It is crucial to ask yourself why you are even thinking of continuing your studies beyond an undergraduate degree, and it is highly likely that many other people will be asking you the same question. There are many possible responses to the basic question: why study at a higher level?
You really enjoy your subject
Intellectual curiosity and deep enjoyment of your subject are both important drivers of an academic degree. Your interest is what will pull you through, month after month, perhaps year after year. If you feel very strongly that you want to delve further into your specialist area after your undergraduate degree, it’s a good sign that you want to study for a Masters level qualification.
Entry to a profession demands an Masters level qualification
Some jobs, particularly professional jobs, demand a postgraduate qualification. These professional (sometimes called vocational) courses are awarded by universities, but can also be recognised by professional bodies. It is important to check (with the professional body) whether you need to have a recognised qualification, and then to check (with the university) whether the course you want has got professional body accreditation. For example, if you are looking at a Masters in Journalism, check with the university whether it is NCTJ accredited.
Masters level qualifications gives you an advantage in the labour market
Taking a Masters level qualification can be the transition from one occupation to another. This can be within the same occupational sector, but extending your professional repertoire, e.g. a secondary teacher taking a course to become Head of Department. Or it can be a career change for something completely different, e.g. from lab technician to librarian.
You can develop specialist knowledge for niche sectors
You can use a Masters degree not only as an academic qualification, but also as a time-limited space in which you will develop the know-how that put you in a better position for getting into very specialist or niche sectors. Some Masters programmes, particularly in the creative industries, will build in a lot of time for you to develop your own professional repertoire, some creative writing programmes, for example. On many specialist Masters, the university lecturers will make great efforts to bring in specialist lecturers from the relevant industry. So, as well as extending your knowledge and understand, you are given privileged access to valuable contacts within your chosen field.
Now is a good time
M-level qualifications can be taken at any stage in your career or, indeed, at any stage in your stage. If you feel that you have time to study, then go for it!
To sum up…
Do take postgraduate study because
You’re passionate about your subject
You want to gain access to a profession
You want to progress into a new sector
You are at a point in your life when you have time
Don’t undertake postgraduate study because
You’ve no idea what else to do
You want to put off starting your career
Your mates are doing it