Ways to overcome five real-life barriers to postgraduate education.
We get it. Postgraduate education is on your radar, yet it keeps slipping out of sight as life gets in the way.
Barriers to starting postgraduate education are real. So, we’d like to help with real-life ideas, suggestions and strategies for lowering those barriers (or perhaps getting rid of them completely).
It’s all in the name of you getting the career, pay and networking benefits that postgraduate education can bring (if you need any convincing, read our article about the benefits of postgraduate education).
1. Time barriers, including work-life balance
Ah, for the relatively carefree days of undergraduate study. Sure, you had to work hard; it’s not like life was all smooth sailing. But you probably didn’t have the responsibilities and commitments you have now.
These days, you’re probably very aware that postgraduate study will add yet another commitment to an already busy life. You’ve likely got a demanding job (which takes time and focus), serious relationships (that need to be nurtured) and possibly children or other caring responsibilities (we don’t need to tell you how much work this brings!).
If you think you’re too busy to start postgraduate study, we encourage you to think again:
- Postgraduate courses are available part-time or full-time and you can increase or decrease your load across the life of your study.
- Online study gives you the flexibility to fit education into your life, whether that’s making good use of your commute time, learning during your work lunch-break or once the kids are in bed.
- Flexible intakes mean the end of waiting until one magical day in the year to start studying. For example, the Master of Business Administration (MBA) at the University of Southern Queensland (UniSQ) offers six intakes each year.
- Having your work experience and previous study recognised can reduce the number of courses you need to do, saving you both time and (our next topic) money. Find out more about prior learning recognition on our website.
- A cold-hard look at the ebb-and-flow of your usual week (and weekends), as well as zooming out to look at your time on a semester-by-semester basis is a valuable planning exercise.
- Remember the saying: If you want something done well, ask a busy person! Adding a new challenge may well sharpen your efficiency and laser-point your focus, enabling you to achieve more than you thought possible.
2. Financial barriers
Postgraduate study comes with a financial cost, something that can stop some people from even considering postgraduate qualifications.
This is a shame as there are options for minimising the impact of these costs on your immediate hip-pocket and a longer-term financial view to consider too:
- Some postgraduate coursework programs are eligible for Commonwealth Supported Places (CSPs). For others, a FEE-HELP loan means you can study without paying any upfront fees and only repay the loan when your income is above the threshold, meaning you’re protected from repayments when your income is lower.
- If you’re keen on a research degree, check out the Research Training Program (RTP) Fees Offset scholarship, which covers tuition fees for four years of full-time study for a research doctorate or two years for a research-based Masters.
- Scholarships offered by us (that’s UniSQ), the government and other organisations. Some offer a one-off amount and others provide regular payments as you study. With way too many options to list here, check out our scholarships page (you can filter by postgraduate study and your chosen field). Our top tip? Don’t limit yourself! Apply for all scholarships you are eligible for.
- If your chosen postgraduate study relates to your current career and you are working and paying tax while studying, you can speak with your accountant about whether your tuition fees and any study materials you need are eligible tax deductions.
The other important aspect to consider when costing postgraduate study is the positive impact your new qualification might have on your pay packet. The Good Universities Guide 2023 shows the following median earnings of postgraduates versus undergraduates, so consider the longer terms using the idea of ‘return on investment’. You might see a financial net-gain from undertaking postgraduate study sooner than you think.
The postgraduate difference
Business & Management
3. Academic barriers
Many people assume postgraduate study can only happen when it flows directly from undergraduate qualifications. However, at UniSQ, as we also value work experience, we offer different pathways to postgraduate courses.
Let’s take a Master of Business as an example. Direct entry requires a business-related bachelor’s degree. However, you can also enrol in the single-year Graduate Certificate of Business courtesy of a minimum of three years of professional work experience.
Options and pathways vary depending on the field of study and details of your work experience, so we highly recommend you chat with one of our degree advisors to discuss your personal situation. Just call 1800 269 500 or jump online.
4. Personal barriers
If you’re concerned about how your health, disability, language or other personal matters might affect your ability to undertake postgraduate study, you’re far from alone.
At UniSQ, we’re committed to providing an equitable environment and want to support everyone to benefit from postgraduate study. Here are some aspects of study at UniSQ that might help you reach your goals:
- Disability support services are available for those who have a physical, psychiatric, sensory, learning or intellectual impairment or a long-term medical condition that impacts daily living activities. An individualised Learning Support Plan might include exam adjustments, assignment extensions, assistance with study skills or assistive technology and equipment.
- We’ve supported online postgraduate study not just since 2020 but for decades! In fact, over three-quarters of students don’t attend campuses and the pandemic years have demonstrated the flexibility and accessibility of online learning compared with having to attend in person
- iconnect is our point of contact for student enquiries and support, with contact available by chat, email, phone or face-to-face. Think of iconnect as your concierge service, there to help you navigate your student journey.
- Our UniSQ libraries exist to help students learn! They provide specialised support for postgraduate students and events to ensure you have important study building blocks ranging from academic referencing to exam skills.
- Peer mentoring and support networks provide opportunities for students with specific interests and needs to feel less alone. For example, UniSQ offers Murri Meet-Up for Indigenous students, A-Skills for connecting Autistic students, an LGBTIQ Ally Network and support for culturally and linguistically diverse students.
- Counselling is available both for study-specific concerns (like managing the stress of exams, study-life balance and staying motivated) as well as life-concerns (like relationship issues or managing psychological conditions). Self-help resources specific for students are also provided.
5. Decision barriers
We get that it’s hard to make big decisions! Hopefully, this discussion about other barriers has helped reduce some of your indecision, but if you’re still uncertain, here are a few more thoughts:
- What’s your postgraduate end game? Focusing on this can help melt away some other potential barriers.
- Might deciding to enrol in postgraduate education empower you to make other life decisions that will ease your pathway towards the benefits that a postgrad qualification will bring
- You never know what the future will bring. Sure, studying now might entail some sacrifices, but life may get more, rather than less, hectic in the future. You may look back on these years as ideal times for postgraduate study.
- Engage your curiosity. Start to picture yourself as a postgraduate student with all the inspiration and confidence for your future this will bring.
It’s time for a ‘choose your own adventure’ as your next step in exploring your postgraduate study options:
a. Need more info about the benefits of postgraduate study? Read our overview of the benefits to your career (whether existing or new), finances, expertise and real-life networks that come from postgraduate study.
b. Keen to hear what postgraduate study is really like? Read our real-life insights into the look and feel of postgraduate study at UniSQ.
c. Need some career planning advice? Book a one-on-one session with a qualified UniSQ Career Practitioner via your choice of in-person, phone, video, live chat or email.
d. Ready to roll? Jump onto our postgraduate study website, where you can search for specific courses, find out about fees and scholarships, ask a question, or get right to the heart of the matter by applying now!