Level up: Know your postgraduate options

Are you looking for postgraduate study options in STEM? Australian universities offer a range of pathways after your degree 

After a Bachelor’s degree, a one-year honours program is a way to drill down in your field, learn new skills or improve your employability. And it doesn’t have to be at your current uni. You might decide you need a change of scenery, or to seek out an institution with different strengths or offerings.

A postgraduate qualification could also open doors to further study. “You can go directly into a PhD from honours,” says Professor Susan Rowland, a scientist and Deputy Associate Dean Academic at the University of Queensland. “You don’t have to do a whole big Master’s program, so that saves you a lot of time,” she says.

Certificates, Diplomas and Masters

Though more advanced, graduate certificates and diplomas are all in the same AQF (Australian Qualifications Framework) group as honours (level eight). This is where you’ll find a lot of accredited qualifications required by industry, and a key advantage is that a certificate may only take six months to a year to complete.

“Qualifications […] can be gained over shorter periods of time which can also be used for credit into the masters later,” explains Professor Con Doolan, Associate Dean Academic Programs, at the University of NSW Faculty of Engineering.

A more traditional STEM route is to go direct to masters level after undergraduate study. This option is open both to current students or people already working.

Programs are available for industry-based professionals who wish to acquire new skills, obtain an accredited degree (thus be able to become a Chartered Engineer), specialise or change career direction,” explains Con.

Doctoral Qualifications

Doctoral study is at top of the tree, but don’t assume academia is the only destination from here.

“Increasingly, (PhD graduates) are going elsewhere and getting really interesting jobs,” says Susan Rowland. “Universities are working hard to connect them with industry.”

The APR.Intern program is a great example. This three-month, government-funded program focuses on getting PhD students into STEM careers where a doctorate is a minimum requirement. That’s true for many research or lab management posts in government and public institutions.

PhDs enhance earning potential too, with Mathematical Sciences, Physics and Biological Sciences graduates seeing the most benefit, according to the Government’s Australia’s STEM Workforce report.

Selecting a Subject

You can use a postgraduate qualification to specialise or change your focus and level up your employability. 

“Having an arts/humanities foundation can be advantageous for a number of postgraduate degrees,” says Akeel Feroz, Deputy Manager of Marketing for the Australian National University’s College of Science and College of Health & Medicine. For example, science communication, climate change, and the environment are potential Masters options for those students. 

There are growth areas too, where employers actively seek STEM specialists. “Jobs in climate change, renewable energy, sustainability and waste management (…) are now extremely relevant,” says Akeel.

Overall, the future’s bright for postgraduates in STEM subjects, especially those interested in the environment and IT.

“The Australian Government National Skill Commission has identified 25 emerging occupations, of which 16 required STEM skills,” says Violet Hueston, Education Partnerships Manager in the Faculty of Science at the University of NSW.

“Of particular note are data science and analytics skills, which were required for 14 of those occupations.”

Karl Hodge

Author: Karl Hodge


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