While studying for your undergraduate degree, there will likely come a time when you think about postgraduate education and consider whether it’s a wise ‘next step’ for you in terms of your career.

Although a master’s degree isn’t for everyone, it’s a good idea to carry out some research and think about how it could benefit your future before you brush off the idea of postgraduate study due to cost or the time it would take to complete the course.

First of all, it’s important to think carefully about how a postgraduate degree would fit into your career plan and whether it would boost your career prospects; essentially, you need to decide whether a master’s degree is a worthwhile investment for you. Weighing up the pros and cons is always a good place to start, so you could try drawing up a simple list of your thoughts.

Of course, in some careers postgraduate level education is a requirement: doctor, postsecondary teacher, and psychologist to name but a few. However, with the majority of career paths, you have much more flexibility (although it’s often recommended that you have either a master’s degree or relevant work experience).

Whether you hope to become a fashion designer or an engineer, it’s really helpful to look into industry success stories and find out how those who have excelled in your sector have got to where they are today. If it seems as though a postgraduate level education paid off for such people, perhaps now is the time to start to consider this as a serious option for yourself. Today, almost every industry is rife with competition, so it’s becoming increasingly important to have something that sets you apart from the crowd when it comes to securing your first job.

Postgraduate degrees are also great for those who want to specialise, as they often offer more specific subjects than bachelor’s programmes. For example, if you wanted to specialise in a specific type of journalism after studying the generic BA, a master’s degree would certainly provide you with the opportunity to do so.

Perhaps one of the most important factors affecting your decision to pursue a postgraduate degree would be financial security. However, you may not know that the government is introducing loans of up to £10,000 for those wishing to continue education after graduating from their undergraduate degree.

Anyone starting a full-time or part-time master’s programme after August 1 of this year is eligible to apply for the new Postgraduate Loan, which can then be used to pay course fees or to help towards the cost of living.

If you believe that postgraduate education is the right step for you career-wise, but are unconvinced that the government loan will cover your costs, it may be that part-time study is your best option; it will enable you to combine your studies with part-time employment, securing a regular income.

The most important point here is: do your research. Don’t cast the idea of a postgraduate degree aside without giving it any thought, but don’t jump straight in without considering whether it’s worthwhile, either. Take your time, weigh up the benefits and the downfalls, and make the right decision for you and your future career.