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Gain­ing ad­vanced qual­i­fi­ca­tions will boost your ca­reer, but choose your course re­al­is­ti­cally, writes Ronda Naidu

CityPress - - Business -

ost­grad­u­ate ed­u­ca­tion, which re­lates to study un­der­taken af­ter com­plet­ing a first de­gree or diploma, is con­sid­ered al­most a ne­ces­sity in to­day’s work­place.

With volatile mar­kets and tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ments lead­ing to rapidly chang­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions, mid- and se­nior-ca­reer pro­fes­sion­als are in­creas­ingly turn­ing to post­grad­u­ate stud­ies to ad­vance their ca­reers and con­trib­ute proac­tively to their or­gan­i­sa­tions.

From a macro per­spec­tive, post­grad­u­ate stu­dents are in­te­gral to mod­ern in­dus­tri­alised so­ci­eties.

The first step when em­bark­ing on this road in the higher ed­u­ca­tion jour­ney is to choose your type of post­grad­u­ate study re­al­is­ti­cally.

This is of­ten the most chal­leng­ing part of the process, as nu­mer­ous fac­tors need to be taken into ac­count. Let’s ex­am­ine some of the more im­por­tant ones.

Cost

There is lit­tle doubt that any money spent on a post­grad­u­ate ed­u­ca­tion should be a good in­vest­ment for both you and your ca­reer. How­ever, it is im­por­tant to do your home­work up­front. Will your em­ployer be car­ry­ing the costs of study? What are the pay­back terms if this is the case?

If you plan to fund your own stud­ies, it may be worth­while to draw up a bud­get, and make sure that all your fam­ily and per­sonal ex­penses are taken into ac­count.

You cer­tainly do not want to get half­way through your post­grad­u­ate stud­ies and re­alise you can no longer af­ford to con­tinue.

Post­grad­u­ate study fees are gen­er­ally de­pen­dent on the field of study and the in­sti­tu­tion, so they can range from a few thou­sand rands to more than R100 000 a year.

Time

There are few in­di­vid­u­als who can af­ford to em­bark on post­grad­u­ate stud­ies full time. The ma­jor­ity have a per­ma­nent job, fam­i­lies to take care of, and ex­tended com­mu­nity and so­cial com­mit­ments.

It is crit­i­cal to fully un­der­stand the time re­quire­ments of post­grad­u­ate study. Do some re­search be­fore en­rolling and find out about clas­sat­ten­dance re­quire­ments, as­sign­ments and pro­ject dead­lines, as well as the af­ter-hours and week­end avail­abil­ity of re­source cen­tres, among other things.

It is also worth­while to find out which study leave op­tions you may be en­ti­tled to from your em­ployer if you have a per­ma­nent job.

Many es­tab­lished ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions have ded­i­cated in­di­vid­u­als to as­sist post­grad­u­ate stu­dents with queries, ac­com­mo­da­tion book­ings or ad­vice if classes take place out of town.

Once you have reg­is­tered for post­grad­u­ate study, de­velop a timetable. Use it as a tool to plan how you will spend your time. In­clude pro­fes­sional, per­sonal and study com­mit­ments.

Du­ra­tion

Ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly strict about stu­dents who do not com­plete their stud­ies in the al­lo­cated pe­riod. Make sure that you un­der­stand the full du­ra­tion of the post­grad­u­ate course you have in mind.

For ex­am­ple, re­search-based post­grad­u­ate cour­ses gen­er­ally take longer than a year. On av­er­age, master’s stud­ies take be­tween one and two years, full time, while a doc­tor­ate (also known as a PhD) takes a min­i­mum of three years.

Some in­sti­tu­tions do of­fer ad­di­tional time and op­por­tu­ni­ties to redo cour­ses. How­ever, this is likely to ad­here to strict cri­te­ria and could be ac­com­pa­nied by ad­di­tional costs. It is im­per­a­tive to un­der­stand these re­quire­ments be­fore com­mit­ting to a post­grad­u­ate course.

In­sti­tu­tions

It is worth­while to do your re­search on the var­i­ous cour­ses and the in­sti­tu­tions that of­fer them.

Chat with col­leagues who have com­pleted their post­grad­u­ate stud­ies, visit the web­sites of ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions to find out about their alumni, lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional stand­ing, the re­search be­ing pro­duced by stu­dents at the in­sti­tu­tion and its over­all lev­els of aca­demic ex­per­tise.

For ex­am­ple, at North-West Univer­sity’s Potchef­stroom cam­pus, 54% of the per­ma­nent aca­demic staff hold doc­toral de­grees as their high­est qual­i­fi­ca­tion, while some post­grad­u­ate pro­grammes are of­fered through co­op­er­a­tion agree­ments with in­sti­tu­tions in the UK and Por­tu­gal.

Al­ways choose a recog­nised in­sti­tu­tion, prefer­ably one with a good rep­u­ta­tion, so that your post­grad­u­ate qual­i­fi­ca­tion be­comes a valu­able tool to mar­ket your­self and ad­vance your ca­reer.

The in­sti­tu­tion you choose should be ac­cred­ited by both the SA Coun­cil of Higher Ed­u­ca­tion and in­ter­na­tional bod­ies.

Cour­ses

If you are in full-time em­ploy­ment, it may be worth­while to have a dis­cus­sion with your man­ager and the hu­man re­sources depart­ment about what you are plan­ning to study.

Find out about the com­pany’s fu­ture re­quire­ments and ca­reer-pro­gres­sion op­por­tu­ni­ties, as this could as­sist in your post­grad­u­ate study choice.

It’s also a good idea to un­der­stand your mo­ti­va­tion for em­bark­ing on post­grad­u­ate study. Are you look­ing for a ca­reer change or to im­prove your knowl­edge in a par­tic­u­lar field?

Be pre­pared

The re­al­ity is that post­grad­u­ate pro­grammes are de­mand­ing and fast-paced. In ad­di­tion to study­ing, you will still have to per­form well at work and make time for your fam­ily.

Fur­ther­more, keep­ing to such a com­mit­ment re­quires a high level of self-dis­ci­pline and self-mo­ti­va­tion.

Do your re­search, chat with peo­ple who have suc­cess­fully em­barked on post­grad­u­ate study and make full use of the re­sources at your place of learn­ing.

Do that and more, and you should have a ful­fill­ing and re­ward­ing post­grad­u­ate ex­pe­ri­ence.

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