Thirty years ago, only 5% of schools leavers went on to university and of those, few went on to do a postgraduate qualification, so you can imagine how that would have set you apart from your peers, but the landscape has changed considerably since then with around 50% of schools leavers now going on to university and 15% of students doing a Masters or some kind of postgraduate study. In addition, the cost of postgraduate study on top of your undergraduate loans, means that it is something not to be undertaken without careful consideration.
So the big question on everyone’s lips is………...
Is it worth doing a Masters degree?
Some people will want to do a Masters just for the love of their subject, but there will also be those of you are considering doing a Masters to make you more employable or to improve your salary prospects, so is that true? Will doing a Masters make you more employable?
Recent statistics from the Higher Education Statistics Agency suggests that this is true. In 2015/16 68% of undergraduate leavers went on to full time employment compared to 80% of postgraduate leavers, so you are increasing your chances of finding work by studying at postgraduate level. The survey also suggests that you are more likely to earn a higher salary and gain a higher level job on graduation.
However, what you have to remember is that having a Masters is not an automatic passport to a well-paid, full time, graduate level job. There are so many other factors at play and you should not base your decision to study a Masters solely on these statistics, although they are of course reassuring.
Why are you doing it?
Firstly you should consider why you want to do a Masters? Are you doing it because you love the subject, because you need it for a particular job, because you believe it will help your career prospects or simply because you don’t know what else to do?
Maybe it is worth writing a list of the things you would like to achieve from it and consider whether there are other ways you can achieve them and this might help you decide whether studying for a Masters is the best route.
How long does it take?
In the UK most Masters degrees last one year full time or two years part time. You may also want to consider studying for your Master online, which is becoming an increasingly popular option and allows you to study while working. This is a particularly good choice for people who may already have been working and would like to return to study to increase their career prospects but can’t afford to give up work, or don’t want to.
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What are the requirements to study a Masters?
The entry requirements vary depending on the course and the university but typically you will be expected to have an undergraduate degree in a related subject. If you do not have this, there are often pre-Masters courses which prepare you for study at that level in the subject.
Is it harder than an undergraduate degree?
Studying at Masters level is not necessarily harder, just different. Most Masters require you to do more independent and original work and so you are expected to work on your own initiative more compared to your undergraduate degree.
Many people find they enjoy their Masters more than their undergraduate degree because they have a clearer idea of what interests them and they enjoy than they might have done when they were 17 and chose their undergraduate degree.
What should I study? How to choose what to study
In the same way you probably chose your undergraduate degree, you need to do some research. Universities have postgraduate open days so you can go along and meet the staff, tour the department and find out more about life as a postgraduate. A lot of students choose to stay on at the same university as it is familiar to them and they are settled in the area. Most universities offer alumni discounts on postgraduate study or up to 50% in some cases, so that is also worth bearing in mind when making your choices.
How do I apply?
Not all postgraduate courses have application deadlines but the sooner you apply the more chance you stand of getting a place as many courses are oversubscribed. Most applications are made direct with the university but some universities (11) do use UCAS for their postgraduate applications. You can apply before you know the outcome of your degree.
How much does a Masters degree cost?
The average cost of a Masters degree in the UK is £6840
How do I fund my Masters degree?
If you are a student from the UK or EU, there are different potential sources of funding available for your Masters.
Postgraduate Loan scheme
Postgraduate students are now able to apply for a loan from the government, allowing you to borrow up to £10,280 for your Masters programme. The loan scheme is available for all subjects and for full, part-time and distance learning. The loans will be open to UK and EU nationals. If your course is 2, 3 or 4 years, the payments will be spread equally across each year of your course.
The repayment terms of these loans differ from the undergraduate loans in that you will repay 6% of your income over £21,000 on graduation (undergraduate loans are repaid at 9% of your income over £21,000). Interest will be charged at RPI +3%. Repayments will be made concurrently with any undergraduate loan you have which means that if you have both and are earning over £21,000 you will be repaying 15% of your income.
For example, if you earn £22,000 and you have an undergraduate and postgraduate loan, you will pay 15% of £1,000 or £150 a year. If you earn £30,000 you will pay 15% of £9,000, which makes an annual repayment of £1,350. Divide these figures by 12 and you will get the amount you will have to pay back each month.
Alumni Discounts & Scholarships
Whilst doing your research about where to study, it is worth nothing that many universities offer incentives to their undergraduates to return to study at postgraduate level. Discounts vary from 10% of tuition fees up to 50% or even full tuition fees at some universities. You will also find some offering similar offers if your parents are graduates of the university, so worth checking out those you have a connection with.
Scholarships and Bursaries
There are also many scholarships and bursaries available which offer money towards the cost of your Masters, which does not have to be paid back. You can search for relevant scholarships and bursaries on our database.
Different types of scholarships available include:
• Scholarships offered by your university: these can either be related to the subject you wish to study, for personal or financial reasons. Sports and music scholarships are also generally open to postgraduates too.
• General scholarships open to all students: there are scholarships which are not tied to a specific university or subject and often on require an essay submission by way of an application. Whilst they are not offered specifically to fund a Masters, why not apply for them and see if you can get some additional financial support. To find these, enter “No specific subject” and “No specific University” as your search criteria.
Grants from charities and trusts.
There are literally thousands of smaller charities and trusts in the UK which offer grants either for educational or welfare purposes. Each one will have its own specific criteria and you will need to identify those for which you might be eligible. As part of our member benefits package, you can access an external database of over 3,500 charities and trusts which offer educational related grants or you can find them in the “Guide to Educational Grants”, a book which can be found in most reference libraries.
Funds4Uni is a unique partnership between The Scholarship Hub and easyfundraising which allows students to fundraise for their studies at both undergraduate and postgraduate level without it costing their supporters a penny.
Free donations are made by retailers to support your education, every time one of your supporters – family and friends – shops online via Funds4Uni. This scheme can be used to save towards your university expenses, help relieve some of the costs while you are there, or pay towards your loans once you’ve finished. Find out more and sign up here.
Professional and Career Development Loans
Some students finance their studies by applying for a Professional and Career Development Loan. This can be useful if you are not eligible for student loans, for example if you have already studied at postgraduate level. These are different from undergraduate loans in that they are bank loans with stricter payment conditions. You can take out between £300 and £10,000. Loans are usually offered at a reduced rate and the government pays interest while you study. Further information is available here.
Crowdfunding is basically a way of fundraising online by setting up a fundraising page and asking people to donate towards your education. You will need a compelling reason why people might want to support you but many students have been successful in raising significant amounts towards their studies.
Find out more about crowdfunding for your degree
Sponsorship from your employer
If you are already in employment and fancy doing a Masters which will enhance your career, don’t be afraid to ask your employer to support your studies. Many companies do have funds for employee development and as long as the course is relevant to your job, you might be in with a chance.
Additional grants from the government
There are a number of grants still available to students at both undergraduate and postgraduate level for specific needs such as a disability, or if you have dependents. Make sure you know what is available in case you are eligible for anything specific.