Thinking about studying for a postgraduate course? Alex Blower, staff member at Birmingham City University, tell us why he decided to go back to university and how its helped him develop in his career. 

In the summer of 2011, after taking a year away from study to experience the world of work, I made the decision to return to university as a part time postgraduate student. There were a number of factors that had an influence on my decision to return to Higher Education, foremost among them was a passion for a subject I really enjoyed studying. However I realised that in order to justify the time and expense of a postgraduate qualification, my studies also needed to align with what I had planned for my future.

After enjoying a year working as a Sabbatical Officer in a Students’ Union, embarking on a career within Higher Education was a prospect I found very appealing. I saw studying for a masters degree as the perfect chance to get a better idea of how universities work, and a great way to explore possible opportunities that working within the sector may present.

I quickly came to realise that studying at postgraduate level was a very different experience to that which I had as an undergraduate. I loved the depth of discussion around particular topics, the freedom I was allowed in focusing the direction of my study, and the fact that my learning often crossed in to different disciplines. Studying the course as a part time student also meant that I had to be extremely organised in order to fit my learning around a full time job, making use of evenings and weekends to complete a lot of my assignments.

Applying for funding for a postgraduate degree course was also very different to the process at undergraduate level. In order to fund my masters I applied for a Career and Professional Development Loan (CPDL). This was a loan from a bank and I was expected to pay it back in monthly instalments as soon as I had finished my course.

Looking back, I feel that the time and money I invested in postgraduate education was one that I’m very pleased I made. It not only expanded my knowledge and put me in a position to go on to further study if I wished to, but it also gave me an in depth knowledge about how universities operate and a host of skills I could transfer in to any working environment.

Figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency from 2011-12 show that 86.6 per cent of postgraduates found work in professional positions within six months of graduating, compared with 64 per cent who had only completed a first degree. However I strongly believe that if you want a postgraduate qualification to have an impact on your prospects for employment, doing your research is vital.

As is the case with undergraduate degrees, there’s a wealth of choice available when it comes to picking the course that’s right for you. In order for your postgraduate degree to be most effective you need to have a clear goal and an idea of what you want to get out of it. If you want to get in to a particular industry, then think strategically – make sure you’re getting work experience or going on placements and that this is directly relevant to your future aspirations. Put as much research in to the right course for you as you did at undergraduate level and most importantly, think about the end game.

Want to find out more about postgraduate study? Come to our Postgraduate Open Day, Wednesday 25 November 2015, 2 – 7pm.

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Alex Blower

Schools and Colleges Liaison Officer at Birmingham City University

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