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What are the benefits of postgraduate study?

Postgraduate study involves hard work and commitment, but success brings with it a range of benefits - some personal, some professional and some financial. These include: vocational training for a professional career, e.g. Postgraduate Certificate in Education; improved career and promotion prospects; the chance to change career direction; intellectual development and access to all of the University's excellent support services and facilities, including the Graduate Centre.

Find out more about the benefits of doing a Research Degree.

Research degrees are commonly undertaken with a view to an academic or research career. Taught postgraduate degrees, certificates and diplomas have a wide range of vocational objectives and can bring together themes from a number of disciplines.

Further information about postgraduate taught study can be found on the 'Steps to Postgraduate Study' website, the official, independent guide for anyone considering a taught postgraduate course, produced by the four UK higher education funding bodies. If you are considering doctoral study, Vitae, an independent charity which supports researchers realise their potential, provides information on doctoral study.

What's the difference between taught and research?

Before beginning your search for a programme of study it may be helpful for you to understand the differences between a taught and a research degree.

Taught Degrees

A taught degree is a structured, taught programme of study consisting of a number of modules in specialist subjects which can prepare a student for a particular professional career.

Taught postgraduate degrees are designed to develop knowledge or techniques in specialised subjects previously studied more generally.

Although taught courses are structured, students may have the opportunity to choose between different modules to focus on particular areas of interest.

A few Master's degree programmes act as 'conversion courses', allowing students to change or develop their area of specialisation from that undertaken at undergraduate level.

Undertaking a taught course will often involve attending lectures and seminars or possibly working in the lab if undertaking a science-based course.

Assessment is usually exam-based and through written assignments at the end of each module. To gain a Master's degree, students are often expected to complete a dissertation.

Taught degrees typically last 1 year full-time, or 2 years or longer if studying part-time.

Taught Postgraduate Diplomas/Certificates

Certificate and Diploma courses provide vocational, academic and practical instruction and may also give total or partial exemption from professional examinations. Some courses are essential for entry to a profession, e.g. the Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) in relation to teaching.

Students who complete their studies at Diploma or Certificate level sometimes feel able to progress onto further study at Master's degree level.

Diplomas and Certificates can also be awarded to those who start a Master's degree course but do not fully complete it, for example, completing the taught units but not the dissertation.

Research Degrees

A research degree provides students with the opportunity to research a specific area or topic in depth.

Research degrees are more focused on independent study than their taught counterparts. Unlike students on taught programmes, research students are expected to identify their needs of study with the assistance of their supervisors, often starting their research journey with a literature review.

Some research degrees do involve a taught element, particularly Masters by Research degrees or Integrated PhDs. The taught modules generally focus on how research is conducted in the subject area, but some may also cover more advanced subject specific knowledge.

Research students are provided with guidance and support by their supervisor and the facilities to conduct their research. In most cases, students have the freedom over how they explore and conduct their research. Their research should result in a unique piece of work constituting new knowledge in their chosen subject area.

Assessment is based upon a student's final thesis and an oral examination (viva-voce).

Research degrees vary in the length of time they last. MRes and MPhil degrees last 1 year full-time or 2 years or longer part-time. PhDs and other doctorates last at least 3 years full-time, with part-time PhDs taking correspondingly longer.

When is the best time to start postgraduate study?

Many people consider taking a postgraduate degree within a year or so of graduating.

An alternative strategy may be to consider taking a postgraduate qualification with the approval and financial support of an employer who will take into account the benefits to the organisation of the postgraduate training you will gain.

You may also consider taking a postgraduate degree part-time, while you are working, for both personal and professional development. You may decide to follow a new career path and support this with a postgraduate qualification.

The path you choose depends upon your situation and goals. If you're not sure whether postgraduate study is right for you at this time, explore the site in order to get a better feel of what will be expected of you as a postgraduate at Cardiff University - and what you can expect from us in return.

Are there advantages to being a part-time postgraduate?

Undertaking part-time postgraduate study is a popular choice for many students at Cardiff University.

Potential advantages include the ability to structure your degree around your working and family life while maintaining your income; improving your career prospects whilst working, with financial support from your employer in some cases and enjoying full use of all the University's excellent facilities while attending part-time.

How do I find out more about part-time study opportunities?

You can use our Course Finder database to see what part-time opportunities are available. Contact details are provided in each entry and you are encouraged to contact the admissions tutor or School directly should you have any further questions.

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