduate degree can offer. What and where have course graduates gone on to do? Will studying a Masters in Journalism or an MPhil in Philosophy really ensure that you land your dream job?

4. Consider the return on investment

It is also important to consider the return on your investment. Postgraduate study can be time consuming and expensive. However, average annual salaries for those with postgraduate degrees can be more than $14,000 higher than students with bachelor degrees, and often quickly balance out the course cost, according to The Big Choice.

Credit: Monash University

5. Investigate the university statistics and ratings

Prospective students should also consider department size and comparisons with other institutions. Factors such as student-to-teacher ratio and lecture sizes (for taught courses) can really affect a student’s experience. Students who intend to study a taught course in the UK, for example, can investigate the quality of teaching through the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education.

6. Create a financial plan – fees, grants and bursaries

Many institutions also offer economic support and bursaries for postgraduate students, with some linked to particular departments or faculties. It is worth researching when and how fees must be paid – are instalments an option or does the institution require that all fees are paid upfront? Economic help and advice is a must for both domestic and international students.

So there’s plenty to think about when considering postgraduate study, however if you take your time and do your research then you could be in for the experience of a lifetime!

Image via Shutterstock.

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