When you're finishing uni, there are probably a few things on your mind: how you'll enjoy your newfound freedom, whether you'll travel, when you'll start looking for a job and so on. But what about a second degree? Going back to uni straight away isn't for everyone, but if you're interested, read on for our list of pros and cons.
- You're still in 'study mode'
So long as you don't get too caught up in the freedom of graduation, beginning postgraduate study straight away can feel quite natural — after all, you're still in 'study mode' and won't need to make any adjustments to your lifestyle. It also means that you can enjoy the student lifestyle for a little while longer!
- You can improve your job prospects
A definite upside is that further study can help you secure a job. Although it's not a requirement for all professions and industries, completing a second degree is looked upon favourably by employers. It is particularly useful if you completed your first degree in a general area (arts, for example) and want to gain specialised qualifications in a particular employment field or if you completed your first degree in a field with lower than average employment prospects (communications and creative arts as examples) and want to stand out in the graduate job market.
- You want a career change
It's not uncommon to finish a degree and realise that you wish you had studied something different or that your years of study have put you off a career in the field. Completing a postgraduate degree is a great way to change direction and, in most cases, doesn't take too long to do. A graduate certificate, for example, usually only takes around six months of full-time study, while a graduate diploma can generally be completed in one year. Masters programs vary depending on the field, but a general rule is one to two years.
- You can undertake a research program
If there was something in your first degree that you found particularly fascinating, postgraduate research can help you explore it in greater detail. This may be through an honours program (an additional year following your bachelor degree) or a masters by coursework with a research component. Masters by research and PhD programs are also very popular, but entry usually requires an honours degree or higher.
- You delay your first job
The reality of going straight from one degree to another — unless you study part-time while working — is that you delay your entry into the workplace. Although ultimately worth it, it can be hard to get past the fact that your friends are gaining two or so years of experience on the job (perhaps even celebrating promotions) while you're still 'slaving away' at uni.
- You can 'burn out'
This is especially true for students who finish Year 12, head straight into undergraduate study and then move into postgraduate study. While this is common (and sometimes mandatory) in some fields (architecture, for example), it can cause you to feel 'burnt out' and means that you may struggle to hit the mark once you're in your fifth or sixth year of study — when the workload also tends to be the largest. If you fear that you'll burn out, try to break up your course load a little. Perhaps defer or study part-time for a semester or two?
- You may prefer to upgrade your qualifications later in life
For some students, and certainly in some industries, it may seem more logical to upgrade your qualification a few years (or even decades) into your career. In some cases, extensive work experience may even be a prerequisite for postgraduate study (often the case for the master of business administration). You may also want to work in the industry for a few years before deciding which area you'd like to explore through further study.
Before you finish your degree, be sure to have a chat to your course coordinator, as they will be able to point you in the right direction. Some universities may also run seminars about further study in the last few months of your course, particularly concerning honours programs.