Careers | Embarking on postgraduate study

Taking the next step after studying at undergraduate level for three years is daunting. The world of work can seem like a minefield of failed applications and missed opportunities regardless of what sector you might be going into. Postgraduate study often seems like piling on even more debt just for another certificate to add to your CV. We asked some of our own committee members about their experiences of studying for a Master’s degree.

What would be your #1 piece of advice for any student transitioning from undergraduate to postgraduate study?

“To be absolutely certain about the topic you want to study. If you’re enrolling on a one year Master’s, this time goes so fast. For me, having some time out and working for a few years in between undergrad and postgrad was beneficial, especially before I embarked on the PhD.”

Laura Smith, studying a PhD at the Sustainability Research Institute, Leeds University

How is the interaction with professors and contact hours different from undergraduate study?

“I think the interactions were more equal. Class sizes were much smaller and there were many more discussions and suggestions from students. I also feel like students were much more interested, committed and knowledgeable about the subject matter therefore we got much more out of discussions.”

Roisin Killick, MSc in Globalisation and Latin American Development, Institute of the Americas at UCL

What was the most important factor in your decision to do postgraduate study where you were?

“I wanted a course that looked at development and globalization from a philosophical perspective, because I am interested in the big ideas. I also wanted to study in London and it was the only course I found in London that was appropriate.”

Jennifer Hudson, MA in Global Ethics and Human Values, King’s College London

Is there something you really wish you knew before you started your postgraduate study?

“If you have a burning desire to work in a particular field such as international development, then it’s beneficial to choose a Master’s which is tailored for that subject. More general courses can make it harder for you to stand out.”

Mark Normington, MA in Contemporary History and International Politics, York University

Really enjoy every moment and try not to stress. You will want to start it all over again when it is over so embrace all the learning opportunities that you can.


What are your plans after you finish your postgraduate study?

“After I finished my Master’s I worked part time and did an internship in a development organisation. I took some time out to volunteer on the ICS programme with VSO, first as a volunteer in Cambodia, then as a team leader in Bangladesh. I can’t recommend this highly enough. The experience does indeed change your world.”

Emily Dumont, MSc in Economic Development, Glasgow University

“I finished in September 2016 and have recently received my results. I hope to go on to study a PhD in the next year or two, studying something similar to what I conducted my MSc research in – educational access and the rights of marginalised communities within wider government structures.”


I would love to get a job as a researcher at a research institute or university. I am also going to treat myself to a holiday somewhere far away!


Find out more about postgraduate degrees and jobs in International Development

Bond – Getting a job in development

Guardian – Studying development: seven tips for your Masters

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.


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