To postgrad or not to postgrad
Finishing your degree is a huge feat. You’ve worked away for at least three years, laboured over assignments and exams, poured your blood, sweat, and tears into achieving that coveted testamur. And then, just like that, it’s over – time to go off into the world, right?
So… turns out going off into the world is kinda hard and scary?! If you’re not sure about your future career path, feel unprepared for your industry, or are just generally a bit lost, staying at uni where you’re comfortable and pursuing postgraduate study makes total sense!
That being said, postgraduate degrees aren’t for everyone (and certainly not for the faint-hearted!). So, how do you know whether to postgrad or not to postgrad? Here are a couple of things to consider.
Is it the right choice for ME?
The golden question! This is the first thing you should be thinking about when trying to decide whether to go ahead with postgrad study: not whether it’s what your dad said you should do, or what you think will look cool, or because you just want to avoid getting into full time work.
Whether to commence postgrad studies is a big decision, and one that should be fully considered before you dive in.
To figure out whether it’s the right choice for you, ask yourself:
- Do I need to specialise within my field?
- Does my dream career require postgraduate qualifications?
- Will studying expand my professional and personal network?
- Do I want to begin a career in academia?
- Am I no longer satisfied with the field I studied in undergrad?
- Do I want more knowledge, more options, or a change?
If the answer to any of these questions is a resounding YES, then postgrad study may just be right for you! Now for the even tougher questions…
Do I have the time and discipline?
This one requires a bit of honest self-reflection. Juggling work, study, and life is hard at the best of times, and when you add extra study on top of that, it becomes an extreme balancing act. If you’re the ‘Ps get degrees’ type (no judgement here), postgrad might not be the best choice for you.
That being said, universities these days offer some great flexible and hybrid studying options. Many postgraduate degrees take into account the fact that many of their students are likely working full time, raising families, or taking their careers to the next level, so ensure their classes are held after work hours or online.
If you’re set on pursuing postgrad study, it might be good to talk to your workplace about more flexible working conditions. Maybe you can drop down to 4 days a week during semester, or change your work hours to accommodate for your classes. If you make it clear that this is something that’s important to you, your boss should hopefully be able to make adjustments.
Is it a financially sensible option?
There’s no doubt about it, postgraduate degrees are, by and large, pretty pricey. On top of all the important questions you should ask yourself before starting postgrad study, it’s sensible to reflect on whether further study is a financially viable option.
If you’ve maxed out your HECS debt, or are ineligible for government assistance, you should think practically about your money options. For example:
- Check whether the course you’re looking at offers Commonwealth supported places (CSP). These places are partially subsidised by the government which means, unlike HECS, you won’t have to pay it back at the end of your degree. There aren’t many postgraduate courses which offer CSPs, but few, like Juris Doctor places, have the option.
- Look into FEE-HELP. This is kind of like HECS: it’s a loan that helps you pay some or all of your course’s fees rather than having to cover the costs up front. You are only able to apply for FEE-HELP if you’re attending a uni or approved college, so if you’re interested in the loan make sure you’re eligible. Keep in mind that FEE-HELP won’t assist you in paying for things like textbooks or accommodation while you’re studying – these will be extra costs on top of your course.
- Get further financial assistance from Centrelink. If you’re 24 or under, you can qualify for Youth Allowance, and if you’re 25 or older you may be eligible for Austudy. There are lots of conditions you have to fulfil to apply for these financial aid schemes, so make sure you do your research!
- If you still think postgraduate study will interfere with your ability to earn that cold hard cash, studying part-time might be a good option.
- Investigate scholarships. Your university, the government, and independent organisations all offer scholarships and grants that you might qualify for. These could help you cover the costs of your course, equipment, or even accommodation.
What else is out there?
So you’ve asked all the tough questions, reflected on your own working style, and considered the financial and personal barriers. What’s next?
If you are still feeling unsure about whether you’re going to apply or be eligible for your dream postgraduate course, it’s always an option to look into different pathways.
If a Master’s degree looks like it’ll be more than you’re willing to sign up for, why not try a graduate diploma? Or if you think you can get the same knowledge out of a TAFE course, that might be the way for you! You could even try enrolling in just a single subject to ease yourself in, and see if the postgraduate life is right for you.
Remember that this is all in your hands, and you have the power to choose which direction you take in your studies.
Ask the experts!
There’s a huge range of information about postgrad study online, so much that it can get a little overwhelming! But you don’t have to go it alone.
Rather than spending hours upon hours trawling the web for relevant information, pick up the phone and give your careers or student services a call. They’ll have the A’s to all your Q’s, and will be able to direct you to the relevant person or department if they don’t.
Another great option is to connect with a leader in the industry you’re looking to enter. Ask them about how they broke into their field, what pathways they took, and learn from their successes and mistakes. It can be a little daunting to reach out to someone out of the blue, but we’ve got your back.
Connect with industry and alumni
The Professional Mentoring Platform (PMP) connects volunteer mentors (professionals and alumni) with UTS students and recent grads, allowing them to establish a meaningful mentorship relationship. If you’re worried about not knowing what to say, or are finding it tricky to find someone in your industry, this is where PMP comes in! It’s informal in nature and gets rid of all the awkwardness of first introductions.
Meet your future mentor
You could also attend a small group session with your peers and an industry representative. Twice a month, we host online sessions giving you the chance to practise your networking skills, get career advice and meet some pretty amazing people who work in a range of industries.
There’s a whole host of pros and cons to starting postgraduate study, and this blog post is just the tip of the iceberg. Ultimately, it’s a very personal choice, and one that involves a lot of honest self-reflection.
Wherever you are in your study journey, we wish you luck! Remember UTS Careers is always here to support you, no matter your choice.
Featured image courtesy of Unsplash
Lily Cameron is a writer and editor based in Sydney. She is a UTS Communications (Creative Writing) graduate, and current Communications Assistant at UTS Careers. She is passionate about telling stories, both hers and others’, and the way digital and social media is changing the literary landscape. Her writing has appeared in Voiceworks, The Brag, and elsewhere.