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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
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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
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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
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This information was last updated on 12 November 2019.
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Recent blogs about Types of Postgraduate Course

Research Internships: How to Find and Fund Them

Blogged by Karen Walker on 21/01/2020.

WHEN: Monday 27 January, 12:00-13:00
WHERE: The Careers Service, 56 Banbury Road
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Are you an undergraduate interested in gaining research experience? Do you think further study might be for you, but you’re not sure about the research element? Do you have a research project in mind, and want to explore ways to facilitate it?

This session will explore some of the reasons why research internships can be a great idea, whether you’re considering an academic career or think you might want to head out into the corporate world. We’ll talk about some of the skills you can gain, and give you some pointers as to where to look for internship opportunities and funding. We can’t promise an exhaustive list of research internships in every field, but we hope to give you some good ideas to get you started!

EU Settlement Scheme presentation and advice session

Posted on behalf of Oxford University Student Immigration Office. Blogged by Julia Hilton on 13/01/2020.

When: Thursday, 23 January 2020, from 13:30
Where: Examination Schools, 75-81 High St, OX1 4BG
Sign up on Eventbrite >>

If you are an EU or Swiss student concerned about staying in the UK, we invite you to a short presentation on the EU Settlement Scheme on 23 January from 13:30 at the Exam Schools. This session will be hosted by the Oxford Student Immigration Office. They will help you understand who should apply under the scheme and give you practical information on how to apply. There will be plenty of time for you to ask questions at the end.

The rights and status of EU citizens already living in the UK or arriving to do so by 31 December 2020 (if there is a deal) will remain the same until 30 June 2021. If you are an EU national or family member and plan to continue living in the UK after 30 June 2021 you need to apply to the Settlement Scheme by that date to get either settled or pre-settled status. The UK has made agreements to cover you if you are from Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland as well.

If you are not planning to live in the UK beyond 30 June 2021 you do not have to apply under the Settlement Scheme. Further information is available here and additional advice sessions will be held by the Student Immigration Office in 2020.

Study China 2020

Posted on behalf of Study China 2020 University of Manchester. Blogged by Julia Hilton on 11/12/2019.

The Study China programme is now accepting applications for the 2020 programme.

If you are interested in spending three weeks in China and living at a leading Chinese university, then this is the ideal opportunity for you. Please visit The Study China’s new website to find out more

Study China will fund your accommodation, tuition, airport-transfer and organised excursions. Study China runs during the summer, and is separate from your degree. You can check out eligibility criteria here.

During the programme, you will complete an intensive Chinese Mandarin course designed to develop your written and spoken language skills, as well as cultural classes, trips, and excursions. We offer classes for all abilities, ranging from absolute beginners through to advanced speakers.

 Study China 2020 will be hosted at:

  • Beijing Normal University (Beijing)
  • East China Normal University (Shanghai)
  • Zhejiang University (Hangzhou)

 Programme dates:

The course will run for three weeks from Sunday 2 August until Saturday 22 August 2020.

 To apply:

For more information or to submit an application, please visit our new website:

The application window will close: 17:00, Friday 7 February 2020.

To maximise your chances of being offered a place on the programme we recommend that you submit your application as soon as possible. However, please do take time see our application tips page.

For more information, visit Twitter: @StudyChina_. Instagram: @StudyChina_Official. Facebook: @OfficialStudyChina

Funded Masters programme in China – closing soon!

Posted on behalf of The Yenching Academy of Peking University. Blogged by Karen Walker on 28/11/2019.

The Yenching Academy of Peking University offers a great opportunity to Oxford students and graduates: a two-year interdisciplinary Master’s Programme in China Studies at the top university in China. The first year of the programme is fully funded, including one round-trip airfare, tuition, housing, and living expenses. Students who maintain good academic standing and choose to remain in Beijing for the second year are also eligible to apply for another year of full funding. As well as a rigorous education across a range of disciplines, Yenching Scholars experience a series of lectures from visiting professors, field studies including historical sites and current industries, and discussion of cultural, political and societal trends in China, as well as the opportunity to undertake internships and the chance to learn Mandarin.

The Yenching Academy annually enrols approximately 120 new students from both the Chinese Mainland and abroad, to study, live, and learn together. International students comprise roughly 80% of the student body.

The application deadline for the 2020 cohort is 6 December 2019 – so if you’re interested in this opportunity, start your application soon!

Interested in a funded Master’s programme in China? Find out more!

Posted on behalf of The Yenching Academy of Peking University . Blogged by Karen Walker on 13/11/2019.

Come to the Careers Service, 56 Banbury Road, on Friday 22 November at 13:00 to find out more about the opportunities offered by the Yenching Academy of Peking University. This two-year interdisciplinary Master’s Programme in China Studies annually enrols approximately 125 new students from both the Chinese Mainland and abroad, to study, live, and learn together. International students comprise roughly 80% of the student body. The application deadline for the 2020 cohort is 6 December 2019.

For more information and to register for the session, please have a look at the event listing on CareerConnect, or alternatively go to the Yenching Admissions Website.

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