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Postgraduate geography

Geography fieldworkThink you want to carry on studying geography after your degree? Find out your options.

Career or academia?

Postgraduate study is usually a chance to either gain specific skills and knowledge for your career or to get into academia. While there is overlap between the two, the paths you take are likely to be different.

Going into academia is all about research, and will ultimately require a PhD. You can apply for a PhD straight away if you have a good undergraduate degree; however, many people choose to study a master’s degree first. This can improve your chances of getting a PhD place and give you some useful experience.

There are two main types of geography master’s degree. Taught courses are similar to undergraduate degrees, but are much more specialized. Examples include Arid Land Studies and Landscape and Culture. Research-based courses are more like a PhD, requiring independent research and a thesis. For this reason, you might find that a research-based master’s provides more useful experience for a PhD, although a taught course in the area you’re thinking of specializing in is also useful. Some universities also offer taught master’s courses concentrating on research skills, designed specifically to prepare you for a PhD.

Taught courses can be particularly useful for developing your geographic knowledge for a particular career. For example, many universities offer master’s courses in Geographic Information Science/Systems (GIS), which are in demand among many different kinds of employer.

Whatever your goals, it’s important to look over the details of the course carefully to make sure that you’ll be getting what you want out of it.

Funding for postgraduate geography

The Royal Geographic Society offers a variety of grants for postgraduate geography, which are designed to help with the cost of fieldwork rather than with course fees. Although these are the main grants given specifically for geography, remember that the varied nature of geography means that you might be able to get funding from other organisations, such as science research councils. As with all postgraduate degrees, you may also be able to get funding from the university you will be studying at, or from an employer.

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