Postgraduate study

There are a number of reasons why you may decide to continue with your studies.  It may be required for your chosen profession or it may simply be that you have a love for your subject.

Top tips

  • Consider whether a postgraduate qualification is essential, desirable or required for your chosen career.  Have a look at Prospects job profiles* for further information on this. 
  • Know when to apply - many courses are open to apply to throughout the year, though for some courses e.g. teaching, it is advised to apply early.
  • Research whether the course you are considering is accredited by a professional body / organisation.  This may add more weight to your qualification and make it more industry specific.
  • Are you interested in working for a specific employer?  If so, find out whether the employer sees relevant experience as being more valuable than postgraduate study or whether they are only interested in qualifications from certain institutions.
  • Will a postgraduate qualification allow you to progress ‘through the ranks’ more rapidly?
  • Some postgraduate courses may allow you to take your career in a different direction e.g. in law or social work, even if you haven't studied these subjects at undergraduate level. 
  • Complete the Target postgraduate quiz* to help you decide if postgraduate study is right for you.

There are a number of ways that you can research  postgraduate courses:

  • You should use UCAS* as a starting point to search for and research postgraduate courses.
  • You should also explore institution websites in detail.
  • Prospects – postgraduate study* – Search over 55,000 UK postgraduate courses and research opportunities.
  •* – directory of masters degrees and postgraduate qualifications.
  •* – database of PhD opportunities, as well as advice and funding resources
  •* – search PhD jobs is a range of academic disciplines and fields of expertise

  • Over 5,500 students choose to study a postgraduatecourse at the USW each year. 
  • One of the best ways to find out about the wide range of postgraduate taught courses and research programmes that we offer is to come along to one of our part time and postgraduate open evenings
  • These events provide the opportunity to speak directly with lecturers as well as gaining further information from Careers Advisers.

It is important that you begin investigating opportunities for postgraduate study early (preferably in the year preceding entry) and that you check all the information to ensure that you meet entry requirements and are aware of any specific closing dates. 

  • Postgraduate courses will either be applied to via UCAS* or via applying directly to the institution  (usually via an application portal on the institution's website).
  • The UCAS application will be similar to the one that you are likely to have completed for undergraduate study - requiring information on academic qualifications, experience, a relevant personal statement and referee contact details.
  • If applying for a research degree you may be required to put together a research proposal.  You can speak to your academic tutor or careers adviser about this.
  • Some institutions may also ask for additional information such as a CV or portfolio of work.

  • Many students will choose to take out a postgraduate loan to fund their studies / living expenses. 
  • Information on the system in Wales is available here*.  Further information can be found via Prospects.
  • Information for postgraduate loans in England is available here*.  Further information can be found via Prospects*.
  • You should look at the eligibility criteria carefully.  It is usually determined by your place of permanent residence. 
  • You are also likely to find that institutions will offer incentives / bursaries to study with them.  You should check specific university websites for further information on this.
  • The seven government research councils are an important source of funding for research based Masters and PhD study in the UK -

  1. Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)*
  2. Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)*
  3. Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)*
  4. Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)*
  5. Medical Research Council (MRC)*
  6. Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)*
  7. Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) *

  • Target Jobs - studying outside of the UK* – overview of international higher education systems, courses you can study, how to apply for postgraduate courses abroad, fees and scholarships, exchange programmes, will the qualifications be recognised in the UK, and visa requirements.
  • Prospects study abroad* – everything you need to know about student visas, course fees, study exchanges and more. 

Whether you are applying for positions within or outside of academia, you will have developed a range of skills and abilities through your research, which many employers will find attractive.  The following resources will help you to use your PhD in the job market.  They cover career planning, professional development and job hunting.

  • Vitae Researchers Portal* – specialist site dedicated to researchers professional and career development.
  •* – researchers careers – includes destinations and career paths of PhD graduates, advice for those pursing an academic career, careers outside of academia and applying for academic jobs.
  •* – Career planning for PHDs e-book.
  • Prospects – Your PhD What Next?*  – an essential career planning and job hunting guide for those embarking on, or holding a PhD qualification.  This link includes information on professional development opportunities, research councils and job search websites.
  • FindAPHd* – only dedicated PhD web site in Europe.  With funded PhD studentships and opportunities for self-financed students to study at some of the world’s top research universities.
  • – offer an annual £5,000 PhD scholarship plus a number of smaller awards in any subject.
  • Discover Business Online Guide to MBA and Graduate Programs* – this guide is to help prospective students make more informed decisions when selecting a graduate program. 


Personal statements for postgraduate applications* -  how to write an effective, specific and detailed personal statement.


- Ebook*looking at the Masters / PhD route and the key considerations to bear in mind.

Please note - external content

External content is marked with an asterisk *. USW is not responsible for the content, quality or availability of this content, and students themselves are responsible for complying with any terms and conditions that may apply.