The most common form of taught postgraduate study is a master’s course. They usually take one year to complete, involving a mix of lectures, seminars, self-study and practical work, and either lead to a Master of Science (MSc), Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree.
If you don’t want or need to take a full master’s degree, a postgraduate diploma (PGDip) will often cover the same material but takes less time – usually two terms – and doesn’t require a dissertation. A postgraduate certificate (PGCert) is an even shorter option – usually one term.
There are several ways in which postgraduate study can enhance your development and your future. A key consideration is whether a postgraduate qualification is a necessity or will give you a significant advantage in the career area that interests you.
If a postgraduate qualification is not required by your future employers, there are other advantages to be gained, such as:
the opportunity to expand your network. Other students on your course, lecturers, visiting speakers etc. all have the potential to be useful in your future career.
a chance to build your confidence and enhance your subject specific and transferable skills, including project management, analytical skills, networking and team work.
learning more about a subject that you enjoy in a stimulating academic environment.
Even if your qualification doesn’t enhance your chances of securing an entry level job in your chosen sector, your additional knowledge and experience may help you progress more quickly through an organisation once you are in.
Is it the right direction for me to take?
To help you to decide whether postgraduate study is right for you, there are several questions you can ask yourself. Start with:
If the answer to either of those questions is yes, your next step is to explore your options further. Talk to people in the professions that interest you and find out if there are any subjects or courses that they recommend. Look for relevant networking opportunities on CareerHub or research your chosen career area in the employment sectors section of our website.
If the answer to both those questions is no, or you don’t yet know what career you might choose, there are other equally valid reasons for selecting this path:
Do I love my subject and want to learn more about it?
Do I thrive in an academic environment?
Do I want to continue to build my study skills, e.g. in critical thinking and analysis?
Do I want to study abroad and gain international experience?
Find out more about studying overseas on our Studying abroad page.
Finally, the following questions need honest answers if you are to make the right decision for the right reasons:
If your answer to either of those questions is yes, talk to a Careers Consultant before making your decision. Postgraduate study is not an easy option and can be expensive. There will be other ways to build your confidence and skills. You can book a one to one appointment on CareerHub.
How do I choose the right course?
There are several things to think about when choosing a course. As with your undergraduate course, you need to consider the institution, its location, social and support networks, style of teaching, course content, assessment methods etc., but in addition, you might also want to consider:
the reputation and connections of the department – for example, are there any leading researchers you could work with, do they have visiting speakers from organisations you’d like to work for in the future, etc.? To investigate the leading researchers in your chosen field – look at relevant academic journals and see who is publishing work that interests you. Where are they based? Or talk to academics in your own department.
where students find employment after the course – are they in jobs/organisations that interest you? The admissions tutor for each course should be able to provide that information, or you might find it on the institution’s website.
what do professionals in the careers that interest you think of the course/institution? Attend networking events, talk to LSE alumni etc. to find out.
When it comes to choosing your subject of study, there will be many options open to you. Will you decide to specialise, or would you rather combine two or three subjects? If you’re looking for courses in the UK, visit the Prospects Postgraduate Courses database. For overseas options, try FindAMasters.
Talk to your course tutor or supervisor and find out what they think would suit you. They may be able to provide useful feedback to help your decision making.
For more information, visit our Researching postgraduate courses page.
Obtaining funding for postgraduate study can be a challenge. In many cases, students combine funding from a variety of sources. There are several options you might explore:
- Scholarships and bursaries
Start with the University you wish to study at and find out whether they offer bursaries or scholarships, e.g. for disadvantage or academic excellence, etc. Charities, foundations and trusts can also be a source of this type of funding. Use resources such as Trustfunding.org.uk or the Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding to identify relevant organisations. Some courses, e.g. teacher training, may offer government bursaries.
- Loans and grants
Postgraduate study loans are available from the UK government, offering a contribution towards tuition fees and living costs. Sums vary depending on your country of origin, i.e. England, Wales, Scotland or N. Ireland. If you are not a UK citizen, find out whether your home country offers something similar. Make sure you look at the eligibility criteria and conditions. There may also be Research Council grants available – check with the University you plan to apply to.
Many LSE students take part-time jobs, often choosing to study part-time to enhance their flexibility. When considering this option, remember to check your visa stipulations (where necessary) and also see the LSE’s ISVAT guide to working during your studies. Relevant work experience can give you a significant advantage in the job market, so finding part-time work that complements your studies and career ambitions is an excellent way to fund your learning and enhance your CV.
- Employer sponsorship
Some employers offer sponsorship for postgraduate study, but you will usually have to be employed by them already and may be tied in for several years post qualification.
- Crowd funding
This is not an easy option and is likely to take up a lot of your time, but it may be a way to raise a proportion of the funding you need, to add to finances received from other sources.
If you don’t need to obtain a master’s qualification to support your career plans, a PGDip or PGCert are usually cheaper options as they are shorter courses.
To find out more about different methods of funding, visit the Prospects funding postgraduate study pages.
Applications are made directly to the University. Some set specific deadlines and others take applications throughout the year. Make sure you know the application process for each course that interests you.
You can apply for as many courses as you want, and it is recommended that you start your application between 6 months to 1 year in advance of the course start date. An early application is particularly important if you’re hoping to secure funding. You’ll also need to factor in time for academics or employers to write references.
A typical Master’s application includes:
- a personal statement
- academic transcripts
- your CV.
Some may also require a portfolio or research proposal.
International students will also need to provide:
- a copy of your passport
- proof of your language proficiency, if you're not a native speaker.
For more information, visit the Prospects Applying for a Master’s degree page.
Applying for a PGDip or PGCert is a very similar process. The Prospects page on Postgraduate diplomas and certificates provides further details.