What are the advantages of studying physics at postgraduate level?
Firstly, completing a postgraduate course in physics is necessary for some jobs. For example, to become a lecturer or senior researcher, you’ll typically need to complete a PhD in your chosen specialty. Even for jobs where a postgraduate course is not necessary, completing a postgraduate course can lead to better job prospects.
Completing a postgraduate course shows that you have specialised knowledge in your area of interest, and have the stamina necessary to complete an intensive course.
Statistics show that those who complete a postgraduate course earn higher salaries and are more likely to be in skilled employment than those who just completed an undergraduate degree. Finally, completing a postgraduate course is also helpful if your undergraduate degree is in a topic that isn’t closely related to your current specialty.
What are the disadvantages of studying physics at postgraduate level?
The first disadvantage is the cost. Completing a master’s in physics can cost between £10,000-£15,000, while a PhD typically costs between £9,000-£18,000 for a three-year course. Note that this excludes the cost of conducting research. EU and other international students can expect to pay significantly more. Furthermore, unless you study part-time, you’ll typically need a way to fund general living expenses.
Another disadvantage is that postgraduate courses are very labour intensive. It’s more independent than undergraduate study, and you’ll spend more time conducting your own research, so it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. The calibre of work is also a step up from undergraduate study.
Is a postgraduate physics degree worth it?
While it depends on your own personal circumstances, we would say that the benefits of a postgraduate course outweigh the cons. You’ll gain specialised knowledge in an area you’re passionate about, and will boost your employability and job prospects. A master’s degree is only one year, so chances are it will fly by.
If you’re worried about the cost of completing a postgraduate course, there are a number of funding options. For example, the UK government provides loans for master’s and PhD students, and these don’t need to be paid back until you’re earning above a specific amount. Many universities and external organisations offer grants. Completing a master’s apprenticeship is a great way to gain paid work experience, while having the cost of your qualification paid for.
Bear in mind that doing a postgraduate degree doesn’t automatically guarantee you a job. You’ll still need to work hard and put effort into your studies by networking with experts, staying on top of your studies, and joining societies.