What is it?
There are two main types of postgraduate programmes:
Attendance is required for a set programme of modules, assessment usually takes a similar format to that in undergraduate courses. The advantage of this type of qualification is that students are exposed to a specialised area of a discipline and have the benefit of being directed in their study by the course structure.
A research topic is developed with (or for) the student and supervised by a faculty member. The qualification will be awarded according to the quality of the research project. There may be an option to extend the research project into a PhD- you will need to discuss this with the department concerned.
Postgraduate programmes may be offered by public or private universities in a number of different ways:
For taught programmes, attendance is required in lectures and class/tutorials usually a few days a week. The material is delivered in a similar fashion to a full time undergraduate degree, e.g., the academic year is divided into semesters, with a series of modules being taught per semester. Students attend lectures, tutorials or classes as directed by the course timetable. The intensity of the study required is higher than at undergraduate level. In research programmes students are expected to conduct their own study intensively, on a full time basis. They have contact with their research supervisor, and may attend one or two taught modules on ‘research methods’.
These programmes are the equivalent of full time courses, except they take longer to complete. This can be very advantageous to a student who has commitments outside of the course e.g., employment or family commitments. Part time taught programmes demand fewer hours of attendance, or fewer modules are taught per semester. Research programmes expect students to dedicate less amounts of time to their programme per semester than full time students. They typically take 36-48 months to complete.
Also known as Online courses, these programmes do not require attendance. Students interact with the course material, classes, seminars or research via the internet. It means that students manage their own study and are able to access library facilities and class material remotely. The advantage of a distance learning programme is that a student can study for and gain a qualification at a university in a distant location. It has the advantage of eliminating travel and attendance. In some instances, a distance learning course may require one week of attendance per year. These carry the same qualification status as full time or part time courses.
Examples of taught programmes (usually 1 – 2 years depending on programme):
- Pg.Cert Postgraduate Certificate
- H.Dip Higher Diploma
- Pg.Dip Postgraduate Diploma
- M.A. Master of Arts
- M.Sc Master of Science
- MBA Master of Business Administration
- Examples of research programmes: Your choice of subject / topic will determine the type of qualification conferred to you.
- M.Sc Master of Science, by Research
- M.Res Master of Research
- M.Litt Master of Literature
- M.Phil Master of Philosophy
- PhD Doctoral Degree / Higher Doctoral Degree
See the National Framework of Qualifications for further information.
Extending a programme into a higher qualification:
It may be possible to extend a PgDip programme into a Masters programme, or a research masters into a PhD. This does not happen automatically and will depend on the course, the subject of study, the academic department's resources and preference. Consult the relevant course director for details.
What type of programme?
Choosing a type of programme is very important. It will depend on your reasons for wanting to undertake further study, but also on the way the course is structured. In a research programme, make sure that you fully understand how the course will progress, and how much contact or support you will have from your supervisor etc.
In a taught programme make sure that you fully understand what content is taught in the programme, how the content is delivered, and the method of assessment used in the course.
If you choose wisely, you will enroll on a course suited to your own learning style where you can perform to your best.
Are you thinking of postgraduate study?
If so it is important to look at your reasons for undertaking a postgraduate source. A specific course my be necessary to process in your particular career area, or you may wish to deepen your knowledge of a particular subject area, you might like to change direction and so undertake a conversion course or you might want to avoid facing the world of work for another year! The work you completed in the previous Discover your Career Steps - “Step 1: You”, “Step 2: Opportunities” and “Step 3: Decisions” should have helped you determine your interests, ability and helped plot a career path suitable for you.
For the purposes of gaining entry to a postgraduate programme for which you are suitably qualified, you need to show the course provider evidence that you have sufficient interest to complete the course. Remember, a postgraduate course will likely dominate your lifestyle for a year, or at least demand a lot of your time and effort. The level of work required can be intense and demanding, so you will need to have strong interest in the course to keep you focused. A healthy interest in an area will motivate you to study, which will hopefully lead to successful completion and a good grade! Consider the following:
Good reasons to undertake postgraduate study:
- I have an interest in the subject and I wish to continue exploring / learning / researching.
- I have identified a career area that I wish to enter, and I need further qualifications to gain entry.
- I want to broaden/develop a specific skill set.
Reasons not to undertake postgraduate study:
- I haven't fully researched the content of the course.
- I don't know how I will be more employable at the end of the course.
- I was told that I should do this course by someone else.
- A lot of the course material doesn't appeal to me.
- The course structure doesn't appeal to me.
- I can't realistically afford to pay the fees and maintain myself for the duration of the course.
- I don't know what else to do.
Possible benefits of completing postgraduate study:
- Higher qualification achieved, may give you the edge
- Time to study something you enjoy
- New skills can be developed, existing ones enhanced
- Specialist knowledge in discipline
- Can open new career windows
- Starting salaries may be higher with a few employers
Possible challenges in completing postgraduate study:
- It can be expensive
- Funding may be more difficult to secure than for undergraduate study
- Most employers don’t pay extra for postgraduate degree holders over undergrads
- Employers don’t value a postgraduate qualification if it's done for the wrong reasons.
What is a...Masters?
An NFQ level 9 taught or research programme, usually lasting 1-2 years requiring a good grade in a relevant previous qualification. Conversion courses may aid entry to a masters of a different discipline.
What is a...Conversion course?
Conversion courses' allow graduates of one discipline to qualify in a different discipline. These usually take the form of a PgDip and offer students an opportunity to enter a new area of expertise. For example, an arts student could undertake a conversion course in psychology and then progress to a Masters in Psychology. To identify a conversion course, look for H.Dips or PgDips which admit students from any discipline. It is vital that you check to make sure that this qualification will be considered acceptable for you to gain entry to a relevant higher qualification in the area.
What is a...PhD?
A NFQ level 10 qualification via submission of a thesis as ‘an original contribution to knowledge’. Usually takes 4 years to complete, often with funding available for 3 of these years. It is possible to enter a PhD programme following your undergraduate degree, e.g., the sciences, but more commonly after a Masters degree.
Finding postgraduate courses
You can search for postgraduate programmes easily using dedicated search engines. The following websites allow you to search for programmes that suit you. Be sure to vary your search by using different search terms. You can usually search by name, content, qualification type, location, or duration. Alternatively, you could take time to browse the graduate prospectus of individual universities around the country. links to web-search facilities that enable you to quickly find graduate courses of interest to you. From there you can view course details, and contact the programme office to gather more information.
To find Postgraduate Masters, Diplomas, Certificates and PhD Research Programmes at Maynooth University, visit:
or contact the Graduate Studies Office, 3rd Floor John Hume Building, telephone: 01 708 6785.
You can arrange to meet with a member of the Graduate Studies Team to discuss the postgraduate options available.
- www.postgradireland.com Search for graduate courses in Ireland
- www.qualifax.ie List of all advertised courses in the country, at all levels.
- www.pac.ie - Postgraduate Applications Centre, used for on-line applications to several institutions including Maynooth University.
- www.findamasters.com Search for graduate courses, select Ireland or other European countries
- www.postgrad.ie Course search, funding, course & college information, careers, discussions
Each postgraduate programme sets its own entry criteria. Do not assume that they are all similar! This is potentially very good news for an applicant e.g. if you find a course that has very high entry criteria, perhaps you can find another similar one with lower entry criteria.
Note: Not all university course websites or handouts include the entry criteria in their publications. It is often expected that interested applicants make contact with the programme office and request full details on the course and its entry criteria.
Also, be aware that in some cases where an applicant does not meet the desired entry criteria yet feels that they are suitable candidates, it can be a good idea to contact the programme office and explain qualifications, experience, interests and how these are relevant to the course in question.
Entry criteria are usually not an indication of the difficulty or 'worth' of a course, and instead are more likely based upon necessary previous qualifications and demand for places on the course.
Programme closing dates
Postgraduate programmes do not use a universal application date for all courses, instead, every postgraduate programme sets their own closing dates. For example, if a programme is due to start in September the closing date for applications could fall anywhere from late November to late August! Closing dates tend to change from year to year, so it can happen that they are not listed on course material. It is up to the applicant to contact the programme office to find out the closing date.
Making an Application
Your application is your opportunity to gain a place on a postgraduate programme. It is your opportunity to show the course co-ordinators that you are an ideal candidate for the course. If you are serious about gaining a place you will need to give your application serious consideration and attention. The whole application process can take time. The steps below are a guideline of the process involved and the work needed.
Step 1 - Research
Start by thoroughly researching any course in which you are interested. In order to complete a good application you will need to demonstrate a full understanding of the layout of the course and which content you will be covering.
Read the prospectus and webpage for the course. Spend time on the academic department's website – what other courses are there in the department, what research is being done etc Visit / phone / email the department office and ask for full information on the course content. e.g., copies of the module descriptors. You may also wish to speak to the course coordinator / director – ask them to clarify what experience they would like to see on an application, what skills they like their applicants to have, what graduates of this course do after they finish the course.
Step 2 – The Form
Applications are usually submitted via an application form – usually online. Some direct links to the application form are usually available on the course webpage. If you can't find the application form, contact the programme coordinator for help.
Some courses use their own unique application form while others use the Postgraduate Application Centre website to process their application. This is designed to make your application straight forward, but be sure to follow directions very carefully. Incomplete applications are not processed.
Address any questions about the form to the programme office of the course to which you are applying.
As part of the application procedure you will be required to submit additional "supporting documentation". The documentation required can vary so make sure you read the instructions carefully and include all requested information - this could include a copy of your results transcripts (available from the Maynooth University Records Office), a personal statement, references, CV and birth certificate/passport/drivers’ licence.
Applications to research programmes usually take a different format. Applicants for research programmes are advised to contact the supervisor directly and discuss the application. Call into the Career Development Centre for any clarification needed. The remaining section of the application will involve a similar process to that of a taught programme.
What information is usually requested on an application form?
Demographic details: name, address, contacts etc
Previous education: details of qualifications you have completed. List everything relevant, from undergraduate degrees to fire safety certificates. Evidence of previous qualifications is usually needed, e.g., copy transcripts
List your work history: you may wish to list everything, or limit the list to what you determine to be relevant.
Hobbies / Interests: what do you do in your free time that can indicate you have other skills?
Referees: Provide contact details of people who can provide a reference for you. For postgraduate courses at least one academic referee should be listed – contact your department and ask one of your lecturers if you can name them on your application form as a referee. Make sure you ask you referees permission before listing them on your application form.
Personal statement: approx 600 words detailing why you are an idea candidate for a place on this course.
Appropriate application fee – this varies among institutions
Four sections to include in a good personal statement - See
for more information.
- State the course in which you are interested
- Give details of why you are interested in that course / department / university - Show that you fully understand what the course demands & you know what you will be studying Show that you have properly researched the course and that you understand what's involved in it.
- Explain what you will bring to the course e.g. -
- Ability: Show that you have the ability to complete this course, refer to your academic ability transcripts, tell them that you have excellent references, that your attendance is excellent etc. Remember, they want to see that you have the ability to successfully complete this course.
- Skills – show that you will fit in well on the course – good communication, interpersonal, team-working skills. That area eager to work together and learn from others.
- Interest / Motivation: Show that you have good reasons, strong interest, enough motivation to complete this course. Where did you interest in this area come from? If you have previous employment or studies that are relevant highlight these. Explain your future plans after the course – you don’t need to have a very specific plan but a sense of how this course will benefit your future career Do you have other motivations for doing this course?
- Conclusion - That you are willing to meet any challenges this course presents as you are committed to the course and what it will give to you.
Funding is a significant issue for most people considering postgraduate study. There a number of sources of funding -
University funding - although not widely available for taught programmes most universities do provide some bursaries or scholarships for programmes at their institution. The funding is usually advertised on the individual universities' website, or within the academic department running the programme. It is usually competitive and will depend factors such as your previous grades, interest, motivation, previous research etc. It is always advisable for any available sources of funding..even if you think you won't get it...maybe lots of others are thinking the same thing and someone has to get it! Details of funding available for courses at Maynooth University is listed below -
You may also be eligible for a Student Grant (SUSI) Contact SUSI to investigate required criteria and for further information
Often there are increased funding opportunities for research programmes, particularly PhDs. The Irish Research Council (IRC) offers scholarships for PhD and Research Masters Students for study in Ireland.
Employers sometimes fund students to gain qualification at postgraduate level. Consider approaching an employer (current or potential) and speak with them about the value you could bring to their organisation if they fund a masters for you!
Fulbright Funding Awards to Research, Study or Lecture in the USA:
The Fulbright Commission of Ireland annually awards grants to Irish and E.U. postgraduate students, scholars, and professionals to study, research, and lecture in the United States and for Americans to do the same in Ireland.
The Fulbright Commission also provides non-Fulbright grants for Irish citizens to travel to the U.S.
Summer Institutes for European Student Leaders for undergraduate students -
Other Sources of funding
- Maynooth University Funding - http://www.maynoothuniversity.ie/study-maynooth/postgraduate-studies/fees-funding-scholarships
- General information about funding - http://gradireland.com/further-study/advice-and-funding/funding
- Student Finance from the HEA - www.studentfinance.ie This website is an initiative of the Higher Education Authority (HEA) and is user-friendly source of information on financial assistance schemes available in Ireland for further and higher education.
- Irish Research Council - http://www.research.ie Funding opportunities for irish-based researchers.
- Science Foundation Ireland - http://www.sfi.ie/ SFI provides grants for research. SFI selects recipients on merit in the fields of Biotechnology and Information and Communications Technology. In addition the Research Frontiers Programme supports research in a broad range of disciplines in Science, Mathematics, Biotechnology, and Engineering.
- The Arts Council - www.artscouncil.ie The Arts Council is the national agency for developing and promoting the arts in Ireland.
- The Royal Irish Academy - http://www.ria.ie/ The Royal Irish Academy awards a small number of research grants annually in both the Humanities and the Natural Sciences.
- The Ireland Funds - http://www.irlfunds.org/ The Ireland Funds support programmes of peace and reconciliation, arts and culture, education and community development.
- O'Reilly Foundation Scholarships - http://www.oreillyfoundation.ie/ PhD Scholarships, with preference being given to Business Studies, Law, Marketing, Media Studies, Technology and the Arts.
- The Health Research Board - http://www.hrb.ie/ The Health Research Board provides funding for all areas of health research from biomedical, translational, clinical and practice-based research, through to population health and health services research.
- Environmental Protection Agency - http://www.epa.ie/ Environmental Protection Agency invites applications for research grants in Biodiversity, Water, Forests & Water, Soils, Climate Change, Infrastructure, Developing Environmental Research Potential, ERC Fellowships, SKEP – Sustainable Consumption and Production.
- The National Disability Authority - http://www.nda.ie/ The National Disability Authority Postgraduate Research Scholarships aim to promote postgraduate research in Ireland on matters relating to disability especially those that are consistent with the mission and strategic priorities of the Authority.
- Teagasc - http://www.teagasc.ie/ Teagasc (Irish Agriculture and Food Development Agency Walsh Fellowships. For topics on all aspects of agriculture, horticulture, food agri-food economics , rural development and rural environment, as well as specific topics identified for priority funding each year.
- Higher Education Authority - http://www.hea.ie/ Graduate Skills Conversion Programme. The aim of the Programme is to provide graduates with the opportunity to acquire qualifications for employment in the ICT area. A composite fee applies to all courses under the programme. . To find the latest list of courses that are eligible for funding, go to the HEA website.
- Revenue - http://www.revenue.ie/ Tax relief is available for postgraduate fees of at least one year in duration, but not more that four years. Go to the revenue’s website for full details.
- This section contains links to resources that give information and/or offer options to search for sources of funding outside Ireland.
- Prospects (UK) - http://www.prospects.ac.uk/funding_my_further_study.htm An excellent start for looking for funding in the UK
- British Council (UK) - http://www.britishcouncil.ie/
- Education USA - http://www.educationusa.info/for_international_students.php Information on studying in the USA
- Fulbright Commission (USA) - www.fulbright.ie Fulbright Awards for study in the United States
- Scholarships and Funding Information www.findamasters.com/funding/
- IIE - www.iie.org IIE is among the world's largest and most experienced international education and training organizations, committed to delivering program excellence to a diverse range of participants, sponsors, and donors. Browse the links on this site
- www.studyabroadfunding.org Search by country or subject to find the study abroad funding information.
- International Educational Financial Aid - http://www.iefa.org/ This site offers a free searchable database of scholarships and awards for international students around the world.
- Arcadia - www.arcadia.edu/abroad/ Offering over 100 courses in 13 different countries, this page is intended to help students in specific programs for whom a small amount of financial aid can mean the difference between participation and staying home.
There can be many advantages to studying abroad
- a new environment,
- an interesting course you can't find in Ireland,
- a new culture,
- new languages,
- a chance to develop new skills for your CV,
- a chance to show future employers that you can adapt to new environments,
- an opportunity to travel
With all applications preparation and research are key and this is doubly true when considering studying abroad. Be sure to investigate any course fully by reading the website information and contacting the programme office for full details.
- Find out if you need any visas or permission to study in that country.
- Organise this through the relevant embassy or discussion with the Admissions Office in the institutions to which you are applying. Be aware that you may have to do this up to a year in advance of your application.
- Fully investigate the costs involved e.g. Tuition fees, any other university fees, cost of accommodation and living, will your visa allow you to work part time?
- Research the reputation of the university and recognition awarded to the postgraduate course to which you are applying. Will it be recognised by employers in Ireland?
- Is the course delivered in another language? If so, are you required to pass a language proficiency exam?
- Search online by using search terms like “study in countryX” and checking visa regulations via the relevant embassy.
Find courses abroad