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If you are thinking of progressing into postgraduate study after you complete your first degree, it is only logical to wonder whether it is going to be more difficult than your undergraduate course. From time spent in lectures and seminars to the actual coursework required, there are many aspects to consider in what is altogether a big decision.

In general, postgraduate degrees tend to be more challenging than undergraduate ones. To say that one thing is more difficult than another though is rather relative. The perceived difficulty of a postgraduate course depends on what you want to achieve with a Masters qualification and the practical benefits you can gain from it in your personal and professional development.

What to look out for

The duration and levels of difficulty vary depending on the type of degree (link to the new page on differences between types of PG degree) you may be after - postgraduate certificates or diplomas, for example, are shorter and less demanding than a full-on Masters course. However, all of them expand on the knowledge you have learned during your first years at Uni and build on all the skills you have acquired. In that respect, it is best that you are confident about the type of degree and the course you choose to go for.

It is also more common for postgraduate students to invest more of their time in their studies – from reading on past research to conducting your own, you can expect to be more involved with the academic aspect of student life than the social side of it. Depending on your course, you may also need a greater level of preparation for each seminar or meeting with your tutor. Classes are smaller in student numbers as well, which means that you will engage more with group discussions and in-class coursework.

Things you will enjoy

On the up side, as a postgraduate student you will have the chance to explore new concepts, break new territory and contribute new knowledge to your chosen field, instead of mainly learning about and reviewing existent theories. You will be able to work more independently, on what mostly interests you in your subject area and with a better understanding of the study materials involved. You will also develop professional and lasting relationships with your tutors and supervisors, which in turn could inspire your professional identity and help you put your foot in the door of the industry you aspire to get into.

Working on your dissertation is another aspect of postgraduate study that you can look forward to. Your supervisors will help you choose the topic you'd like to explore, and refine your research and critical thinking skills - two qualities that are very sought-after by employers in the current, highly competitive global marketplace. 

All this, with a smaller need for physical class attendance overall – you can forget those 1-hour long seminars spread across various days in the week. Now, your seminars may last slightly longer but will be condensed in fewer weekdays to allow you more time for your studies as well as your social life.

Why do it?

Choosing to pursue postgraduate study takes initiative and commitment. However, despite its challenges most students find it intellectually thrilling and different to undergraduate study, instead of more difficult. Earning a postgraduate qualification is much more than proof that you have specialist knowledge in your field – it is also evidence of determination, persistence and intellectual ability and will help you recognise and pursue all the personal and professional growth opportunities that may come your way.
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