How to test the water of an Australian postgraduate degree before you take the plunge.
By Elise Roberts
Looking to study an Australian postgraduate degree? If you’re asking yourself, “what if I start the course and then I find out it’s not for me?”, you’re in the right place. Many potential postgraduates worry about making the wrong decision when they choose what to study.
For some, the fear is so strong that they don’t make any decision at all! But it needn’t be so hard. There are great ways to find out what your postgraduate will be like before you commit. Take a look:
Turn up to a taster class
The most concrete way to find out whether you’ll enjoy what you learn is to go along to a class. It immerses you in the environment, face-to-face with the subject matter and surrounded by people who understand what’s on offer.
Luckily, most universities couldn’t be happier to show you what studying with them will be like. Some have created open opportunities for members of the public to become a student for a day.
For example, the University of Sydney’s Business School offers MBA taster classes each year on subjects like Design Thinking, which provide “an opportunity to see how classes are run and how content is shaped”.
If you have an Australian postgraduate degree in mind, ask the course convener if they have a taster day, or if you can attend one of the lectures, tutorials or lab spaces as a visitor. Universities have open doors.
Enrol in a short course
If you’ve done a taster class and still aren’t sure whether this Australian postgraduate degree is right for you, university short courses offer another level of insight. They range from one day workshops like these at USYD to single subject study, available here at Charles Sturt University (CSU).
La Trobe University provides short courses from anatomy to art therapy – you can view their full range of options here. QUT’s short courses cover a wide range of topics across building and planning, health, engineering, science, mathematics, IT, business, design, education and law.
The University of Technology, Sydney has short courses that are postgraduate-specific.
Many of these courses require no prior knowledge or prerequisites, some are offered online and if you decide at the end that the subject area is not for you, you’ve still added valuable skills to your professional resume.
Search a world of free online courses
Whether it be YouTube EDU, Ted Talks or webinars, you can enjoy a number of fantastic online platforms looking to share knowledge for free. They can never replace a university degree, but they can get you thinking about what it is you really want to know.
Coursera is one of the best-known massive open online courses (MOOCs) that allows anyone, anywhere to take courses taught by some of the world’s top academics. It’s a collaboration between several universities including Stanford and Duke.
Many Australian institutes are getting involved in MOOCs. CSU offer their own free online IT courses to “try before you enrol” in a Masters degree. Other universities are partnering with MOOC provider Open2Study, creating four week courses with topics taught each week through a 5–10 minute video and related quiz. The University of Wollongong, for example, have created courses on Understanding Common Diseases and Contemporary Issues in Ocean Governance.
To try out an topic related to the Australian postgraduate degree you’re interested in, access the full suite of Open2Study courses here.
Start with a certificate
Undertaking a Australian postgraduate degree doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing experience. Rather than committing to a full masters program, many universities allow you to start with a graduate certificate, move to a graduate diploma and then if all goes well, convert it into a masters degree.
It’s a great option if you don’t have a background in the area you’re wanting to study.
At the University of Southern Queensland, you can do “a short 4 course program as a taster or really get involved in a 8-12 course program to specialise in your area of interest/expertise”.
Volunteer for research
Choosing a research area for a masters or PhD can be particularly difficult when there are so many exciting topics to study, and when you know that you’ll be looking at just one of them in-depth for a significant period of time. That’s why volunteering to help existing PhD candidates and researchers before making your choice is highly worthwhile.
Volunteering is often as easy as visiting a lab of interest and asking where they could use a hand, as researchers are always in need of assistance. But universities often have online hubs for available volunteer work, such as the University of Queensland‘s ‘Job and Volunteer Postings‘ page.
By getting involved in volunteer research, you could find yourself in some wonderful field locations like marine parks and conservation areas while you figure out where to take the next step on the path to your ideal career.
Author: Elise Roberts
Elise is a science, tech and business enthusiast, motivated to connect people with research that will propel their success. With over ten years’ experience working at the intersection of technology and communications across a wide range of industries, Elise enjoys jumping on the latest trends in digital media to share new knowledge with the Australian community.