Taking on a postgraduate course is a big commitment, for both your time and your bank balance. But being smart with your money can make life much easier.
How much will it cost?
Not all postgrad courses cost the same, but the average is between £16,000 and £23,000 a year. How much it costs depends on:
• which course you choose
• where you study
• whether your course is full time or part time
• how much you spend on rent, bills, and entertainment
Postgraduate certificates and diplomas tend to be the cheapest, while master’s degrees and PhDs are the most expensive. Think about your reasons for studying and try to pick a route that won't leave you out of pocket.
Decide how you're going to study
If you dream about a care free student life, where you go out every night and wake up at midday, then think again. Be prepared to work hard and save.
You can normally choose between studying full-time, part-time or distance learning. A full-time course could be cheaper, but limits how much free time you have.
A part-time course lets you mix your home life with your studies, and you can continue earning by working while you study. However, you'll miss out on uni life and may end up paying more because your course will last longer.
Pick your course wisely
Postgrad courses can cost anything from £4,999 to £30,000 a year, so make sure you know what you're signing up for. Check tuition fees before you apply for courses and make sure they're within your budget.
Check to see if your old uni offers discounts for former students wanting to come back to study. Also, look for universities near home, as this could cut down on your living costs.
Avoid choosing a uni-based on its reputation without researching it properly first. Lots of leader boards are only based on undergrad studies, and may not offer what you want from a postgrad course.
What help can you get?
There’s a new government backed postgraduate loan that offers up to £10,000 to help students cover their tuition fees and living costs. They’re available to most students starting their course after August 2016.
This new loan gets paid straight into your bank account and you can use it for anything, not just your tuition fees. This gives you more flexibility, but make sure you spend it wisely. Most universities ask you to pay fees up front, so having the cash in your account could save you from having to put it on a credit card.
Part-time and distance learners can get the loan, but only if your course is less than four years, and you'll only get paid for the first two.
Some universities also offer scholarships, so check if you're eligible when you apply. Charities and trusts also offer grants and funding, so research what you can get and apply if you're eligible.
Set a budget
You'll need to start saving as soon as you've decided you want to do a postgrad course, especially if you're going to study full-time. You might get the government loan, but it's unlikely to cover everything you need.
If you're studying full-time, use this ultimate student budget planner to work out your budget for the year. Once you get your timetable, see if you'll have time to get a part-time job. Having a regular income will come in handy when funds start to run low.
If you study part-time, you may be able to continue your career although you might need to cut your hours. Start saving before you begin your course, so you have some money to fall back on if you can't work full-time.
Make sure you've got your money sorted
Full-time students can often get the same student current accounts as undergrads. They come with a range of benefits, like fee free overdrafts and other perks.
If you’re a part-time student, you’ll probably have to make do with a normal current account. Compare accounts and try to find one with an interest free overdraft, if you think staying out of the red will be an issue.
Avoid relying on credit cards if possible, but shop around to find one that's right for you if you need one as a safety net. If you don’t think you’ll be able to pay at least the minimum monthly repayments, don’t get one.
Things to check:
• Interest rates
• Added extras
• Credit limits
• Top money saving tips for postgrads
Spend wisely – books can be expensive, so buy second hand where you can. Get a student rail card or coach card, to save on the cost of travelling. And cook at home rather than going out for food.
Save on your food shop – shop in the evenings or early hours of the morning, and get food that's been reduced for a quick sale. Bulk buying with your housemates can also be cheaper than buying for one, and you'll probably waste less food.
Shop around for utilities – don't just go with the provider that your landlord is using when you move in. Compare broadband and energy deals, to make sure you save money.
Check for student savings – you can get discounts on everything from your council tax to your weekly shop. Get an NUS card and you can save money on eating out, TV subscriptions, gym memberships and in loads of high street stores.