There are many reasons for choosing to study at postgraduate level and being aware of your own motivations will help you face the challenges of postgraduate study and get the most out of the learning opportunities provided.
It can help to have purpose and therefore an understanding of why you are undertaking the particular course of study that you have chosen. This will support you in making decisions about how you use the resources available to you and act as a catalyst for you to make opportunities for yourself during your studies. Taking a postgraduate course as a way of delaying decisions about what to do next with your life and your career isn’t advisable.
Advancing your career/practice
You may have professional reasons for embarking on postgraduate study. An additional qualification may give you an advantage in a competitive environment, a specialist course may be valuable, or necessary, for working in your chosen field or you may already have significant professional experience, and choose to take a postgraduate course in order to further develop and deepen your practice. Perhaps you are seeking a change of direction: at GSA many of our postgraduates are students returning to education from a successful career in one field to explore a change of direction or a different application of their skills and experience.
Professional reasons for taking a postgraduate course can motivate you to invest time and effort in your studies and help you to maintain commitment. However, there may be some aspects of the course that do not seem immediately relevant to your chosen career path. Ensure that you engage with all elements of the course, make them relevant to you, and remember that the capacities you will be developing further such as critical thinking, problem-solving and communication skills are highly desirable in any professional or practice context.
You may want to pursue a career in research and teaching or have particular scholarly interests and be motivated by learning for its own sake, especially if you are studying, or intend to study, at doctorate level.
Jobs in academia can be difficult to find and competition for them can be strong. Have realistic expectations. Putting yourself under too much pressure to excel can be counterproductive. Allow yourself to use your course to discover, create and explore alternative career paths. This doesn’t mean that academia isn’t an option for you but, through the process of studying with an open mind you may find that your ambitions change.
Personal and practice development
Passion for your subject and the desire to take your learning to the next level or consolidate your experience within an academic framework is probably a necessary motivation for undertaking postgraduate study and for many students this will co-exist with more pragmatic professional concerns. For some students however postgraduate study is primarily a chance to explore new ideas and a space to develop practice. Nevertheless it is important to use the opportunities available while studying to build a platform for sustaining your practice post study.
Most likely you are motivated by a combination of two or all of the above. It is also likely that your motivations will shift and change over time. There is nothing wrong with starting a postgraduate course for one reason, and finding at the end of the course that you have very different aspirations. The key is to pay attention to your own motivations for learning and be aware of how these impact on your studies and the way in which you choose to use the opportunities available.