Choosing the best postgraduate course in science and research for you

Choosing the best postgraduate course in science and research for you

The range of postgraduate science courses is a testament to the strength and diversity the UK offers in these degrees. It's possible that the subject of your choice is an inherent passion of yours and that your decision to study further is to achieve specialist knowledge and elite status by studying at postgraduate level. Or perhaps you feel you took the wrong undergraduate path, in which case a conversion course could get you back onto the beaten track. Whatever your motivation, postgraduate study in a science-based discipline will indulge your curiosities and could move you closer to a career in your subject. And if that doesn't sway you, the fact that chemistry and physics postgraduates earn over seven per cent more than the average graduate just might.

The questions to consider if you're thinking about postgraduate study in science and research

  • What type of study is best for you? The main types of study available are a year-long master of science (MSc) or master of research (MRes) – these often come with the option of a professional qualification (such as a PgCert) as well.
  • Do you need an undergraduate qualification in your chosen area? Not all courses require an undergraduate qualification in the specific scientific field of interest. It may be possible to convert to a particular subject or undertake a multidisciplinary study that combines your existing knowledge with something new.
  • Are you planning to continue into research? The variety of these courses continues to grow, with numerous universities now offering the one-to-two year master of philosophy (MPhil) as well as the three year PhD. 
  • What time is available to you? Places on postgraduate courses in science can be fairly limited: take note if you have a particular location of study in mind. You should never rush a decision like this, so a little forward thinking won't go amiss.
  • Have you thought outside the box? The UK offers a broader range of postgraduate courses than many of its foreign counterparts, especially when it comes to science. This means it's highly likely that there will be more than one university that has a course that's right for you.

The status of postgraduate science in the UK

The UK has a wealth of courses on offer. Renowned universities such as Oxford, Cambridge and Imperial College London are consistently challenging the might of the US universities for a top ten spot in the rankings for science. Considering that the UK isn't even half the size of Texas, that's not bad going. There are more UK universities joining in on the act, too. University College London and Bristol are just two more of the UK's academic institutions breaking into the world top 50.

The top status of UK universities worldwide is matched by a large rise in the popularity of their postgraduate science courses. To take just a couple of examples, reports suggest a growth of 76.5 per cent in doctorates awarded for sports science and a massive 342 per cent increase for psychology since 2002.

Next steps: choosing the right science and research postgraduate course

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