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Around a third of Cambridge undergraduates embark on postgraduate courses or further study, including taught masters’ degrees, vocational training in Law or Teaching, and PhDs.

If you’re thinking about postgraduate study, it’s essential to consider your motivations and long-term aims.

Reasons to consider postgraduate study:

  • As part of a professional qualification (for teaching or law, for instance)
  • As a precursor to a career in research
  • To shift into a discipline related to your previous degree, or to move into another discipline entirely
  • To build a portfolio and network with other professionals (journalism, science communication)
  • To gain the knowledge or skills needed in a profession or sector
  • To develop new knowledge or understanding of a sector
  • To pursue a subject out of love or curiosity.

You may want to think twice about progressing into further study if you are doing so for one of the following reasons:

  • To demonstrate your academic ability following an unexpected low result in your undergraduate degree
    Graduate employers may still screen based on your undergraduate degree classification, even if you have another degree. In addition, many sectors prefer graduate work experience over additional degrees.
  • To get breathing space to make career choices and explore further options
    While this will buy you time, you’ll still have to make job applications and career choices in the middle of your new university course—often while dealing with a heavy workload. If you do opt for further study, you should still consider applying for summer internships and experience opportunities.
  • Because you’re unsure what else to do, or others are encouraging you to study further
    Further study can be costly and time-consuming; you’ll get far more from your studies if you have a clear personal motivation and rationale for undertaking them.
Exploring your options

There are many postgraduate courses and further study options. Your choice will depend on your subject, the style of learning you prefer, the quality of facilities and teaching at each institution, and your post-qualification career plans. The following sources give information about the different types of postgraduate study:

Studying Abroad

For postgraduate study overseas you’ll generally need to apply to each institution individually, as there are few equivalents to the UK’s UCAS system. When considering whether to study in another country, you’ll need to consider the following issues:

  • How does the Higher Education system work in your country of choice? What level of course should you be looking at, what is the admissions procedure, and what qualifications are required?
  • What are the language requirements for studying in your chosen country?
  • Are there nationality restrictions for the programmes or courses that you’re interested in?
  • Will the qualification you obtain be adequately recognised in the country or profession in which you ultimately intend to work?
  • Funding availability and costs of application, tuition and living. 

The Careers Service subscribes to GoinGlobal to help you explore living, working, and studying in different countries. If you are considering courses in the US, these additional resources can support your research:

You can use this table on the Fulbright website to average your University results into a GPA.  

Application Tips

In most cases, applications will be made directly to the University or department offering the course, with a few exceptions (including graduate entry medicine and teaching).

Allow plenty of time for your applications. For each specific course, you will usually need to:

  • write a personal statement or statement of purpose
  • provide the details of 1-3 referees (whose permission you should request well in advance)
  • provide copies of your academic transcript(s).

You may also need to write a research proposal and/or organise admissions tests.

For research-based courses (MRes or PhD), ensure that you research and possibly contact the staff in your chosen departments. Some institutions will expect you to identify a proposed supervisor before you apply, and in some cases to informally discuss your proposed research with them before applying.

Funding Postgraduate Study

Fees for postgraduate study vary considerably, with non-UK fees often being much higher than those in the UK. International fees may not be covered by studentships or other funding arrangements.

Funds Online (previously Grants for Individuals)

  • We subscribe to the Funds Online funding database. This is produced by the Directory of Social Change which is a UK charity producing software for grant-seekers. Access to this is for current Cambridge students and graduates.
  • Information on about 3,500 grant-making trusts
  • Includes trusts that give grants for educational needs to fund people looking for money to study or develop their career and for welfare (because of poverty, ill-health, disability)
  • Email enquiries@careers.cam.ac.uk with your CRSid for an access code, this will allow you to use the database for 24 hours. Please share your CRSid and the reason for the funding.

Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding

  • We subscribe to The Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding which is all about alternative sources of funding - especially charities - which can make awards (fees, maintenance, research costs) to any student regardless of subject, or nationality. This huge database contains: funding opportunities, comprehensive guidance, grant application writing tools, model personal and financial statements.
  • To access this as a current student go to the website and register with your current Cambridge e-mail. If you have graduated, you can access the site under the prospective student section, entering the PIN 8707. We also keep a hard copy of the guide in our library.
Support from the Careers Service

Check out our Postgraduate Study Career Essentials programme, with on-demand training available via our YouTube Channel and LinkedIn learning. We also hold live sessions, including:

  • Should I PhD or Not?
  • Exploring Postgraduate Study Options
  • Writing personal statements for postgraduate study

On Handshake, you can see examples of successful applications for Postgraduate study in the USA.

One of our Careers Advisers can assist you with exploring your postgraduate study options, researching courses, and making applications. Book an appointment via Handshake.