Choosing postgraduate study

Choosing postgraduate study

Postgraduate study, both research and taught, is a popular choice for Exeter graduates. Of those Exeter undergraduate students graduating in 2010, around 33% went straight on to further level study.

Whether you are considering further study at Exeter, in the UK, or abroad you will need to choose your route with care and make sure that the course/ programme both fits with your interests and also your longer-term career plans. This section of the website provides you with useful information and links to help you research postgraduate study further.

Why continue onto further study?

Students choose postgraduate level study for a wide-variety of reasons:

  • A pure interest in learning and enjoyment of your first degree subject
  • To specialise even more and become ‘the expert’ on a particular topic
  • For a fresh academic perspective and a new start
  • In order to achieve a professional qualification needed to pursue your chosen career (e.g. law, teaching, social work, librarianship or clinical psychology) 
  • To work on special projects, perhaps overseas, with academic and industry experts both within and outside the university 
  • To develop your research, analytical, problem-solving and communication skills even further
  • To impress employers in industry sectors where postgraduate study is firmly recognized and expected 
  • To complement relevant work experience you may have already gained i.e. ‘putting theory into the practice’
  • To make yourself more marketable and perhaps to command a higher salary in some very competitive sectors

There is however a lot to think about when considering further study, including the subject, length of study period, location, reputation of the university and the course (e.g. with employers), links with industry, future career prospects, on-course training and development, access to appropriate facilities (e.g. laboratory equipment), funding etc.

Masters or PhD?

Whether you are considering taking a 1-year taught masters degree or a 3-year research degree (doctorate), you will often study with leading experts, with those who create the knowledge, and write the books and the journal articles that you read for your first degree.  Many courses / programmes will have links with industry, whilst others will be purely academic.

Research Degree Programmes

Research is the key to innovation. It advances understanding, insight and human enrichment. It underpins every advance in science, education, health and welfare. Every new product, service, process and application depends on it (Vitae website, 2011). Research degrees (e.g. PhD, professional doctorates) involve carrying out an independent in-depth piece of research on a particular topic. 

Find a PhD is a guide to current postgraduate research and PhD studentships. It lists details of research programmes from universities throughout the UK, Europe and further afield. We offer many excellent courses here at the University of Exeter.


You will need to consider how you will fund your further study: student loan (only available for PGCE), competitive scholarships (from RCUK and other research organisations, or trusts), personal income etc. Applying for scholarships takes time and you need be prepared; talk to your tutors sooner rather than later if further study is of interest to you. More information can be found on the University Funding webpages, particularly the University of Exeter funding database, a one stop shop for all Exeter funding awards, also see University of Exeter progression awards.  In addition, see our Postgraduate Funding page.


Vitae is the UK organisation championing the personal, professional and career development of doctoral researchers and research staff in higher education institutions and research institutes. 

Of particular interest is their website on employing researchers which may be of interest to those considering a PhD as part of a clear career plan.

Taught Programmes

Many taught postgraduate programmes (at Exeter and other universities) are Masters degrees. These normally combine advanced level tuition with the completion of a dissertation under the guidance of an individual member of staff. You will often have a choice of modules so that you can tailor your programme to your own interests. 

Find a Masters is a comprehensive database of postgraduate Masters courses. It features a wide range of international Masters degree programmes from universities across the globe.

Further Advice and Guidance

For more information on reasons to continue onto further study (taught programmes and research degrees) visit the Prospects website.

Also, we would strongly encourage you to talk to academics, postgraduates and personal tutors in your discipline, to understand fully their motivations for pursuing postgraduate level study and the possible career options such study might present. Also, why not research the organisation/ sector you may want to work for eventually and see if they require a postgraduate degree.

Careers in Research (RCUK) Online suite of stories providing an insight about life as a researcher and the different career paths which researchers’ take. The stories feature researchers from all seven Research Councils and cover a broad range of disciplines.

Example of a Personal statement for a Masters: Postgraduate Personal Statement (.pdf)

Relevant events

For details of all talks and workshops related to Postgraduate study, search our events system.

Need more advice about choosing postgraduate study?

Our Careers Consultants are happy to discuss your options with you. Before you book an appointment please ensure you have:

  • Considered what type of course might be suitable for you by using the above links and reading up / researching the various options – please do some homework so that your consultation will be more informed resulting in a better outcome for you
  • Bring any information you may already have about specific courses / programmes you are interested in

When you have completed these steps you can Book an Appointment