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The University of Southampton
Careers and Employability ServiceStudents

Considering further study?

Approximately 20% of Southampton graduates enter postgraduate study or research each year. Deciding to embark on a programme of further study is a big decision and one that the Careers & Employability team are happy to discuss with you. Use our further study information below to help you consider your reasons, your options and how to apply. 

If you are already on a programme of further study, please see our Postgraduates page for advice on how to plan your career.

There are some excellent resources available to help you be clear on what is involved in postgraduate study before you commit to a course:


Provides information and advice on postgraduate study covering available courses and the various sources of funding including the new Government-backed Masters loans.

'A Practical Guide to Planning an Academic or Research Career'

Use their 'Practical Guide to Planning an Academic or Research Career' which details the process of moving from your undergraduate degree into academia.

For information about the next Postgraduate Open Day at the University of Southampton, please see the Postgraduate Open Day webpages.

For further advice on whether to opt for a further study programme and how to apply, see the commonly asked questions below or discuss your options with our Ask the Adviser Service.

For many areas, postgraduate study is something that you can do at any time in your life. Some common motivations include:

I really enjoy my subject:

It is vital to think about how your choice of course relates to your long-term career plans. If you need help clarifying your choices then the Career Planning pages and information in our Careers Centre may help. If your course is not directly related to a career, consider how it might enable you to develop skills that future employers will value. You might also want to discuss your choices with your tutor.  Further advice is also available in this Postgraduate Study video.

I need it to pursue my chosen career:

For some career areas postgraduate study may be considered essential; for example journalism, law, teaching, or clinical psychology. For other fields you may have a choice between postgraduate study or directly entering employment. Research the area of work that interests you to identify whether a postgraduate course is essential or desirable.

I don’t know what to do – this will give me more time to decide:

Postgraduate study demands considerable commitment and motivation. You are likely to have to fund it yourself or take a loan. If you are looking for time out before committing yourself to a career why not find out more about other work experience options available. You can use our Drop-in Service to organise an appointment with a Career Practitioner and talk through your options. You could prepare for this by working through the ideas on the Career Planning page.

You have two main options - either a Postgraduate Taught (PGT) course or a Postgraduate Research (PGR) programme:

Taught Courses (PGT):

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.

Additionally you may consider a range of specialist short courses including 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 Programmes (PGR):

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 is the best known research qualification. It will take at least three years to complete full-time and much longer if taken part-time. Assessment involves a written thesis and an oral exam (the viva). MPhil and MRes 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 and The Guardian and in magazines and specialist publications linked to specific occupational areas. KTPs, EngDs and PhDs are also advertised on academic job sites 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. You might also find the University of Manchester website useful in helping you decide if an academic career is for you.

Start thinking about your options as early as possible - at least 18 months before you want to start a postgraduate programme, as you need to apply early in your final year for popular courses.

  • Check entry requirements - you may need specific GCSEs or work experience.
  • Find out about funding and about the timing of applications.
  • Is there a centralised application system (e.g. law, teacher training and medicine) or do you apply for each course individually (e.g. taught masters)?
  • Closing dates - some courses have very early deadlines (e.g. the primary PGCE and medicine). For other courses you can apply at any time as long as there are still vacancies.
  • Find out about funding and about the timing of applications, for example, in addition to the Prospects and Southampton sites above,  look at

For research courses - find out which institutions have departments offering courses in your research interests. Issues to consider include:

  • Is research right for you? Discuss your plans with your tutors.
  • What will it involve? Talk to current research students.
  • What rating does the department have? For example see the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) or Research Excellence Framework (REF)
  • Is funding available?
  • Who would your supervisors be and how well would you work with them?
  • What career options are open to you after the course?

Personal Statements:

Many postgraduate programmes require the submission of a personal statement as part of the application. This is essentially a one page summary of information relevant to your application to demonstrate your suitability to the programme of study that will be read by an admissions selector/tutor. Often this will be supported by an academic referee or two

Aim to include:

  • Your experiences from your previous and current studies to outline your ability to think critically, undertake analysis, work within a team (if applicable to the programme) and confidently excel at independent learning.
  • References to academic work 
  • Reasons this programme is of interest and value to you and your future career/learning.
  • Specific references to the course, department and university. .

Further information can be found at:

Research Proposals:

Established research projects may not require a research proposal however some applications for a PhD may require one. This is essentially an outline of your proposed project and should include a clear research question and approach to answering it. You should also highlight the significance of the research (i.e. it's potential impact) and how it adds to, develops (or challenges) existing literature. The proposal should persuade the academic selector of the importance of the work and that you are the right person to undertake the research i.e. you have the right academic credentials, experience and mind-set to succeed. These documents vary in length but are normally around 2000 to 3000 words.

Further information can be found on:

Psychometric Tests:

You may be required to undertake a psychometric assessment as part of the recruitment process for further study courses. We have a selection of practice tests available, including those specific to postgraduate study and Medicine.

Opportunities for postgraduate study abroad are increasing. You will get the chance to learn about another culture, develop international experience and work with specialists in another country. 

Applying for a course abroad needs very careful planning and may involve considerable financial commitment.

  • Find out about courses as early as you can - for full scholarships you may need to start researching 18 months to 2 years ahead
  • Check the content of courses and entry requirements - you may have to book and pay for an entry test
  • Contact the departments that interest you and get detailed information
  • Academic years may begin at different times from the UK

Getting funding can be difficult but there are a number of awards and scholarship schemes that you may be able to apply for. You may want to explore Studee, the Prospects website and organisations such as Fulbright Commission (study in the USA), DAAD (study in Germany) or Study Options (study in Australia and New Zealand) for ideas. Please also see our Funding for Study Abroad and Exchanges webpages

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