Why do a postgraduate degree?

A more specialised qualification can help you change career direction or gain skills

Many who opt to pursue a postgrad or MBA will do so to develop their competency in a specific area of work or to lay the foundations for a change of career. The following are eight considerations for candidates to explore before committing to a course.

1. Make a change The pandemic has been a tough time for most but, with so much time to reflect on our lives, many of us have thought about making a career change, learning a new skill, or simply seeking a higher degree of career satisfaction.

"It feels like the pandemic is nearing a close, which is leading people to feel that they have more options," says Jane Downes, career coach at ClearviewCoachGroup.com.

2. Meet new people Postgraduate courses, particularly business courses and MBAs, provide a chance to meet like-minded people and expand your network. These connections can be vital in securing interviews and contracts, not to mention having a network of peers you can learn from throughout your career.


While there's much to be written about the inequity involved in having to know the right people to secure work, it is, unfortunately, often how things work in Ireland. However, postgraduate classes tend to be smaller and you'll likely make new, lasting friends. Of course, some postgraduate courses will also provide their students with the opportunity to gain professional experience through placements which can be invaluable later on.

3. Increase your knowledge "A postgraduate course can bolster existing knowledge or expertise in a particular area," says Séamus Hoyne, dean of flexible and work-based learning at Technological University of the Shannon Midlands-Midwest. "For instance, you might work in engineering or marketing and need to update your skills because there has been a niche development in your field, or new expertise is required."

4. Change direction "People may also do a postgraduate course because they want a career change," says Hoyne. "They might, for instance, look to move from technical engineering to project management, or indeed move to a totally different direction altogether."

There’s no such thing as a career for life anymore, says Downes: “We’re not talking about someone who trained as a doctor and quits after 10 years to retrain as a social worker, but most people will expect to change jobs and careers several times in their working lives, perhaps moving into a different area.”

Sometimes we have a vague sense that we want a career change, but identifying what that change should be is tricky. Finding the right advice can be crucial and anyone considering such a change should take their time to consider their options.

It’s also worth looking at some online assessments: ViaCharacter.org has a useful strengths survey and character report tool that can help you find your way, and you’ll also find a good career self-assessment tool when you join CareersPortal.ie (a great site for school-leavers, college students getting ready to enter the workforce and adult professionals looking to make a change or develop their career).

5. Advance your career Moving up the ranks means that you'll have to pick up new skills, and a postgraduate course will help you get there.

Career guidance expert Marie McManamon (Clearcut.ie) says that you should always ask yourself why you’re doing a postgraduate course before you take it on.

“Is it a necessary qualification for your chosen career field – for example, a professional master’s in education for teaching or a postgraduate conversion course to move into another discipline? Or is it an essential follow-on from your undergrad course – such as in a specialist area of psychology? The best reason to do one is because it adds to your qualification and gets you closer to your chosen career path.”

6. Make more money Mountains of evidence show that people with more qualifications ultimately make more money. Figures from the Higher Education Authority show that 28 per cent of PhD (doctoral graduates) and 22 per cent of master's degrees and postgraduate diplomas earn more than €45,000 per year, compared with just 3 per cent of undergraduates with an honours degree only.

7. Supports are available Taking on a postgraduate can be daunting – especially if you've been out of education for a few years – students will have to adapt to a new learning and study regime and must learn to manage their time, workload and schedule. With more competition among colleges and private course providers, postgraduates are more likely than ever to be supported by their college. Check with the college to see what supports are provided.

8. You can make the right choice for you It may seem like too big a task, but not all professional learning requires a year or two in a postgrad course. There are copious online courses and training videos, some lasting hours and some lasting minutes. Check out some courses on Alison. com, Udemy or Digital Charity Lab – it may be all the training you need – before making a bigger commitment.