+603 5612 7213

Pathways to Postgraduate Studies

Time:2021-02-03 14:20:04


There are many different kinds of postgraduate programmes that students can pick from to advance their career and gain new skills. Read on to find out what they are and what makes them unique from each other!

Need help standing out in the job market? Stuck on the career ladder with little prospects of career progression? Considering a career in academics to continue your research work and nurture future talents? You might want to consider a postgraduate degree!

Whether you have recently graduated, just started working or have a few years of experience under your belt, studying a postgraduate degree can help you learn more about a particular area in greater depth or gain industry-relevant skills to boost your job prospects.

There are a range of different postgraduate options that you can choose from to extend your academic knowledge, vocational skills and further research. Which one you choose will depend on a couple of questions you would will need to ask yourself, such as:

- Do I enjoy learning with someone to guide me or by my own research?

- What specialist skills or knowledge will I need to increase my employability in my field?

-Which will I enjoy more: a career in research and academics or a career in industry?

-What kind of master’s courses can give me the skills I need to advance my current career or break into a new area of industry?

In this article, we will be exploring the different types of postgraduate programmes offered by UK universities.

Read on to learn more!


Taught Masters

The taught Masters are one of the most common postgraduate programmes available among UK universities. To apply, applicants will typically need to hold a recognised undergraduate qualification which meets the academic requirements laid out by the institution.

Studying a UK Master’s degree has many advantages, one being its duration. As opposed to Master’s courses elsewhere which generally takes 2 years to complete, a UK Master’s only takes 1 year, saving you time and resources in getting your qualification.

What’s more, the UK government has recently introduced the ‘Post-Study Work Visa’ scheme, allowing graduates to look for jobs and gain work experience in the UK for up to 2 years. Students who complete a course at any recognised UK university and graduate from the summer of 2021 onwards will be eligible to apply.

What can You expect?

Much like your undergraduate (or bachelor’s) degree, the taught Masters will involve attending lectures, completing assignments, undertaking exams and usually finishes with a dissertation in a chosen research topic which must be approved by your supervisor.

However, a master’s course helps develop in-depth knowledge in a chosen area of study, thus equipping you to be a specialist in your chosen field of practice. The advanced knowledge that you gain in a taught Master’s degree will boost your employability and make you a more competent candidate in the job market.

What does the course structure look like?

The structure of a taught Master’s programme is split into 3 stages, with the first two stages usually comprising of exams and assignments and the final stage to write up a dissertation. Each academic stage is worth 60 credits each, with the dissertation or final project also worth 60 credits. This adds up to a total of 180 credits which students must achieve in order to be conferred a master’s degree.

However, depending on your career goals and resources, you also have the option to opt for a different qualification with a smaller number of course credits:

- Postgraduate Certificates (PGCerts) are awarded if you achieve 60 credits of a Master’s degree, meaning you study just 1 term.

- Postgraduate Diplomas (PGDip) are awarded if you achieve 120 credits of the Master’s degree, meaning you study 2 terms but don’t write a dissertation or final project.

If you’re studying for a full Master’s degree but decide to leave the course early, you could still receive a PGDip or PGCert if you have the sufficient credits. (Be sure to check the respective university student handbook to find out if this is possible)

On the other hand, you can also choose to ‘top up’ your PGDip to a full master’s qualification by earning the additional required credits.

Take the Barrister Training Course (BTC) for example. The BTC is a PGDip qualification by itself, but students can choose to ‘top it up’ to a Master of Laws (LLM) by writing a dissertation, studying additional modules or completing pro-bono work experience.

Check out some of the institutions in the UK that offer Barrister training courses below:

To summarise, the taught Masters is a postgraduate pathway to learn more about a chosen subject area through a series of taught academic modules and lectures. The knowledge you gain in your studies will increase your employability, helping you qualify for more specific roles or gain skills to help you break into a new industry.

Want to apply for a taught Masters? Get in touch with us!

Masters of Research

While at the same level of study as a taught Masters, the Masters of Research (MRes) has a stronger emphasis on independent study as opposed to guided teaching. Essentially, it allows students to undertake research in an area of study they have interests in.

What can I expect?

As an MRes student, you will train to become a researcher in the area of your choosing. The research skills you build can be used in a career of professional or academic research.

Like the taught Masters, you will need to hold an undergraduate qualification to apply for an MRes programme. You may also need to submit a research proposal to inform tutors on the area of study you want to specialise in, as well as a personal statement on why you want to undertake the research programme.

What does the course structure look like?

All your course credits in an MRes programme comes from the research projects that you do.

You will select a particular topic to base your investigation on and an academic supervisor will be assigned to you for guidance.

In a sense, the structure of your research projects will be similar to the final dissertation you write in a taught Masters. However, you will need to go in depth with your investigation and you might be expected to work on multiple research projects concurrently.

In summary, the Masters of Research is a great option if you like independent study and want to build up knowledge in an area you are passionate about. It will develop your research skills and prepare you for a research-related job or an academic career.

Get in touch today to learn more about your options for a Masters of Research!


Integrated Masters

There are certain courses that combine both undergraduate and postgraduate study. This is known as an integrated Master’s programme and are usually associated with subjects in Engineering, Pharmacy, Physics, Biology & Chemistry.

What can I expect?

While most UK undergraduate courses run for 3 years, an integrated master’s programme runs for 4 years with the additional year of postgraduate study. In effect, you would be studying a single programme using your pre-U qualification and graduate with a master’s degree after 4 years, instead of completing an undergraduate degree and applying separately for a master’s degree.

What kind of Integrated Masters are there?

Typically, Integrated Masters are more common in STEM-related subject areas. They tend to focus on providing applied knowledge and practical training to prepare students for their role in a specific career pathway.

Some of the most common Integrated Masters programmes can include:

MEng – a Masters of Engineering. This refers to many different areas in the engineering field, including:

- Electronic Engineering
- Mechanical Engineering
- Chemical Engineering
- Architectural Engineering

MBio – a Masters of Biology. There are different courses which offer this qualification that specialise in a particular area of biology, some including:

- Microbiology
- Human Physiology
- Biological Sciences
- Zoology

MPhys – a Masters of Physics. Some areas of physics that you could cover in more depth with an MPhys include:

- Astrophysics
- Particle Physics and Cosmology
- Physics with Nanotechnology
- Physics with Medical Physics

MChem – a Masters of Chemistry. This qualification opens you up to a multidisciplinary area of study in the chemistry field, equipping you to take on both the research and practical applications of chemistry in the workplace.

MPharm – a Masters of Pharmacy. Usually 5 years in duration, the degree combines 4 years of theoretical knowledge and clinical skills required to be a pharmacist with a final year of pre-registration training.

What does the course structure look like?

As mentioned, the Integrated Masters begins with at least 3 years of undergraduate studies and ends with an additional Masters year. Each year of study is worth 120 credits, giving you a total of 480 credits in total on completing the full programme.

However, the flexibility of the Integrated Masters gives you the option to finish your studies with just an undergraduate degree, provided you meet the academic requirements. If you decide to leave the course for any reason, you can still obtain an undergraduate qualification in your subject of study.

To summarise, the Integrated Masters allows you to study a Master’s degree directly after your undergraduate studies. It will build up your knowledge in a particular subject and equip you with the vocational skills you will need to work in your chosen field upon graduation.

Interested in learning more about the integrated Masters?

Click here to speak to an education counsellor about your options today!

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

The highest level of study any student can achieve, the Doctor of Philosophy, or more popularly known as a PhD, opens you up to a career in academic research. It is also one of the longest postgraduate programmes available, usually lasting between 3 to 4 years.

What can You expect in a PhD?

Research is key in this programme! Your goal as a PhD student would be to contribute to further study by conducting original research into an area of interest.

A Master’s degree is often required to apply for a PhD. You will usually need to demonstrate good academic performance in your previous studies and may even need to submit a research proposal.

You will be expected to undertake your own individual investigation on a topic of choice and present your findings in a thesis. While you will have an academic supervisor to consult, they will only be present to guide you towards the right direction of research.

Upon completing the PhD, you can choose to pursue a career in academics, such as becoming a university lecturer, or work in a research-related role.

What does the course structure look like?

First year:

- You will build up a solid understanding of your area of academics and  formulate a research plan with your supervisor, making sure your area of research is original.

- If you were a Masters in Philosophy (MPhil) student, you may also get approval to progress to a full PhD programme. (This happens when PhD students who were initially registered for an MPhil degree meet the requirements to carry on with their research.)

Second year:

- You will begin to do most of your core research and gather results from experiments, archival searches, interviews and other research techniques.

- You will also use this year to develop yourself as a scholar, with opportunities to attend academic conferences and teach small groups of undergraduate students.

Third year:

- Start making conclusions to your research findings and write your final.

- You will take a viva voce exam, a formal oral discussion where you will need to defend your research findings with a board of academic examiners.

In the event that you are unable to complete your PhD within 3 years, you may request for a further extension of one year or more, subject to approval by your university. Upon completing your PhD programme, you get to officially add ‘Dr’ to your title.

In summary, you should study a PhD if you are passionate about research and have a strong interest in your particular area of study. The value of a PhD comes in the form of your contribution to further research and opens you up for a range of research-based careers, whether it be in in academics or industry.

Click here to learn more about available PhD studentships and study opportunities!


The bottom line…

Postgraduate degrees create opportunities for you to become more specialised in your career path.

Compared to the undergraduate, which gives a wider overview of the field of study, a postgraduate degree sharpens your knowledge and skills in a particular area within that field.

Whether you decide on a research-based pathway or a taught pathway, you have the power to decide which postgraduate degree can help you meet your goals.

Be sure to give enough time to think about which programme allow you to reach your full potential and achieve your career goals.

Furthermore, the international recognition of a UK postgraduate degree will boost your employability in any area across the globe.

The quality of UK education and the experiences you will receive when studying abroad will help you gain a new perspective in life and think outside the box.


Get in touch with one of our education counsellors today to learn more about studying a postgraduate degree in the United Kingdom.

You will receive personalised counselling based on your study interests and we will help you make your study abroad goals a reality. Reach out to UKEC today!