Four things to consider before postgraduate study

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Considering postgraduate study? It can be daunting to return to the books when you’re juggling work and life. Studying to up-skill in your chosen career takes time and discipline, and working towards a completely new career is a huge undertaking.

If you’re unsure about whether you can – or should – submit an application for that course you’ve always wondered about, here are the four things all prospective postgraduates should consider before taking the plunge.

What is my motivation for studying?
Establishing why you want to study will help you decide how to invest your time and adjust your lifestyle to make room for further education. Do you want higher earning potential, improved job opportunities, new transferable skills, a fresh career direction or to progress in your existing career?

Study is going to take time and energy – when things get hard, you will need the motivation to keep going. Knowing your reasons for study and reminding yourself of them will make it that bit easier to achieve your goals.

How will I manage the costs?
Investing in further study is an expense that pays off in the long term. In the short term however, you will need cover the costs if you’re working fewer hours, as well as pay for course materials and tuition fees. Before starting a course, it’s crucial to plan your finances with a detailed budget for living and study.

Find out the costs involved and then look into the financial support that’s available to you. Options for support include:

Government loans Look into HECS-HELP for Commonwealth Supported Places (CSPs) or FEE-HELP for fee-paying places.
Employer assistance If the study relates to your current job, ask your employer if they offer financial support for study, or study leave.
Scholarships Universities and the government offer scholarships across many categories.
Government financial assistance Find out if you’re eligible for Austudy or Youth Allowance.
Income tax deduction Postgraduates may be entitled to an income tax deduction for course fees and study-related expenses.

Find out more about managing the costs of university.

How will I find the time?
Juggling work and life is tricky – adding study to the mix can frazzle the most organised person. Universities today offer heaps of flexible study options, especially for postgraduate students, who are more likely working part or full time. Check to see if your course offers night classes, or the option to study part time or online. Work out how you will fit study in week-by-week by creating a draft schedule, including the course ‘contact’ hours, plus time to study independently.

Talk to your workplace about the flexibility they can offer. Is it possible to work four days a week while you study, for example? Can you take a week off each trimester for exams? If study will ultimately make you a more valuable employee, they may be keen to support you.

Will further study take me in the right direction?
It all depends on where you want to go. Take a look at what you answered to the first question – what is your motivation? Then assess whether study will help you reach your goals.

Talk to experts like career advisors, lecturers and professionals in your chosen field. Find out the benefits they see to study. Look into the course units and outcomes, to make sure it’s going to be valuable in your particular case.

There are many benefits of postgraduate study. If you want to increase your capacity for earning for example, statistically Australian postgraduates command higher salaries than undergraduates. Study may open doors in your current career that were previously closed because of a skills gap. For many students, the value is in being able to dramatically shift their career direction through study, and land a job in an area they are really passionate about.

Want to find out more about postgraduate study? Download Deakin University’s quick guide to returning to study or explore
 Deakin’s courses at deakin.edu.au.

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