Postgraduate Study

Why post-Graduate Education?

You can opt to pursue postgraduate education for different reasons:

  • Progression – Most postgraduate courses are taken to develop a student’s knowledge in an area they studied at postgrad, often this well take the form of specialising in a topic they particularly enjoy or is in demand in the job market.
  • Conversion –Many graduates opt to do postgrad conversion courses in a completely different field to what they’ve previously studied. This can help them develop skills and knowledge currently in demand in the jobs market.
  • Professional – Some professions such as medicine, accountancy or architecture have strict education requirements. This means people looking to enter the career, whether as a direct progression from undergraduate or converting from another field, may need to take a professional postgraduate course.

Being 'job ready' is hugely attractive to employers so an advanced degree can help you become more employable and earn a higher salary. This applies whether you are an undergraduate planning your life after graduation or someone who has embarked on a career and is looking to take the next step.

Graduate-level skills are now vital in many public and private sector organisations. To meet this need Irish universities have added a wider range of masters courses, offering graduates a path to developing skills demanded by the modern economy.

Levels of Study

  1. Postgraduate Diploma
  2. Taught/Research Masters
  3. Doctorate (PhD)
  4. Professional Postgrad Programmes

1. Postgraduate Diploma

Postgraduate Diploma’s generally take one year to complete, similar to master’s degrees. They are usually open to holders of bachelor’s degrees, an honours degree will be required for some. The big difference to a masters is that a postgraduate diploma will generally not include a thesis and will instead include additional coursework or shorter research projects.

They are often conversion courses, but students include many people who are looking expand skills and knowledge relevant to their current profession so they can move their career onto it’s next step.

2. Master's Degree

A Master’s Degree represents the step beyond a bachelor degree, where the student start to develop real specialisation and depth of knowledge. There are two types of master's degree in Ireland, taught and research.

A Taught Master's is awarded following the completion of a programme of one years full time attendance or two years part time attendance. Entry is typically for holders of Honours Bachelor Degrees, less often an Ordinary Bachelor Degrees will be enough.

The most common format for a taught master's course is a combination of modules followed by a significant research project.

A Research Master’s is the first big step on the path to a career in academia, but as well as this it develops skills required in private fields such as working as research scientist or an economist. They are more independent than taught master’s courses, with the student selecting a research topic and working towards it under the guidance of a supervisor. They generally take between 12 and 24 months, or longer if taken part time.

Some masters courses are expected to be taken after working for several years. The MBA (Master's in Business Administration) is one example, it is a form of taught master’s course. MBA courses are often very expensive, but MBA graduates also have high average incomes.

3. Doctorate (PhD)

A PhD is a substantial piece of original research, presented in a thesis (a lengthy report). It takes several (3-5) years to write a thesis, involving extensive research.

Studying for a PhD develops extensive skills and independence, appropriate to many jobs. In some careers, such as science or economics, PhD’s are common, however in other sectors employers may be less familiar with the benefits of PhD study, and you may have to market your transferable skills to prospective employers after graduation.

4. Professional Postgrad Programmes

Some postgraduate programmes qualify graduates to practise in a profession. For example, the postgraduate qualifications to become a Patent Agent or a Speech Therapist, or the new Graduate Entry Route to Medicine.

Other professional courses are not compulsory for entry into a career but may increase career prospects. Examples include journalism, human resources, business or Law.

Students already employed in the relevant sector may be sponsored by their employer to gain a professional qualification in this way. Employer support might include arranging the course, payment of course fees and/or time off for study and exams.

Further Reading

Visit Fields of Study to explore the options available.

Visit Researching Postgrad Programmes to find out more about the range of programmes available to you.

Springboard+ offers free places on over 280 courses leading to awards at certificate, degree and post-graduate level. Springboard+ is primarily targeted at jobseekers with a previous history of employment. Courses lead to qualifications for growing sectors including ICT, manufacturing and financial services.

The National Qualifications Framework

Graduate Level Qualifications are included in the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) at Level 9 and Level 10.

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