What's on offer
You have two main options - either a Postgraduate Taught (PGT) course or a Postgraduate Research (PGR) programme:
Masters courses (MA, MSc etc) are generally one year full-time (or two years part-time). They can either be a continuation of your academic studies or a preparation for a specific career e.g. journalism, personnel management or IT. Typically they involve nine months of formal teaching (lectures, seminars, exams) followed by a three month independent research project.
Diploma or Certificate courses are nearly always training for a specific career e.g. teaching, social work, law, journalism, librarianship etc.
Medical and related courses Graduates can train for a wide range of medical and related careers. There are accelerated degree courses in medicine as well as shortened courses in other areas such as dietetics, nursing and speech therapy. Funding for some medically related courses is available even if you have already studied for a degree.
Specialist short courses include many courses that are not aimed specifically at graduates but can be helpful for career development. Examples include intensive courses giving IT skills, bilingual secretarial skills, teaching languages etc. Many such courses are offered at local further education colleges.
Research involves the in-depth study of a specific field, usually related to your first-degree subject. Most research degrees involve working closely with one or more experienced researchers who supervise your study.
PhD – this is the best known research qualification. It will take at least three years to complete full-time and up to six years part-time. Assessment involves a written thesis and an oral exam.
MPhil and MRes - these are other research qualifications and can be taken as a preparation for a PhD.
Research opportunities are often advertised in the press - The Times Higher Education Supplement The Times Higher Education Supplement and The Guardian and in magazines and specialist publications linked to specific occupational areas. KTPs, EngDs and PhDs are also advertised on academic jobs site such as www.jobs.ac.uk or direct through the university hosting the programme.
Significant effort has been made in recent years to support research students and to analyse outcomes. Publications such as What do researchers do? can help you figure out what job the qualification may lead to.
More on Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) and Engineering Doctorate (EngDs) programmes:
KTPs are government-funded schemes that enable recently qualified graduates (Bachelor, Masters or PhD) to work in companies managing challenging projects central to the development needs of participating companies.
EngDs are a four-year doctoral research programme involving a significant taught component. A key element of the programme is the close link with the sponsoring company. Around 75% of a student's time over the four years will be spent working on research of interest to the project sponsor.