Should I study a postgraduate degree?

Postgraduate study is a great way to progress your career, conduct research in a field of interest, or simply learn something new! Every student will have their own reasons for pursuing postgrad study and it is important that you understand what your reasons are. Below are some considerations to think about when looking into postgraduate study.
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Richard McKeon
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Postgraduate study is a great way to progress your career, conduct research in a field of interest, or simply learn something new! Every student will have their own reasons for pursuing postgrad study and it is important that you understand what your reasons are. Below are some considerations to think about when looking into postgraduate study.

What is your primary motivation for further study?

Do you want to progress in your career? Is there a particular field of research which you want to contribute to? Are you just in it to learn something? Whatever your motivation may be, make sure you are clear about what is. Taking a postgrad degree to fill in time while you continue to explore your career prospects is an ok reason too, just make sure you are honest with yourself about it!

Do you enjoy studying?

Some people love keeping their nose buried in academic journals, attending classes and doing research, while others prefer to leave university as soon as possible and get on with their vocation. If you fall into the latter and didn’t love your first degree, that’s not necessarily a reason not to explore postgraduate study. It may be that you didn’t enjoy what you were studying, rather than studying altogether, or it may have been that the format was too constrained for you. These days, there is an enormous amount of choice in what and how you can study. Make sure you explore all your options and choose what’s right for you.

Can you afford a postgrad degree?

Tuition fees for postgraduate degrees vary significantly between types of degrees, study fields, and education providers. In Australia, most research degrees will have no tuition fees, and for many doctoral programs you can even receive a salary. For coursework programs, however, tuition fees can be up to A$50,000 per year. Furthermore, you will have to factor in lost income from taking time off work and any other incremental expenses you might incur (e.g. textbooks and travel).

Luckily, postgraduate study in Australia is more accessible than most countries. The Australian Government will loan you tuition fees through the FEE-HELP program, up to a maximum of $100,879 (2017). Furthermore, Austudy payments are available for a number of approved courses to help cover living costs while studying (see here for more). Commonwealth Supported Places (CSP) are also available for many coursework postgraduate degrees, which dramatically reduce tuition fees payable by students. Lastly, you may be eligible for a Scholarship to cover either or both your tuition fees and living expenses (see our Scholarships section for more).

Will postgrad study help you advance in your career?

Every career path values postgraduate education differently. In some sectors, like banking and consulting, work experience is rated just as highly as further study, whereas in other more technical professions, a Masters degree might be a prerequisite for advancing beyond a particular career stage. Perceptions around graduate degrees also change between countries; in many European countries, a Masters degree is required even for entry level jobs. Make sure you understand what is valued in your chosen career path and then make a cost-benefit decision about the value of postgraduate study (making sure to include fun and personal interest in the benefits column!).

Can a postgrad degree help you change careers?

Studying a postgraduate degree is a great way to begin a career change. By taking even just a few subjects you will get a sense of whether your new career is right for you, and completing the degree will give you the ticket to enter the workforce. Most employers won’t be bothered that your undergraduate studies were in a different field - the most recent degree is always the most important consideration to them. Universities, however, will have different requirements for entry into their postgraduate courses. Technical degrees will generally require an aligned undergraduate degree, but many broader disciplines will accept any undergraduate degree.