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To be the best in business it is naturally assumed further study is essential and you would be right. The route of postgraduate study remains ever popular.

Whilst some of you may have binned the revision notes and booked the next flight to some far flung destination, some of you remain at home researching your next route of study.

With graduates earning less than their debts, taking on postgraduate study can seem a promising option, leading to higher earnings in the long run.

Some guidance from James Caan

Dragon’s Den’s James Caan, serial entrepreneur and CEO of the private equity firm Hamilton Bradshaw, studied towards an MBA at Harvard and comprehends the importance of postgraduate study. He advises graduates:

‘Postgraduate study is a great way of getting a greater understanding of theories which you will be putting into practice within the business world. An MBA, for example, is a credible and valuable qualification to have behind you. I found my time at Harvard allowed me to challenge theories. The grounding this extra study gives you is invaluable for future endeavours.

I am a great believer that if you do something, you should do it well.’

Postgraduate study has become more popular than ever with the option to study either part or full-time. The vast choice of courses available can allow graduates to work full-time whilst pursuing an extra qualification. Weigh up your options. Do you have the time and commitment to spend a year or more of your life studying?

Financially it can be a drain on the bank balance. With student debt looming over your head, think about how you plan to cover the cost of another qualification.

‘Pursuing a Masters degree can often be the deciding factor that tips the scales in the favour of one candidate over another during the interview process,’ says Susan Roth, Director of MSc Programmes at Cass Business School.

‘MSc courses equip students with specialist financial knowledge that they have not received as an undergraduate. The reason for this is because at the Masters level, students are taught by more practitioners than theorists, who provide students with an understanding, not only of complex financial topics, but with an insight into the working world in general.’

Masters in Business Administration (MBA)

Once in the business world, a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) can be a powerful qualification to elevate your knowledge. The internationally recognised postgraduate qualification is one studied by those with typically three or more years’ managerial experience. In some areas, such as investment banking and consultancy, the MBA is often a ‘must-have’.

‘The MBA is the world’s most popular business qualification, and it is valued by employers as a guarantee of all-round business skills and knowledge at a strategic level,’ explains Natalie Clark, Director of Marketing at Association of MBA (AMBA). ‘The benefits of studying an accredited MBA are many, the financial return in terms of salary increases and the impact on career progression are perhaps the most obvious. Evidence from the Association of MBAs’ 2008 Careers Survey shows that remuneration for MBAs increases considerably after graduation, and continues to rise throughout their careers.’

‘Our research shows that on average, MBA graduates worldwide experience salary increases of 46% immediately after the MBA, 129% after three to five years, and 208% within ten years of graduation.’

How to fund your studies

When embarking on further study, one thing to bear in mind is that it does not come cheap. Many students work part-time, but in some cases a loan is necessary to cope.

Ways of funding can depend on the discipline, whether you choose to study full-time or part-time, whether it be taught or research. For those going into full-time study, career development loans have proved a popular way to cover costs. Many part-time postgraduate students work a full-time job to fund their studies – though this can be extremely demanding.

Research Councils are the best port of call when looking to fund your further study. This involves applying directly to the department in which you want to study. The department then selects the best candidates.

For an MBA, help for funding can come from AMBA. You may be eligible for the Association of MBA’s Loan Scheme, which is financed by NatWest.

For the rest, some bursaries are available from various sources to pay fees. The main point to take out of funding a postgraduate is that it needs careful planning and research. There are plenty of options out there, but make sure you get in early.

Postgraduate options

  • Masters degrees (e.g. MA/MSc): Aimed at those students looking to grow further understanding of an academic subject.
  • Postgraduate diplomas (PgDip): These are vocational courses which equip you with the skills to work in a specific area. You can move onto converting these to a Masters qualification.
  • Doctorates (PhDs): An advanced degree level in which a thesis or dissertation must be submitted.
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