Towards the end of your degree programme, you may wish to explore options for study at postgraduate level. Here are some of the reasons that motivated previous OU students:
Many students assume that the more highly qualified they are, the more attractive they are to an employer. This depends, however, on how relevant your qualifications are to the post you are applying for.
In an online discussion hosted on the Guardian website, experts suggested that practical experience could actually be more worthwhile for recent graduates than investing in a masters course, unless it was directly vocational.
The option you choose will depend on your motivation for further study.
Think about whether you would prefer further academic study or a vocational course leading to a work-related qualification. Do you plan to study full-time, part-time, or through distance learning?
For academic qualifications, routes you might take are:
For vocational qualifications, you might consider
You can look at our postgraduate programme website and explore the range of options available to you.
The Prospects website has a comprehensive section on postgraduate study options in the UK, including a courses and research database. Postgrad Ireland provides a similar resource for students in Ireland.
Do you wish to study overseas and would you be willing to relocate if necessary? The Prospects website offers information about studying abroad. Remember to check whether the overseas training and qualifications have the recognised status to allow you to practice in the UK, if you wished.
Make sure to check the specific entry requirements for your chosen route of study. This may be a combination of academic qualifications and professional experience. There may also be medical and Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks undertaken.
Contact the admissions tutor or your prospective research supervisor to find out more about either the course content or your potential research project. Prepare a list of relevant questions to gain the information you require. You could also contact the Careers Advisory Service at the relevant institution to find what past students on your chosen course have gone on to do.
If you are an OU student and would like to talk to a Careers Adviser about your future plans, contact your OU regional or national centre.
If you are interested in postgraduate study, you need to find out about the application process from the relevant institution. For training in professions such as teaching and law, applications are made through a central 'clearing house' (e.g. the Graduate Teacher Training Registry (GTTR)). Check whether there is a closing date for applications.
If you are applying for a postgraduate degree, you are likely to be asked to nominate two referees. Remember that nominating a recognised academic in your chosen research area will carry weight.
With a vocational course such as teaching, one person will normally be an academic referee, (e.g. a personal tutor) and the other, a professional in your chosen field (e.g. the head teacher of a school where you have undertaken some work experience).
Always seek permission from those you wish to cite as referees. Brief them on your future plans so they can fine-tune their reference accordingly.
You will almost certainly be required to write some form of personal statement as part of your application for postgraduate study. A strong and persuasive statement needs careful preparation. Check the department's research rating and the quality of its teaching. The questions you will need to address include:
The most common routes for applying to do a PhD include:
Advertisements for PhD research can be found in publications such as the Times Higher Education, the Guardian on Tuesdays, the Irish Times, and specialist magazines such as New Scientist. Check out websites such as jobs.ac.uk and findaphd.com.
If the research project is as yet undefined, you may need to produce a statement outlining your areas of interest, or even to write an initial research proposal. You may also have to submit a CV as part of your application. Academic CVs may be longer than the standard two A4 pages used for non-academic CVs and would include:
Prospects website has more information on academic CVs.
For many taught postgraduate courses, selection is based purely on the application form and references. Others also require an interview, either one-to-one or with a number of academic staff. Additional selection techniques may involve group discussions, written tasks and aptitude tests. Many of the same principles apply when preparing for an academic interview as for preparing for a job interview.
The funding options available will depend on whether you are applying for a taught course or research. Common sources of funding include research council awards, scholarships, and bursaries offered by universities. For taught courses, the admissions tutor may offer information on the normal funding routes for students. For vocational courses, advice is often available from the appropriate professional association. In social work or clinical areas of the NHS, bursaries may be available to cover both fees and maintenance.
Competition for postgraduate funding is fierce, but students may fund themselves through a government tax-free Career Development Loan (CDL).
Please Note: the Open University has withdrawn from the Career Development Loan Scheme, so this option is no longer available for students to fund an OU course.
Charities Direct and the Charity Commission provide information on the finance available through grant making trusts and charities. Newcastle University has a funding database that can be searched on a variety of criteria. The Prospects website also provides comprehensive information on funding for postgraduate study. For students in Ireland, the Postgradireland website has information relating to funding for postgraduate study.
Additional financial support is available to disabled students who wish to study at postgraduate level. SKILL, the National Bureau for Disabled Students, produces an information sheet Postgraduate Education for Disabled Students (Word DOC) that can be downloaded from their website.
Here are some additional sources of information to assist your research into further study options:
To find about vocational qualifications in the UK linked to your area of work try