Explore your careers options:postgraduate study

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Each year, a significant number of University of Dundee graduates go on to study postgraduate degrees. This might be to:

  • achieve entry to certain occupational areas that require a postgraduate qualification, such as teaching
  • pursue an academic or research career in higher education
  • study a subject unrelated to their degree
  • to build upon existing knowledge and study a subject in more depth

Some graduates will simply embark on postgraduate study to give themselves more time to decide about their future. However, it is important to realise that postgraduate study is expensive and is no guarantee of improved career prospects. You should therefore be clear in your mind why you want to do it and what benefit it is likely to bring you.

Several postgraduate study options are available and may either be taught or research based. With so much choice, it can be confusing knowing what is right for you. The main types are listed below.

Taught Degrees


A taught Masters degree (such as an MSc or MA) normally takes one year to complete and involves a period of intensive teaching, coursework and independent study specialising in a particular area, followed by a dissertation. Part-time options over a longer duration are available too. A taught Masters is especially suitable for someone who wants to increase their knowledge in a specific subject, to learn a new subject area or, dependent on what type of job they want, to increase their career prospects.

Postgraduate Diploma or Certificate (PGDip or PGCert)

Similar to taught Masters but without a dissertation, these normally vocational qualifications can take between 6 and 12 months full time or be studied part-time. These are often professional qualifications associated with a particular career and so can be used to enhance work knowledge or make career changes. Examples which lead to specific careers include teacher training (PGDE) and Law (GDL, LPC, Diploma in Professional Legal Practice).

Research Degrees


The highest level of academic degree, a doctorate of philosophy involves 3-4 years of independent research into a specialised field followed by submission of a lengthy and comprehensive thesis of your work. To complete your doctorate you will have to defend your thesis to a panel of examiners in a viva voce. A doctorate is most relevant if you want to pursue a teaching or research career in academia. However, many graduates progress into jobs outside of academia, particularly those with a research focus (such as in the science industry). Some PhD programs now exist that have 1 year of taught content (like a Masters) followed by 3 years of research (1+3 programs).


A Masters of Research, like taught Masters, takes 1 year to complete. It usually involves an element of taught content at the start followed by a research project which is written up as a thesis. A MRes is suitable for those thinking about pursuing a PhD or a research-focused career.

Professional Doctorates

A Professional Doctorate allows you to undertake research that will enhance your existing career and make a positive difference to your profession. It can be taken part-time over 4 years with study fitting around your job.

Applying for postgraduate study

  • Do your research. What location, institution, department, course is right for you?
  • Do you have the relevant experience and qualifications?
  • Deadlines – Some courses, such as teaching and law, have application deadlines. However, many are advertised throughout the year but early application is often recommended to avoid missing out. Masters degrees usually have intakes in September/October and January.
  • Most taught courses require applications direct to the institution. 
  • PhD positions, mainly in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), can be advertised throughout the year. Advertised studentships are usually fully funded research projects with a specific supervisor.
  • In other subject areas, such as arts and humanities, it is more common to write your own research proposal. You will need to find a prospective supervisor and apply for funding.

Useful resources for application


Postgraduate study is expensive and very few courses come with an automatic guarantee of support. Tuition fees vary greatly depending on the course and institution, but expect to pay several thousand pounds. In addition to this you will have to factor in living costs too. In the first instance contact the institution to find out if there is funding available. If not, and you cannot self-fund, there are several options available including loans, bursaries and scholarships.

Learn about options for funding postgraduate study

Learn about PhD funding

We're here to help

If you are considering a postgraduate degree, looking for information on funding or would like feedback on your applications – get in touch with the Careers Service and our careers advisers will be happy to help!