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Study abroad : Applying to University

Making the move: undergraduate to postgraduate study

Unsure about what route to take after your undergraduate degree? Use our guide to find out what it means to study at postgraduate level.

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Some students leave their undergraduate degree ready to take on the world of work while others choose to further their education with a postgraduate degree. There is no right or wrong choice, but we recommend considering your options wisely so that you can give yourself the best possible opportunities.


In this article, we hear from postgraduate students Gabriella Baker and Nia Griffiths about their routes into postgraduate study. We’ll also take a look at some of the common reasons for pursuing a course at the postgraduate level and specific professions where further study is a requirement.


Reasons to study a postgraduate course

There are a number of reasons why students may choose to do a postgraduate course. To shed some light on this topic we spoke to UCL Psychological Sciences student Gabriella Baker. She said, “I chose my postgraduate course for a very specific purpose so that I can go onto a clinical psychology doctorate, as I want to become a clinical psychologist in the future.”


Gabriella explains that her undergraduate course was relevant and prepared her for her master’s degree. She explains, “We’re covering a lot of stuff I’d already learnt in my undergraduate degree. I think I’d struggle if I hadn’t studied brain behaviour and cognition in my natural sciences degree.”


When speaking about why she chose her masters, she said, “Having had therapy myself, I had an interest in the field and wanted to help other young people going through the same thing.”


Some students know that they want to pursue a postgraduate course early on, even before they’ve started their undergraduate degree. However, others decide during their undergraduate degree once they’ve gained a clearer idea of what they’re interested in or after they’ve taken some time out of higher education.


According to Gabriella, “There’s real variety in terms of what people studied for their undergrad, some did neuroscience, but there’s also a few English graduates and engineers as well.”  She added, “I finished university in 2016 and was trying to save some money so that I could stay in London, so I was just waitressing. Then I got a job working for the NHS as I wanted to work in the public sector. It was only then that I decided I wanted to apply for the postgraduate course.”


Gabriella told us how she was concerned about the break she took between her undergraduate and postgraduate courses, remarking, “I was worried that I’d be older than everyone else on my course as I waited a couple of years before starting my masters, but there’s a real mix. Some went straight from their undergraduate, but someone had already done a PhD and there are a few other mature students on the course.”


Want to know how to apply for a postgraduate degree?



Do I need a postgraduate degree?

While some students pursue a master’s qualification to focus on a specific area that interests them, other students are working towards a career where further study is necessary.


For example, to become a lawyer, you must complete a three-year bachelor’s degree and then a further one-year Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) conversion course. You might be put off by the thought of another year of studying, but the good news is that you can study any subject and still apply for the one-year law conversion course to become a solicitor. You don’t necessarily need to study an LLB undergraduate course in order to be eligible.


Similarly, to become an occupational therapist, you will need to have a postgraduate qualification. This type of profession comes with high responsibility and requires specific skills that cannot be taught at the undergraduate level alone. You will first need to study a degree that is somewhat related to this field such as biology, psychology or other science courses.


So, what does this mean? Basically, if you have a career in mind, research the route you need to take in order to reach your goal or speak to someone at the university. This way, you can go straight onto a master’s course with the qualifications you already have without needing to convert.


What if my undergraduate degree is different to the masters I want to study?

If you do choose a course that is not directly relevant to the master's degree you want to study, you can look into conversion courses and speak to university admissions staff to see whether you can convert your qualifications. It’s never too late to try something new. 


You can also speak to admissions staff before applying to an undergraduate course and ask if the subject you want to study can be easily converted to a postgraduate course, as they will be able to steer you in the right direction.


As most students choose a subject for their undergraduate degree at 18 years old, it’s not surprising that many do not really know what they want to do after university. However, once finishing your degree or later in life your interests may change, and you might want to pursue another field.


If your undergraduate course is completely different to the masters you want to study, first try speaking to the university, where you wish to study for a master's degree, and ask what they require from you before writing it off.


You can try exposing yourself to this area of study. Another way to explore is to volunteer or gain work experience in the relevant industry so that you have evidence of your interest in that field.


We also spoke to Nia Griffiths, a social and political science graduate from Goldsmiths University who shares her experience of moving from undergraduate to postgraduate study. Nia said, “I’ve always had an idea of what I wanted to go into and play therapy was something I became particularly interested in during my undergraduate degree.”


“I was worried that my course wouldn’t translate for the masters I wanted to get into, but I managed to get onto a course in psychoanalytic observational approaches to working with families, children and young people. This course is a prerequisite for a doctorate in Child and Adolescent Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy,” she added.


Hopefully, you’ve now gained a clearer idea of what it means to study a postgraduate course, and which subjects you might need to cover in order to study at master’s degree level.


Want to get started? Find a postgraduate course today.


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