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Is it Worth Going Back to University for Masters

Returning to University as a Postgraduate Student: worth it or a waste of time?

In a world where more people are studying at university, the job market is more competitive than ever, and it can be difficult to figure out how you might stand out when you graduate. A Masters degree is something that many universities say makes the difference. But how accurate is that claim? In this blog, we'll explore whether doing a Masters is worth it, we’ll explore the different types of postgraduate degrees available, the benefits of postgraduate education, and how to decide on the best option for you and your future.

What postgraduate degree can I do and when should I study a postgraduate course?

There are lots of different postgraduate degrees, the type of postgraduate degree you might consider depends on a few factors.

Your subject

Postgraduate degrees tend to lead to different qualifications based on the type of subject you’re interested in.

At Masters level the types of qualifications available include:

●MA: master of arts

●MSc: master of science

●MBA: master of business administration

●LLM: master of law

●MEd: master of education

Typically, these titles speak to the type of subject you might be studying at Masters level. However, these labels can also refer to the type of study as well as the subject.

●MPhil: master of philosophy

●MRes: master of research

You’ll find that courses which lead to an MRes or MPhil qualification can vary in subject matter across disciplines. These qualifications are designed to provide students with advanced research training and skills in a specific field. These are typically considered to be a "bridging" degree between an undergraduate program and a PhD programme. The MRes and MPhil are often research-based, with students working on a substantial research project that is typically written up as a thesis or dissertation.

PhD’s tend to be less rigid. You might graduate with a PhD in a specific subject, but at this level your specialist thesis is likely to be a more important label. You might, for example, be studying for a PhD Sociology, but your thesis may actually relate more to media studies or politics.

Your academic history

What you’ve studied before can definitely impact the postgraduate degrees that are open to you. Masters level study is a great opportunity to change direction and study a new or emerging interest.

Usually, people with Masters degrees have completed an undergraduate degree. Although this isn't the only way to enter a Masters degree. Some Masters degrees will consider you for a place if you have extensive relevant work experience. For example, some MBAs accept applicants without an undergraduate degree if they have plenty of employment experience.

It’s typical that a PhD will only be an option if you’ve completed a Bachelors degree, although, for some subjects like Mathematics and Computing it is possible to study towards a PhD without an undergraduate degree. This is usually only offered when you have made significant contributions to the field outside of academia, in industry for example. It’s not uncommon to study for a PhD without a Masters degree, some PhD programmes insist on completion of an MRes or MPhil as preparation for PhD study. If you think you’d like to pursue postgraduate study it’s worth looking into the entry requirements to find exactly what you need to have achieved before applying.

Your career goals

One way to think about postgraduate study is to consider how to choose the right degree for your career goals. If you have a specific career path in mind then you might already know that you need to study a Masters degree in order to meet that goal.

For example, if you had a specific career in mind like in Architecture, Law or Teaching or Librarian then you’ll need to complete a Masters degree in that field. Alongside a Masters degree these careers also require a certain level of work experience.

Your time

There tends to be more flexibility with postgraduate degrees in terms of when and where you are able to study. This flexible nature of study can often help people balance work and life with their postgraduate studies. Postgraduate courses are often designed to be sympathetic to people already in work, with childcare and family commitments or people studying remotely. With lots of options available, you’ll find that there’s probably something out there that suits your approach to postgraduate study.

Full-time: A full-time postgraduate degree programme typically requires students to attend classes and complete coursework just as you did at undergraduate level.

Part-time: A part-time postgraduate degree programme allows students to attend classes and complete coursework on a less-than-full-time basis. This is a common method for postgraduate study.

Online/ Distance learning: Online and distance learning postgraduate degrees allow students to attend class and complete their studies from anywhere. Sometimes these programmes are hybrid and involve intensive study periods in a fixed location but, there are many opportunities that are fully remote.

Why pursue postgraduate studies?

A Masters degree can impact your life goals in many ways. Whether you’re looking for your dream career, hoping to retrain and change direction or perhaps you just want to broaden your knowledge and skills. Whatever your motivation there are plenty of reasons to pursue postgraduate studies.

Benefits to your career

Professional development. If you’re already in a job and looking for ways to find new opportunities and climb the career ladders, then a Masters degree can be a great way to show your commitment to expanding your job knowledge, continued professional development and staying on top of the sector you’re in.

Earning potential. A postgraduate degree can increase your earning potential, as those who have completed a Masters degree tend to have higher median earnings than those who have only completed an undergraduate degree.

Research experience. Research skills can be something that employers look for when hiring candidates. A postgraduate degree, particularly research-based degrees such as MRes or PhD, can provide you with valuable research experience that can help you stand out in a competitive job market.

Benefits to your knowledge and skills

Advanced knowledge: A postgraduate degree provides an opportunity to gain advanced knowledge and understanding of a specific field of study. This can be beneficial for those who wish to become experts in their field, or who wish to change careers and need to acquire new skills.

Leadership and management: Some postgraduate degrees, such as an MBA, focus on leadership and management skills. These programs can help you develop the skills you need to lead teams, manage projects and make strategic decisions.

Interdisciplinary knowledge: Some postgraduate degree programs are interdisciplinary, which means that students learn about a variety of subjects that are related to the field of study. This can help students understand the bigger picture and can benefit them in their future careers.

A chance to change direction

A Masters degree is a great opportunity to change direction and explore a new field of study or career path. Whether you're looking to advance in your current profession or switch to a new field, a Masters degree can open doors that might have otherwise been closed to you.

Sometimes called conversion courses, there are postgraduate degree programmes which do not require you to have a specific undergraduate degree. They are designed to help you enter a new career. These programs are designed to provide students with a broad understanding of the subject area, usually through an induction course, before diving into specialised studies.

There are lots of reasons why you might want to change direction. You might be looking to progress your career or move to another sector or opportunity. It might be that you’re just no longer interested in your undergraduate subject any more, or that you simply want to learn something new. All of these are valid reasons for making the decision to change direction, studying for a postgraduate degree could unlock new opportunities, jobs, careers, relationships, and knowledge.

Should you study your Masters at the same university?

A common question about progressing to Masters level study is “Is it better to go to a different university for Masters?” The answer really depends on your individual needs and goals for postgraduate study.

Here are some things to consider to make sure you make the right decision for you.


This can be a pro or a con depending on the type of person you are. Many individuals find comfort in studying at an institution they have spent 4 years at the undergraduate level. If you’re someone who struggles with change then staying at your university for postgraduate study could make that transition manageable. However, if you’re someone who needs to change things up to stay interested then changing your space could be the way to do that.


If you’re hoping to study a postgraduate degree in Law for example, then it may benefit your career or progression goals to choose a university with a strong reputation in this area. This might be a different institution. Being mindful of where is reputable in your subject area shows that you’ve likely considered the quality of an institution in relation to your field. This sort of commitment can be impressive to employers looking for the best graduates in the field.


If you want to really deepen your knowledge in a certain area or specific field of study, then it’s worth researching what universities offer the greatest specialist knowledge in this area. Look at the different research groups, academic staff and courses on offer to get a sense of what different specialisms a university offers. If the university you did your undergraduate at offers strong specialism in your area of interest, then there’s no harm in continuing to postgraduate study there.

How to make the decision that's right for you

Making the right decision here means getting to the heart of what you really want from a postgraduate degree.

It’s unlikely that employers would look favourably or unfavourably on you for completing a postgraduate degree at the same institution as your undergraduate. Think about the story your university career tells about you.

Just as you did when you were choosing a university for undergraduate study, you’re going to want to consider reputation, quality of teaching, graduate destinations, placement and study abroad opportunities, careers support, location and student life.

Is it worth doing a Masters?

Postgraduate study can provide you with specialist skills and knowledge that can make you more competitive in today's job market. There’s lots of research to suggest that postgraduates earn more, or have better earning potential: A 2020 report by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) suggests that postgraduates earn on average 18% more than those with an undergraduate degree alone, and a 2021 report by the OECD found that the earnings advantage for a Masters or PhD holder over someone with secondary school education is 95% (compared to 45% for a Bachelors graduate). In terms of return on your investment, completing a Masters degree will likely mean you’ll earn more after you graduate. But, it’s not guaranteed that after completing a Masters degree or PhD that you’ll automatically be chosen for your dream career. Consider the package you offer in addition to any further study you do, rather than the qualification alone. Research, publishing papers, and gaining practical experience in your field can further enhance their skills and credentials.

Pursuing postgraduate education can be a valuable investment for your future. It can open up new opportunities, provide advanced training and skills, and help you stand out in a competitive job market.



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