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Types of Postgraduate Course | The Careers Service Types of Postgraduate Course – Oxford University Careers Service
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Taught Courses

Masters courses

Most masters courses are taught in modules, and last one year full-time. Some last two years. Flexible part-time options are available at some institutions. A masters course can allow you to extend your knowledge of specific area of interest, or to explore new topics unrelated to your first degree.

The masters degrees you will most commonly come across are:

  • MA – generally arts, social sciences or business
  • MSt – generally arts, social sciences or business, common at Oxford
  • MSc – science and technology disciplines (MS in the USA)
  • MRes – research techniques, often as a precursor to a PhD/DPhil programme
  • MBA – management and business, usually after a few years of business experience
  • MPhil – includes a substantial piece of individual research
  • Subject-specific degree titles such as MEd, MEng

Professional qualifications

Some postgraduate courses lead directly to a professional qualification required for entry into a particular career. Examples include the PGCE for teaching and the GDL for law. However, there are a whole series of other further study options which could be classified as vocational, ranging from six-week courses in computer skills through to the PhD or DPhil in Clinical Psychology, necessary to work as a Clinical Psychologist.

Find out more about study routes into specific career areas in sectors and occupations.

Research Degrees

Doctoral degrees

A PhD (known as a DPhil in Oxford) usually requires three or more years’ full-time research, involving in-depth study of a specific field, the results of which are presented as a thesis of 50,000+ words. In some countries, including the USA, doctoral students begin their course with a programme of taught modules before beginning doctoral research in year 2 or 3, making the overall length of a PhD much longer than the 3-4 year average in the UK. Examples of typical PhD lengths in countries often applied to by Oxford students: UK 3-4 years, USA 5-7 years, Canada 4-5 years, France & Germany 3-4 years (post-masters), Netherlands 4 years (post-masters).

Most PhD students join an existing research group in a university department under the guidance of one or more supervisors. In the UK there are a growing number of Doctoral Training Centres (DTCs, also known as Doctoral Training Programmes DTPs) funded by UK research councils and offering four year programmes with a focus on interdisciplinary topics and formal training in research methods.

Undertaking a PhD needs to be given careful thought, as it is a completely different experience from a taught course. You need to ask yourself a number of questions before coming to a decision:

  • Can you direct your own work and manage your time?
  • Can you sustain your motivation regardless of the quality of your results?
  • Do you mind spending a great deal of time working on your own in the library?
  • Are you able to put up with carrying out basic, repetitive research techniques to get a series of results?
  • Have you talked to any postgraduate students to find out their experiences?

Research masters

Many taught masters courses contain an element of research via an extended dissertation on a specific topic. Research masters courses offering training in research methods and the opportunity to explore a topic in depth are also available at some institutions. The most common of these degree titles are MRes and MPhil, and these are often seen as a precursor to more extended doctoral level research.

External Resources
This information was last updated on 18 July 2019.
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Recent blogs about Types of Postgraduate Course

Spotcap Fintech Fellowship – Postgraduate Funding Opportunity

Posted on behalf of Spotcap. Blogged by Polly Metcalfe on 22/05/2019.

Running for its third consecutive year, the Spotcap Fintech Fellowship awards one UK-based master’s or MBA student with an £8,000 scholarship. Launched in 2017, the initiative aims to encourage aspiring individuals interested in a career in financial technology.


To qualify for the Fintech Fellowship, applicants must cover the following criteria:

  • Have an offer of admission to a master’s or MBA programme at an accredited British university
  • Be a British citizen or resident
  • Study a fintech-related subject (e.g. finance, business, management, engineering, computer science) with an intention to work in fintech upon graduation

 2019 Award Details

Deadline: 15 August 2019
Study in: United Kingdom
Amount: £8,000 towards the cost of a master’s degree or MBA
Type of course: Taught, research, full-time and part-time programmes are all eligible
Year of study: 2019/2020
Field of study: Fintech-related subject (e.g. finance, business, management, engineering, computer science)

Considering postgraduate study in Europe? Come along and find out more!

Blogged by Karen Walker on 16/05/2019.

Perfectly timed to coincide with EU election day!

When: Thursday 23 May, 13:00-14:00
Where: The Careers Service
Add this event to your Facebook calendar.

Increasing numbers of students are considering masters degrees and other higher degrees at European universities outside of the UK. The increase in the number of courses taught in English and the often lower fee levels can make it an attractive option.

In the Postgraduate Study in Europe session we will explore the possibility of study in European countries with a particular focus on Germany, France and the Netherlands (the most common destinations for Oxford graduates). We will highlight key differences, application processes and timelines, and signpost key resources. We don’t have the answers to your Brexit questions, but we can help with the practicalities as they stand at the moment.

Postgraduate Study in North America

Blogged by Abby Evans on 02/05/2019.
  • When: Tuesday 7 May 2019, 12:00-13:00
  • Where: The Careers Service, 56 Banbury Road

Thinking about applying for further study in the USA or Canada? Come along to this informal talk on exploring your options, the application process, standardised tests and funding opportunities. You do not need to book a place at this event but you can add it to your Facebook calendar here.

International Careers Day 2019

Blogged by Corina Lacurezeanu on 14/01/2019.
  • When: Saturday 19 January 2019
  • Where: The Blavatnik School of Government

Find a Global Career

At the International Careers Day fair you have the opportunity to meet a diverse range of experts and organisations to discuss international careers, such as those in NGOs, charities, development consultancies, educational establishments, international and regional institutions and more.

Download the Fair Booklet

Read more about the fair and see a full list of exhibitors here.

Fair Timetable

  • Alumni@ International Careers Day
    09:45 – 11:00, Lecture Theatre 2
  • The World Bank Group Presentation
    10:00 – 11:00, Lecture Theatre 1
  • Exhibitors
    11:00 – 14:30, Seminar Rooms 2 – 4
  • Panel Session – First Steps on the Ladder: Development Policy & Practice
    12:30 – 13:30, Lecture Theatre 1
  • Talk – Exclusive Global Internships for Oxford Students
    13:45 – 14:30, Lecture Theatre 1

We are looking forward to seeing you there!

Interested in journalism, arts, heritage and other creative careers?

Blogged by Lara Hayward on 17/10/2018.

Are you interested in a career in journalism but don’t know where to start? Do you want to hear about writing opportunities across all forms of media and get sector specific tips on your CV?

If so, a good place to start is by signing up to the brilliant Journo Resources website and newsletter.

Students have found it extremely useful and it’s a good first step to finding out more about the industry. We will also be running an Insight into Journalism workshop in Hilary Term so keep your eyes peeled for that.

For advice on careers in journalism and any other roles in arts, heritage and creative industries do come to the Arts, Advertising and Media Fair on Thursday 25 October at the Careers Service. For more information, see CareerConnect events section: search ‘Arts, Advertising & Media Fair.


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