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Should I do a masters degree?

Should I do a masters?A masters degree offers a unique opportunity to boost your career prospects and learn more about a subject that interests you. Even so, there are many factors to consider when deciding whether to pursue a masters. Will all that hard work and financial commitment be worth it? 

It may seem daunting, so we’ve put together some important factors to consider when deciding whether or not to pursue a masters degree.

Boost your career prospects

Earning a masters will improve your employability thanks to a range of new skills that you will learn, including professional skills such as project management and self-motivation. Employers recognise the fact that successfully completing a masters degree is indicative that you are an excellent candidate to join their workforce, due to the required dedication that you have demonstrated. 

Studying a masters degree is also a great way to Improve your research skills and critical thinking skills – these two qualities are highly sought after in today’s workplace. 

A masters degree is the ideal way to deepen your knowledge in your subject area, and if this chosen subject area is linked to your future career goals, even better! By undertaking a masters you will gain a competitive edge over other candidates – for example, when it comes to choosing a job in business, a candidate with a business masters will stand head and shoulders above the candidate who only has an undergraduate degree in business.

Studying a masters degree is the chance to earn a highly regarded qualification and boost your career prospects at the same time. 

Improve your earning potential

As well as boosting your career prospects, earning a masters degree can help you achieve a higher salary in the long run. 

The UK Government’s 2018-19 Graduate Outcomes (LEO) Survey  reveals that five years after graduation, postgraduates earn on average £5,400 more per annum than first degree holders. The survey also found that at this stage PhD holders earn an average of £10,400 more than bachelors degree holders – with a masters degree being a stepping-stone to undertaking a doctorate, this statistic further reinforces the financial benefits of studying a masters.

Median bachelors degree graduate earnings five years after graduation



Median masters degree graduate earnings five years after graduation



Median PhD graduate earnings five years after graduation



Masters degree graduate salaries

According to this recent government survey, the overall median earnings of a masters graduate just three years after graduation is £30,300, with this amount rising steadily in the years following graduation, as illustrated in this table.

Number of years after graduation

Median earnings of taught masters graduates

Upper quartile of earnings of taught masters graduates













Progress to a PHD

PhDs and research degrees help you start or continue research in a field that you are passionate about. They provide an opportunity to become an expert in your field and further improve your career prospects.

A masters degree, particularly an MRes (Masters of Research), is a stepping-stone to gaining a PhD. In fact, if you are interested in doing a PhD, many institutions require candidates to possess a masters degree to apply to study the doctorate.

Follow your interests 

If you have a passion for a particular subject, then a masters is the ideal way to explore that subject and follow your interests further. A masters degree provides students with the chance to delve deeper into a topic that they covered at undergraduate level and become experts in this area.

By studying a masters degree, as well as the personal fulfilment and enjoyment that you will experience by devoting a year or more focussing on an area of interest, it could also lead to a job that you love in an area that you are passionate about, thereby doing something that inspires and motivates you every day.

However, masters degrees do not necessarily have to be in the area that you studied at undergraduate level, and if you're looking to change career then studying for a masters can be an excellent way to help you transfer into a new area that you have an interest in. 

How much will a masters cost? 

Masters degrees cost in the region of £11,000 for UK students to study at a UK university, depending on the subject. The tuition fees cost more for EU and International students wishing to study at a UK university. In some European universities postgraduate study is free of tuition fees for EU students.

Arts and humanities subjects tend to be cheaper to study than STEM subjects because they usually put less demand on university facilities such as science equipment and laboratories. Arts and humanity subjects  often require less contact hours than STEM subjects, too.

Popular humanities subjects at masters level include:

A masters is a large financial commitment but funding options are available, for example if you choose to study an MBA there are a lot of MBA loans options for you to consider.

The cost of your masters could be outweighed by the career prospects and opportunities you gain as a result of the qualification. So, it should be thought of as an investment in your future rather than a financial burden.

When working out the cost of a masters degree it’s important to also factor in the living costs, potential relocation costs, and any extra costs associated with study materials.

Should I do a masters?

How much time will I need to study for a masters?

The length of time it takes to study a masters degree depends on whether you study full time, part time or online.

The method of study that you choose should be the one that best suits your lifestyle, and you should be able to fit your masters around your other life commitments. 

Full-time study involves around six to seven hours of study per day and can take one to two years to complete. Full-time masters degrees usually take one year to complete in the UK, whereas in the US and Europe they can often take two years to finish. Full-time study is suitable for continuing students and those who want to achieve the qualification quickly so they can advance with other aspects of their life.

Part-time study involves around 20 hours per week and can take two to four years to complete. Part-time study is good for students who have family and work commitments as it enables them to fit study around their life. When studying part time it is also easier to earn money while studying, which could be necessary from a financial perspective.

Online study is the most flexible way to study a masters degree and can take up to five years to complete – with the amount of time it takes to finish a masters online is very much determined by the student. However, not all subject areas are suitable for online study, especially those that require time spent in a lab or a classroom setting. 

How do I know if studying a masters is right for me? 

Should I do a masters?Although many people choose to study a masters degree straight after finishing their bachelors degree at university,  it is a good idea to consider your options before making the decision.

Don't rush into doing a masters, first consider if you have the time and money to commit to the course. A masters can be extremely demanding and may require you to make changes to your schedule to accommodate research and study. 

Can you fund your masters?

The first thing you need to do is consider how you will fund your masters and cover your living costs:

Government loan

The UK government offers masters loan funding to UK students studying their postgraduate program at UK universities. The amount on offer differs within the four nations and in the case of Wales the loans/grant provision is means tested.

Government loan in England

Up to £11,836 for tuition fees

Government loan in Scotland

Up to £5,500 for tuition fees

Up to £4,500 for living costs

Government loans in Wales

Up to £18,430 in total – combination of loan

and grant for tuition fees and living costs

Government loans in Northern Ireland

Up to £5,500 for tuition fees

Personal loan 

It is possible to take out personal loans to help cover the cost of a masters degree. It is possible to approach your bank for a loan, plus there are also some private student loan providers that offer loans that are specifically tailored to masters students. Lendwise and Prodigy Finance are examples of private loan providers that are focused on students – this means they have specially designed terms and conditions, such as very low or even no repayments until after graduation.

Personal finances 

One of the best ways to fund your masters degree is via personal finances – saving up enough money to pay for tuition fees and living costs before starting a masters – as this will remove the stress of worrying about funding the postgraduate program. It is also possible to apply for bursaries and scholarships, for example our £500 Postgrad Solutions Study Bursaries, to help finance masters study.

Personal interest

Do you have a genuine interest in the subject area? Studying an area that you are passionate about will keep you motivated during your degree, making you more likely to succeed. By choosing to study an area that was touched upon in your undergraduate degree you will already know you have a keen interest in that subject matter.

Career path

Will a masters enable you to follow your ideal career path, whether that is professional or academic? Many masters – such as an MBA or a PGCE – result in a professional qualification. If you know you want to go into a particular career, such as becoming a teacher, a masters degree is the way to go. If you wish to have a career in academia a masters degree is also the way to achieve this.

Are you ready?

Are you ready for the challenge of studying a masters? The research and knowledge required can be highly demanding and feel much more difficult than studying for a bachelors degree. Make sure you are ready financially and academically for the challenge as it will require a lot of dedication and hard work.

Do you want to continue with further study?

According to the Graduate Outcomes 2019/20, 19% of graduates continue with further study, either full time, part time or with employment – a figure that has remained consistent over the last few years as the table below illustrates.





Percentage of graduates continuing with full-time study




Percentage of graduates continuing with part-time study




Percentage of graduates continuing employment and further study





This reinforces the appeal of studying a masters degree if moving onto a doctorate is a consideration.


Achieving a masters can be extremely challenging but it can also be highly rewarding for several reasons, including:

1. It can help you get a job you love.

2. Masters study will enable you to realise your capabilities and push yourself out of your comfort zone. 

3. By studying a masters degree you will learn new skills, such as critical-thinking skills, communications skills and research skills.

4. Going back to university is the ideal way to meet new, interesting people and to network in a professional capacity. 

5. Studying a masters will enable you to become an expert in your field – this is a particularly important reason if you want to continue with your studies onto doctorate level.

Search for masters courses using the Postgrad course finder today. 


Further reading 

Studying For A Masters Degree

Postgraduate Taught vs Research Masters

Funding A Masters Degree

Disclaimer: Prodigy Finance and Lendwise are two of many potential funding options for postgraduate students. Other student funding options are available; research all your options thoroughly before making a commitment. Please be aware that Postgrad Solutions Ltd receives a commission from both parties for any successful loan applications taken out by and users. Postgrad Solutions accepts no responsibility for your choice of loan and does not endorse or support Prodigy Finance or Lendwise. Prodigy Finance Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, and entered on the Financial Services Register under firm registration number 612713. Lendwise Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority under firm registration number 782496.