Undergraduate or postgraduate study: which is right for you?

 If you are interested in pursuing further education, it is important to know whether you should enrol to an undergraduate or postgraduate course.

An undergraduate degree, such as a Bachelors, is usually designed to provide students with the fundamental skills and knowledge required to start a career in their field of choice.

Meanwhile, a postgraduate degree – for example, a Masters – is often seen as a programme that teaches advanced or specialist knowledge about a certain field.

Given that both options serve as a valuable steppingstone for people hoping to make headway in their career, recognising the key differences between the two will help identify which best caters to your unique needs.

Course duration

It typically takes one year to earn a full-time postgraduate degree.

However, as all of Queen Mary Online’s courses are part time – in order to offer more flexibility for busy students – they take two years to complete.

These are still shorter than full-time undergraduate degrees, which generally take three or four years to finish.

This is because postgraduate courses are often more specialised and intensive than undergraduate courses – which leads us to our next point.

Levels of learning

Earning an undergraduate degree will usually involve having to take modules outside of your primary interests.

This happens to help students develop a broad, foundational knowledge on their degree’s subject. Though some modules may not be directly relevant to what you want to do professionally, they can add valuable context.

On the other hand, postgraduate courses focus on providing an in-depth understanding of the subject at hand. Therefore, all the modules you study will offer lessons with a direct impact on how you view and navigate your field.

Female postgraduate studying online

Study style

Studying for a postgraduate degree is a significantly different experience to studying at an undergraduate level.

Undergraduate students are overseen quite regularly by their tutors, who will strive to ensure that assignments are completed in an orderly manner, following set structures or procedures.

It is an approach that is still quite similar to high school or secondary school – including the regular ‘nudges’ from your teacher to make sure you keep progressing.

As a postgraduate student, you are given the freedom to explore your own study style. You will be encouraged – and expected – to manage your time, motivate yourself, and research independently.

While your tutors will still be on hand to support you, as a postgraduate student it will be your responsibility to reach out to them for support outside of your lessons.

Tutor interaction

Carrying on from the point above – you can expect your relationship with your tutors to change substantially when compared to undergraduate study.

Postgraduate students can think of their tutors as more experienced colleagues. While you both undertake research about a certain topic, they possess more expertise and industry insight.

Therefore, as a student, you can speak to your tutors more openly in order to gain from their knowledge and successfully develop your own understanding.

On a related note, while undergraduate students will probably see their tutors more frequently, postgraduate courses typically have fewer students. This means tutors generally have more time to offer, which will be helpful when undertaking your own research projects.

Time with classmates

Given that postgraduate programmes have less students enrolled on them, you can also expect to get to know your classmates better.

While undergraduate courses have more people to strike up conversations with, you may find that you are faced with a constantly shifting mix of people depending on the modules you selected.

As most postgraduate programmes consist of compulsory modules, you could end up learning alongside the same group of people throughout your course.

Postgraduate programmes are also more likely to include people from all walks of life – from recent undergraduates to professionals well into their careers. You will get to interact with and learn from individuals with a variety of fresh perspectives.

Choosing the right degree type

While your own knowledge of your background will always be the safest guide, there are some general points that can help you decide.

If you already possess an undergraduate degree or substantial practical experience in the subject you would like to study further, then a postgraduate degree will likely be the best fit.

If you do not have much experience or hold relevant qualifications in your subject of choice – for example, if you are hoping to move into a new field – then an undergraduate degree may be the better choice.

If you need some help deciding, our expert course advisers are always happy to provide any assistance. They hold a wealth of knowledge on all our postgraduate courses, from modules to edibility requirements. Your course adviser will take the time to speak with you about your current goals and experience and then guide you on the best path forward:

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Topics: online learning

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