Taking the Leap: Why Do a Postgraduate Study?
Dilemma, dilemma. It is not easy to decide whether or not you should enroll yourself into a postgraduate study programme. For one, it not a cheap decision to make and there may not always be funding available for the specific course you want to do.
Not to mention, it is another year or two of you studying while some of your peers have moved on to ‘adulting’ in the working world and it’s hard to decide whether it would be more beneficial for you to spend the time gaining graduate work experience instead of furthering your studies.
Despite these considerations, the choice was clear for former postgraduate students Alex, Rui Lin and Ashvinder. All three of them chose to do a postgraduate programme, but each of them had different motivations that steered their decision.
Why did they do it?
For Alex, her passion for literature and literary studies drove her to do a Master’s in World Literature. Her love for literature grew during her undergraduate degree in English Language, where she was introduced to the concept of close reading and literary studies. It got her hooked on reading ever since.
“Doing a postgraduate programme that specialises in literature and literary studies allowed me to be around people with a similar wavelength, so I could explore and geek out about books with them,” she said.
However, Alex added that there was another reason for her decision to further her studies. She had a specific career in mind that she wanted to pursue and earning a postgraduate qualification would get her closer to achieving it.
“Doing a postgraduate programme was also a step I took for the purpose of my ambition. I hope to be a lecturer specialising in literature, and a postgraduate degree is necessary for that.”
Rui Lin, too, considered how postgraduate study could help develop her future career – but unlike Alex, the postgraduate course that she chose to do was very different to the undergraduate study she did. Rui Lin wanted to pursue a teaching career, but she graduated with a degree in International Communication Studies. As such, she decided to do a Master’s in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.
“I felt that the line of work that my undergraduate degree prepared me for, such as journalism and media, was not in line with what I wanted to do for life. I find that teaching and contributing to academia is a purposeful career that could give me the long-term job satisfaction that I was looking for,” she explained.
Both ladies had their long-term goals in mind, especially their career paths, when deciding whether or not to pursue postgraduate study. In other words, the higher education qualification was a means to an end – and it is important to assess whether or not your ‘end’ can be achieved by furthering your studies.
Work experience counts
In Ashvinder’s case, on the other hand, his career wasn’t exactly a primary factor when deciding to take his tertiary education to new heights. He was working in an oil and gas company as a risk analyst when he discovered his newfound interest in political economy.
“I took a short course in political economy organised by a local think tank several years ago and I fell in love with the subject. Hence, I was determined to do a Master’s in the same area of study,” Ashvinder said.
With a Bachelor’s degree in Business, Economics and Finance as well as five years of work experience under his belt, he went on to pursue a Master’s in Political Science and Political Economy while on sabbatical. Interestingly, Ashvinder noted that his work experience played to his advantage when he was doing his postgraduate study.
“I was a more matured student given that I had several years of work experience in between both degrees,” he said.
“Most of my classmates in the programme had worked before they had joined the programme, so everyone was able to bring something different to the table in terms of their own unique experience. This allowed for more enriching discussions that went beyond textbooks and journal articles.”
So, is postgraduate study a good idea? Well, if your priorities are similar to Alex’s and Rui Lin’s, in that a postgraduate qualification will help you achieve your career goals, we would say go for it!
However, one thing we can take away from Ashvinder’s experience is that there is no rush to do a postgraduate study. If your career goal is something that you want to achieve in the long term, it may be ideal to gain some work experience. That way, you will also have the practical skills to complement the knowledge you gain from a postgraduate course – making you a well-rounded individual both in the classroom and workforce.
Alex Cheong is currently a Writer cum Research Assistant at a design consultancy.
Lim Rui Lin was a Lecturer at an overseas campus in Malaysia. She is currently looking for teaching opportunities.
Ashvinder Singh is a Senior Risk Analyst at an oil and gas company.