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Considering further study

Further study or vocational training is a necessary requirement to enter some areas of the graduate labour market.

Postgraduate study, sometimes called further study, means studying towards a master's or Doctoral degree (PhD), a Postgraduate Diploma or Certificate after your undergraduate degree. Further study could also mean taking part in a graduate medicine or nursing course.

Vocational training offers knowledge and skills related to specific jobs and may be required to work in certain careers.

Progressing from a relevant first degree

Examples of sectors where you'd need further study or vocational training include:

  • teaching – a Postgraduate Certificate of Education (PGCE) is an established way into the profession
  • law – in addition to a first degree in Law, you'd need to complete the Legal Practice Course (LPC) to become a solicitor and the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) to become a barrister
  • psychology – a first degree in psychology leads to further postgraduate study in a specialist area prior to entering practice.

If you don't have a relevant first degree

It's also possible to use further study and vocational training as a route into employment in areas where you haven't studied a relevant first degree:

  • speech and language therapy – a Postgraduate Diploma in Speech and Language Therapy after a first degree
  • law – completion of the Graduate Diploma in Law after a first degree prior to vocational training as a solicitor or barrister.
  • healthcare – graduate medicine or nursing courses offer entry into these roles.
  • psychology – conversion courses are available if you'd like to train as a psychologist.


The benefits of doing further study or vocational training include:

  • gaining essential qualifications required to enter some areas of graduate employment
  • having the market value of being professionally qualified
  • getting an opportunity to develop a particular specialism or interest
  • obtaining the academic and intellectual advantages of further study.

Issues to consider

You'll need to think about how further study fits into your longer term career plans. Some students choose to embark on further study because they believe it will enhance their employment prospects generally rather than because it is a requirement of the employment area they wish to enter.

It is important to consider whether this is likely to be the case. Where carefully planned, it can enhance your skills and experience, as well as being a beneficial intellectual experience.

But it's unlikely to act as a fast track into employment or enhance your initial earnings capacity if it's not directly vocational. Work is not guaranteed at the end of your training, and you'll have to find your own job.

If you're considering a PhD

You must make yourself aware of the realities of completing a PhD in your discipline. Some PhD students have difficulties with loneliness and isolation, others find it difficult if they have to work in close-knit groups where they might not get on with everyone involved. What would the realities be for you and how would you cope with this?

Speaking to current PhD students is vital – what are the best aspects? What are the worst aspects?  What are their plans after the PhD?

Find out more

If you need advice, we can help you decide whether further study or vocational training is the right choice for you:

Careers and Employability