Karen Lomas
January 29, 2020

When is the best time to start Post-Graduate Study?

When is the best time to start post-graduate study?

So many graduates who have or are about to complete their bachelor degree, honour’s degree or double degree want to know when to start post-graduate study. The question is around whether or not to study for a post-graduate qualification immediately after completing a degree, or working for a few years first.

Just to make it clear, I’m not advocating post-graduate study for all. A large proportion of students who graduate with an undergraduate degree will transition directly into employment and never complete an other formal study. That said, we do as career practitioners recommend “life-long learning”. We do need to keep “up-skilling”, especially as technological advances make some roles and skills obsolete. So post-graduate study can be beneficial at some time in yours or the career life of your child.

So when is the best time to start post graduate study?

My answer is not straightforward. OK, that’s not unusual, as I’ll often say that, but let me explain. Every student is different and by the time they reach the final year of their undergraduate degree program, whether that be a 3-year, 4-year honour’s degree, or even a double degree, they will feel differently about their experience.

They may:

  • have been invited into a honour’s year program by virtue of their grades
  • be excited about an area of study and keen to continue some research or coursework study at a higher level
  • be committed to a required program of study, for example in order to gain registration as a Psychologist, or Physiotherapist
  • be fatigued by full-time learning
  • need to/be eager to get into the workforce
  • be chasing a place in a graduate program
  • be ambivalent or confused by the choices available to them

What if your child cannot make up their mind about post-graduate study? They may not have ever considered further study, beyond their first higher education course, after completing compulsory education. Some of their friends may be talking about applying for a place and starting a graduate program, a master’s degree, graduate diploma, or other, and this is unsettling your child. They might be torn between the exciting prospect of gaining meaningful employment and earning a ‘proper’ salary. How do you guide them?

The Good Universities Guide outlines some of the benefits, which include the valuable professional standing and networking that can come from completing another degree. And as an experienced career coach I will support their exploration into their preferences and their obligations.

A lot depends upon circumstances and this can be the consideration of earning a salary that might help them to find their own accommodation. I discuss the broader perspective around these considerations. It is really tempting to study in order to have a competitive edge over other job applicants, but there is a cost implication to graduate study and this needs to be taken into account.

Alternatively, they may feel that while they are in a good routine of full-time study, they would prefer to continue so that they maintain that momentum. They may be motivated by a lecturer who has become a mentor to them during their capstone study, or honour’s year. Of course, it could be that they embarked upon their undergraduate study with the deliberate intention of moving straight through into a law Juris Doctor, or Medicine program.

Competition for employment, especially into the highly desirable graduate programs, is tough and your child might be pursuing one or a number of these places with some corporations and partnerships. I am able to provide perspective around this such that they can weigh up the options. Not only that but I can support them in the process if they choose to enter into a round of graduate program interviews, which can be daunting indeed.

I can help your young adult to look for suitable employment opportunities; write good resumes and cover letters, and to be confident at interview. This can take the anxiety out of the prospect of job search activities.

Completing undergraduate study is a big life transition. But those transitions from junior to secondary school, and from secondary to tertiary education have all taken place with parent and school involvement. At age 21 or 22 they are still young and in need of support and they may at this point feel a little under-supported. They are still adolescent, after all. This transition may feel just as difficult and precarious to a young adult, especially as there is so much choice, but at the same time a rather competitive job market. They can often feel as if they have little guidance with respect to careers and so my work with them can help enormously.

I am not for one moment suggesting that it is essential to embark upon post-graduate study, however it may be something you or your child might be keen to explore.

Let me know if you or your child are looking for coaching around higher education study, and that includes the question of the timing of embarking upon post-graduate study. Contact me via the Contact Me tab on this site.


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