Student Weekly Tips: Postgraduate Degree and other options

This week, we’re going to discuss the wide range of opportunities once you graduate; whether you’re considering furthering your education or entering the workforce, here is some advice from our Student Team!

Students graduating throwing their caps against the backdrop of a building
Photo by Vasily Koloda on Unsplash

Considering a Postgraduate/Master’s Degree

“As a prospective postgraduate student myself, I was considering pursuing a postgraduate degree in my penultimate year and started applying this year! I looked at some of the workshops and sessions about postgraduate study here, which helped me unpack some of the common assumptions about a Master’s/postgraduate degree! I had a one-on-one appointment with the Careers Service to help me realise why I am considering being a postgrad, and I highly recommend that service. I personally am also not quite done with university and want to dive deeper into my course. There is so much knowledge and research left to uncover, and I find that a postgraduate degree is the way to do that.” — Salma, Politics and IR

“If you are considering postgraduate study, the best starting point is to look at the course websites for the programmes that you are interested in. This allows you to get an idea of the type of modules and content you would be focusing on, and you can also compare different courses to see what best suits your interests. When I decided that I wanted to return to studying, even though I knew that I wanted to return to Manchester, I still had several courses to choose between, but you may also be comparing the same course across different universities. I would also recommend speaking to your academic advisor or a lecturer that you have a good relationship with about your options for postgraduate study and the reasons that you may want to pursue it. They will be able to give you advice and guidance on the realities of postgraduate study and what would be expected of you. They can also help you to narrow down your potential options, particularly considering there are often a lot more specific courses at postgraduate level, with a narrower focus, than broader undergraduate programmes.” — Lily, History

“Think about why you would like to pursue a postgraduate qualification, be it a Master’s or PhD. Having a plan for how you see your life and career panning out over the next few years can help you to avoid regrets further down the line. Will completing a Master’s in a specific subject make you more competitive when it comes to applying for certain jobs?” Or perhaps you’re thinking of becoming a professor and lecturer and you know you need to have a PhD under your belt? Talking to people you know in those positions can also help. After completing my psychology degree, I wanted to go into research in schizophrenia, so I asked a professor who I did some voluntary research experience with what Master’s qualification would help me to gain a funded PhD. After taking his advice to do the MSc Neuroimaging, I managed to get a studentship for a PhD on auditory verbal hallucinations in schizophrenia. Be clear about your motivations and use your network to help inform your decisions.” — Olivia, Psychology

How to develop your skills and get experience

Two women sat at a desk for an interview
Photo by Christina @ on Unsplash

“There are many ways you can get experience and it doesn’t have to be through conventional ways. I find that a lot of my experiences are voluntary, part-time through the summer, and one-off events I contributed to throughout the year. Paid and unpaid experiences are very valuable to find which skills you need to work on and which ones you excel in. For example, I wanted to really develop my communication and presentation skills and found it a very insightful experience being a voluntary Arabic Beginners teacher at the International Society. It may be a bit intimidating to sign yourself up for voluntary experiences but there is so many that you can choose from, can suit you and how much time you want to commit to it. You can draw on these experiences to explain and justify your skills in your CV and future job applications.” — Salma, Politics and IR

“Once you have an idea for what you would like to do after your degree, you can start looking at job adverts and in particular, the person specifications, to see what skills and experience your desired role(s) ask for. Then think about how you can develop those, whether through a part-time job or voluntary position. If you have postgraduate study in mind, consider contacting professors working in the field you’re interested in to see if they would be willing to offer your research experience. One way to do this is to contact the lead author of a journal paper which has really captured your attention — their email will be on the first page, usually under the abstract — and give your unique take on their study and findings (tell them what you can offer them too!). It will likely have to be voluntary position but there may be funding available through the university.” — Olivia, Psychology

“When writing your CV, it’s always useful to bear in mind you can use any experience you have if you can adapt it to highlight how you have gained valuable skills relevant to what you are applying for. For me, tutoring English during the pandemic for secondary school students allowed me to work on my teaching skills and I gained invaluable experience working with children. As this is also relevant to what I study, I am able to generalise these skills to guide me through my degree. Volunteering is always a beneficial experience; not only do you gain skills that would look good on a CV but you can also really gain a sense of purpose whilst meeting people from all walks of life. The best tip I have for gaining relevant experience is applying to as many places as possible, whether it be for volunteering, part-time work, etc. This can seem effortful and learning to deal with rejection will also become necessary, but you’re bound to hear back from a few places!” — Iqra, Speech and Language Therapy

Other options to consider

Sign with multiple locations against a sunset backdrop
Photo by Javier Allegue Barros on Unsplash

“If you find that postgraduate study is not for you, there are other options and future paths to consider. Perhaps professional courses might be best for you, as they are less time-consuming and may target specific job sectors. In my penultimate year, I was on the lookout for some student experience internships, which may be working with professors or academics in their research projects over the summer.” — Salma, Politics and IR

“At the time when I was completing my undergraduate degree, I didn’t think that postgraduate study was for me, so I applied for lots of graduate schemes and paid internships, which I found mostly through the Careers Service Careers Connect website. Graduate roles are really competitive and the application process requires you to be determined and resilient to keep going with applications, even when you might be getting quite a lot of rejections or even not hearing anything back at all. I eventually found a role through the Careers Service’s Manchester Graduate Talent programme and worked at the University for a year as an intern. This role provided me with lots of valuable experience and skills, such as improving my task management and computer software skills, which have then helped me in my return to study for my Master’s and now PhD degrees. The MGT programme is great for anyone who knows that they want to stay in Manchester after their degree but isn’t sure exactly what field they want to have a career in, as it provides entry-level graduate roles and internships based both within the University and in businesses within Greater Manchester.” — Lily, History

Thank you for reading this week’s tips! We hope you found them helpful and feel supported in choosing your future endeavours after your degree!




Ran by the Student Team and recent graduates to provide personalised support for current students

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