Thinking about heading back to uni? You've probably heard more than a few myths about postgraduate study. If they've left you feeling a little hesitant, read on to get the facts.
You need a prior degree
It makes sense that you'd need a degree before moving on to more advanced study, but what you may not know is that many institutions will accept students into coursework degrees if they have relevant work experience. Even if you haven't studied since leaving school, having five or more years of experience may be viewed as equivalent to a bachelor degree. Check with institutions to be sure, as entry requirements vary.
Research is a little different, with students typically needing to have completed an honours degree or previous postgraduate study.
You have to study in the same field as your undergraduate degree
Finished law only to find that your passion lies in teaching? Although there are some exceptions, you can enter most postgraduate degrees even if you haven't studied in the field previously. This means that you can explore just about any field that's caught your interest — whether you're seeking a career change or want to build on your current skill set.
If there's a roadblock, why not start out in a lower-level qualification such as a graduate certificate?
You have to do research
Most postgrad students actually complete coursework degrees. In fact, our data shows that research students make up less than 10 per cent of the cohort in accounting, built environment, business, law, paralegal studies, nursing and social work. Areas with higher proportions of research students include science (71 per cent), agriculture (65 per cent) and surveying (64 per cent).
Coursework degrees are delivered through lectures and seminars, with assessment focusing on assignments and examinations — much like the typical bachelor degree.
You won't be able to afford it
If you're looking at coursework, full fees are likely. Some courses offer Commonwealth Supported Places (CSPs) — where you pay a lower government-subsidised student contribution ” but this is limited to fields such as education or medicine, or where postgraduate study is a requirement for registration.
If you have to pay full fees, you can take advantage of the FEE-HELP loan scheme. As an eligible domestic student, FEE-HELP allows you to defer paying your tuition fees until you are earning above the repayment threshold ($54,126 in 2015–16). Already earning above the threshold? This just means you'll be able to pay your fees gradually via the taxation system rather than covering tuition upfront.
What about tuition fees for research? Research degrees are in a league of their own, with students exempt from paying fees under the Research Training Scheme (RTS). The RTS is funded by the federal government and provides grants to education providers, supporting masters by research students for two years of full-time study and doctoral degree students for up to four years.
You won't be able to combine work and study
Ask any postgraduate: combining work and study can be a challenge. But that's not to say that it can't be done. Finding balance and making sure you have a good support system are crucial. If you're planning to work full time while studying, chat to your employer about flexible arrangements — such as heading off early to attend class or taking study leave — and make sure you're on the same page about the skills and benefits you'll bring to the workplace as both a student and graduate. As far as workload is concerned, setting aside time for regular study will ensure you don't feel too overwhelmed during assessment periods.