Careers Perspectives – from the Bath careers service

Focus on your future with expert advice from your careers advisers

Tagged: Postgraduate Study

Postgraduate Study and Personal Statements


📥  Advice, Applications, Postgraduate Study

Postgraduate Study and Personal Statements


I have seen a few students in quick query appointments worried about their personal statements and I therefore thought I would write a quick guide with regards to writing personal statements for postgraduate study.

Event Alert: For those of you interested in postgraduate study in the humanities and social sciences sector, the faculty is running a great information session this Friday December 1st on applying for postgraduate programmes locally, nationally and internationally, and where to look for funding sources. Book your place through MyFuture.

The slight differences in personal statements

Pretty much all postgraduate courses and institutions will ask you to write some sort of personal statements, but be aware that the word limit may be different from institution to institution and each department may also ask you to answer specific questions. It is therefore vital that you always read through the application instructions on the university website before starting. You don’t want to write a two page personal statement and later realise you only have 4000 characters to use.

There are different application formats with regards to different career pathways, for example some postgraduate courses use UKPASS. However, you should always find specific application instructions on the individual university websites, so these are therefore key to research.  See some great information from University of Manchester with regards to personal statements for PGCE and medicine. Getting into Teaching also has great advice on writing personal statements for PGCE.

What not to do in personal statements

Typical errors in personal statements is not being clear about why you would like to do the postgraduate course, poor structure and bad spelling and grammar. It also shows if you have not done the research needed with regards to the university and the course you are applying for. Even if you are applying to similar postgraduate degrees at different universities the particular universities and programmes would still like to know why you are choosing them.

Typical content for your personal statements

Again, always read the specific application instructions for your chosen programmes, but this is the typical content of a personal statement. See our careers resource for more details.

  •  Why this University? Why this programme?

As said above there needs to a clear reason for why you are applying to that particular University and that particular postgraduate programme. Is it the location, what about particular research interest of the academics in the departments? Have you been to campus before? Does the department have good alumni networks or industry opportunities? What about the subject motivates you? Are the particular modules or course options that interests you?

  • An insight into your overall abilities (academic, work, extra-curricular and more) and how these experiences have prepared you for the course

What have you done so far that will make sure that you are successful studying the postgraduate degree? Have you completed any relevant research projects, dissertation, relevant module work? It is important to connect what you are doing now academically to what you would like to study on the programme. Have you had any relevant work experience or any senior roles in societies or clubs at University? Or perhaps you have had some personal achievements that should be mentioned? These experiences should also include examples of skills that are essential to be successful in the course such as communication skills (presentations, written reports, group work) or relevant scientific techniques, analytical or research skills.

  • A sense that the course links to what you have done in the past and how it relates to what you want to do in the future

It is important to connect your past experiences and what you hope to get out of the course to what you want to do in the future. Where do you see yourself working/doing after the course has finished? The admissions tutor won’t find you in a couple of years’ time to see if you are in the job role you describe in your statement but they would like you to have an awareness of career pathways and an understanding of the reasons for taking the course

  • Last but not least, they want to see motivation and enthusiasm!!

This is key to a good personal statement. Your motivation and enthusiasm should shine through and the reasons should be clear. No need to be too emotional, but a reflective and enthusiastic approach and backing these up with evidence is what they would like to see.

Final piece of advice, have your personal tutor read through it as well! Their academic perspective is very valuable when writing a statement.

I wish you the best of luck in writing your personal statement.

Further resources:


Considering further study? Why not consider studying internationally?


📥  Advice, Career Development, Postgraduate Study, Tips & Hints

This tine of year is a prime time for students to think about embarking on a course of further study, most often at masters level but also at PhD level.
So with many courses internationally being taught in English - and not just in English-speaking countries - you might want to consider spreading your wings and going elsewhere for your higher degree.

As well as considering the normal things when thinking about further study - what subject, what course, what institution - there are some other things that are particularly important when thinking about studying abroad.

Firstly, the timescales for applying may be different from here and are almost certainly longer - the Fulbright Commission who advise on studying in the US have a lot of information about timelines and recommend you start in your penultimate year ideally.

You may need to sit a test - have a look at our web pages on studying abroad to get more information about the sorts of tests and how to prepare for them.

Funding may also be an issue and is one of the reasons that you may need to start early. But of course, one of the attractions of studying especially in Europe is that education fees are substantially less than here. Do check though, the duration of the course - a UK masters course will be normally 1 year but the standard in mainland Europe is 2 years.

Do also pay attention to any information you get about study styles and cohort sizes - lower fees sometimes mean larger classes and more lectures, rather than the small group seminars which are a common feature of masters courses in the UK.

For more detailed information about studying internationally, specific to individual countries, have a look at the AGCAS country profiles for studying abroad. Considerations here include how much of the host nation's language you speak, what the city you'd be based in is like, and what the common customs are that you should be aware of. You could always take advantage of our Foreign Languages Centre to brush up your languages before you start!

Applications may vary considerably - some institutions require only a CV and transcript, others want a personal statement which can be very detailed. So if you would like advice on how to put one together, or some feedback on the application you are preparing, please do come in and see us.


Is a postgraduate degree necessary?


📥  Postgraduate Study

students in the library for page 20 28523-0230


An article appeared in the THES last Thursday on this topic. Victoria Halman investigated how employers view the growing trend for graduates to take a second qualification, usually a Masters, to help them land a first job. It is a well researched article which is worth a read and which shows the pros and cons. The key is to find out how employers in your chosen career area would view such additional study. If you want to discuss your further study plans with someone impartial then you can arrange to talk to a Careers Adviser.

Our website also carries advice and information if you are considering a postgraduate course.



Careers Service - on-demand lectures


📥  Careers Resources, Labour Market Intelligence, Tips & Hints

Often during our Development programme, we are running multiple sessions at the same time. And that inevitably leads to students telling us 'I would love to go to both, but can't - is there any way I could have the slides for session x?'

Well, we aim to please - and now we have gone one better. We have experimented with the lecture capture system and have recorded a couple of sessions for your convenience.

So, if you are an international student wanting to get a little more familiar with the UK job market, have a listen to our session on 'Understanding the UK job market for international students'.

Also, for any of you interested in further study, our session on 'Postgraduate study - is it for you?' is also available.

You will get the slides and the audio, and as with any lecture that is captured you can skip to the bit that interests you or listen to the whole session. The sessions can be viewed on or off campus - just use your Computing Services login if you are prompted for one.

We would love to know what you think of this service - if you find it useful, we can arrange for more of our talks to be captured next semester. And if you have recommendations for sessions you'd particularly like recorded, do email us at Of course, workshops such as the international students series or the assessment centre workshops don't work but any of the hour-long ones can in theory be recorded - all we need is notice (to arrange recording!)


Are you considering postgraduate study?

  , ,

📥  Postgraduate Study

According to HEFCE, in 2011-12 there were 501,330 postgraduate students studying in institutions in England and Northern Ireland, a 50% growth in the market. These last few weeks, we have seen an increase in the number of students coming in with personal statements applying for further study. However deciding whether postgraduate study is right for you can be a bit of a minefield.



It is worth stepping back and reflecting on why you want to pursue a postgraduate qualification. Are you doing it for the love of the subject or putting off deciding on a career path? Do you love being in an academic setting or are you scared to enter the jobs market? Do you want to study at home or abroad? What do you want to do after your postgraduate study? The list of questions goes on and on. However it is important to ask yourself these questions and to spend time reflecting and researching the answers.

Some research pointers…

  • Visit the University: much like the research you did when applying for your undergraduate degree, do consider visiting the university you are applying to so you can get a feel for the environment. Talk to the course tutors, administrators and current students. You may in particular want to ask them about the careers their students have gone into.
  • Funding your study: explore the funding options available – are there scholarships or departmental grants that you can apply for? Is part time study an option or do you need to apply for a career development loan? Would an employer cover the costs of the qualification if it is recommended for the role?
  • Do you need to? Don’t assume that a postgraduate qualification will guarantee entry into your chosen career. Do your research carefully and make sure you get the employers perspective.
  • Added value: are there opportunities to gain work experience or go on a placement whilst studying for your postgraduate course? Can you gain professional accreditation?

So, what now?

If postgrad study is something you are seriously considering then I would have a look at the resources on the careers service website. Why not make an appointment to see a careers adviser for a chat too? We can help you navigate this minefield and give an honest assessment based on your personal circumstances.


Should I do a PhD?


📥  For PhDs, Postgraduate Study

This e-book from the website has been developed to help all those who are considering undertaking a PhD. The focus is on using career decision-making approaches to assess and prepare for this rather than on the choice of research topic.

Should I do a PhD? includes interactive sections to help track your progress and further resources for additional information. It covers the following topics:

• self-awareness;
• why you want to undertake a PhD;
• opportunity awareness;
• making an informed decision;
• discovering your career decision-making style;
• pressures and expectations;
• preparing for your PhD.

Download here:

The Careers Service also has resources on it's website such as How to apply for a PhD .


#Getahead Careers Programme

  , , , , ,

📥  Event, Graduate Jobs, Tips & Hints

The Bath Careers Service will be offering a series of 1-hour webinars (you can participate from the comfort of your home) aimed at students embarking on their Final year and students who have recently graduated.  The #getahead programme covers all aspects of career planning, from understanding the graduate job market, improving your applications to considering postgraduate study. You can participate in all the sessions or choose the ones that are most relevant to your circumstances.

Decisions, Decisions…How to begin your graduate job search
13th July 2015
14th September 2015

Are you still unsure about what career to pursue? Can’t decide between further study, applying for grad schemes or taking time out? Are you terrified of getting it all wrong? We understand decisions about your future career can be really hard and stressful. Our interactive webinar will give you an insight into the following:

  • How to make sense of the graduate job market
  • Explore what’s important to you and understand your decision making style
  • Generate potential options and learn how to narrow down choices through research

How to ace aptitude and other psychometric tests
14th July 2015
15th September 2015

If you are thinking of applying for a graduate training scheme chances are you’ll have to complete some sort of psychometric tests as part of the selection process. During our informative webinar we will discuss typical psychometric tests and will signpost you to resources to help you develop your confidence.

Improve your CV and applications
15th July 2015
16th September 2015

In this session we'll look at how to improve your CVs, cover letters and applications forms through interactive activities allowing you to 'sit in the recruiter's shoes'.  Understand what employers are looking for, how they assess your applications and how best to market yourself effectively.

Considering a PhD or a Masters?
16th July 2015
17th September 2015

Whether you’re considering a Masters or a PhD, this informative sessions will give you space to consider your options. We will share tips on writing personal statements and will provide advice on sources of funding.

For more information and to reserve your place, please visit MyFuture.


Decisions, decisions.....

  , , , ,

📥  Advice, Applications, Labour Market Intelligence, Networking

Lately we are seeing quite a few students trying to weigh up whether to look for a job in an area they don't quite meet the requirements for, or to spend a year studying for a masters degree to bolster their qualifications and fill a perceived skills gap. So they come to us saying 'which one should I do?'

Now, we can do many things as Careers Advisers. We can (help) turn the shyest of students into a more confident person, ready to face an interviewer. We can (help you) refine your job seeking strategy. We can even (help you) write the perfect cover letter to the organisation you really want to work for.

But what we cannot do is make decisions for you. Of course we *could*, but we don't. Because then it becomes our career plan, not *your* career plan. And that one-letter-difference is the most important difference there is.

What we can do is help you run through pros and cons of various options: does the job you want to do really require a masters? what 'other experience' will help you get the job even if you don't have an exactly matching degree? which would companies prefer?

You will hear a lot of the Careers Adviser's favourite answer. A prize for anyone who can comment on this article and tell me what that answer is.

Now don't get me wrong. We actually love speaking to students about their career paths and helping them work out which way is the best way for them. The skill of career path navigation is a tricky one to learn, and we love to teach it. It is so satisfying seeing students joining the dots.

If you'd like to learn how to navigate your way through your own careers landscape, then there are a couple of ways you could start.

Have a look at our pages on Choosing a career - full of information and suggested techniques. Read these, and use whichever one makes sense to you.

If you already know the career you want but are not sure of the way to get there, have a look at some job adverts, or register for the Bath Connection and talk to a couple of alumni experts. The 'what is the best way to get in?' question is a perfect starter-for-ten.

Or book one of our Quick Query appointments - sometimes just speaking your thoughts out loud will be enough to make one path stand out.


PhD funding fairs – London and Leeds, December 2014

  , , ,

📥  Postgraduate Study


PostgraduateStudentships is running two PhD funding fairs in December 2014. Please note you need to APPLY to attend and the deadline to apply is 6pm on Tuesday 2 December. There are two fairs taking place:  London – 4 December and Leeds – 10 December.  The fairs bring together more than 25 UK universities with specific PhD funding to offer. Students who have achieved or are expected to achieve either a 1st or a 2:1 in their undergraduate degree or a merit or distinction in their masters degree can apply to attend. The Fair is for you if:

  • You are considering doing a PhD and looking for funding.
  • You want to talk to and network with some of the best UK Universities that are looking for high quality PhD students
  • You'd like to find out more about studying for a PhD, get some advice  and talk to PhD students to understand what it's really like

For more information and to apply, visit the PostgraduateStudentships website.

Please note that PhD funding may be subject to residency requirements or other restrictions.


First Year PhD - too early to plan for your future?

  , ,

📥  Career Choice, Career Development, For PhDs

I was running the Careers Service stand at the University Induction sessions for new research postgraduates. While waiting eagerly for conversations with keen new researchers, my ear caught the following comment from someone walking by: 'Careers? It's a bit early, isn't it?' Ever since, the question 'Is the first year of a PhD too early to be thinking about your career?' has been buzzing round in my head. Typically for someone with an academic background in Arts and Humanities, the conclusion I've reached is yes...and no.

Realistically, PhD researchers come and see us in the Careers Service at all stages of their doctorate, and we will never turn you away or tell you off because 'you should have thought about this earlier'. It's a reasonable point in many ways to suggest that the first few months of a PhD need to be spent settling in to the research and getting to know supervisors and collaborators. However, here are a few reasons why it can be beneficial to engage with your own career development sooner rather than later:

1. Setting a clear line between the present and the future can be a false distinction. In workshops with researchers I've started doing a 'time line' activitiy which aims to help people see how past activities, events and achievements can impact on current behaviour and future descisions. Right from first year, you will be engaging in many activities - the research itself, skills training, outside interests - that will contribute to your career development. All you need to do is consciously articulate - to yourself, friends, supervisors, a careers adviser - what you have learned/developed/achieved and what this means to you. Our Career Planning Timeline suggests career development activities you can be doing right from first year. Many of them are very small steps.

2. For many people, thinking about their career is a process rather than a one-off descision. Starting to consider career options early gives you more space and freedom to have a think, do some research into opportunities, build your networks, and allow some doors to close and your feelings and life circumstances to change. Choosing not to think about 'what next' until the last few weeks of your PhD can lead to panic at a time when you're probably panicking anyway.

3. Thinking about career planning early gives you the opportunity to build experience. A circular argument in some ways - as noted above, you are engaging in career development as you participate in research and other activities. Do make the most of your doctoral experience (and I know the research itself is time-consuming) to engage in a range of activities, such as internships, work shadowing, volunteering, entrepreneurship competitions, consultancy and public engagement, which builds your skills and networks.

4. You're probably thinking about it anyway. Those thoughts of 'What am I going to do after the PhD?' can creep in at unexpected moments. Sometimes (particularly in the middle of an experiment) it's best to push them away, at other times it's best to roll with them and take action. Turn anxiety into proactivity.

5. You're not alone. The Careers Service provides tailored support for research postgraduates, including a wealth of web resources just for you, workshops and 1:1 support.

Next time you see me on a stand, come and have a chat!