The Dilemma of Pursuing a Different Postgraduate Degree from Your Undergraduate
Mohammad Al Onaizi shares his personal experiences and reflections about changing his field of study at the postgraduate level.
It is not something out of the ordinary for people to change their career path after earning their undergraduate degree. I am sure that you know or have heard of someone who has known what they wanted to do for a living since they were ten years old. But there are others who even after getting into university and choosing an undergraduate degree, still have doubts about what career path they want to take.
There are many reasons why you would choose to go down a different path for your master’s degree. You may have realised that you didn’t fall in love with what you had chosen as an undergraduate degree. Or maybe you want to broaden your options by studying something entirely different. It may be a last minute decision to take a different postgraduate degree, or it may have been pre-planned. The only thing I can tell you is that it does happen.
How do I know that? Because I am one of those people that is currently enrolled in a postgraduate degree that is different to my undergraduate degree. My reason for changing fields has a mix of all the reasons that I mentioned previously. During my third year of university, I had made the decision that I would continue my studies after I graduated. And I was in love with the major that I had chosen – History and International Studies – so my first and only option at the time was to continue my studies in the same field. But that love eventually faded towards the end of my university days, and I ended up hating the major that I had chosen.
After I graduated, I felt like a sheep, lost in a field that I no longer wanted to be in with seemingly no way out. I realised that my only way out is to pursue a new path that is different from the one I had been on the past four years. My main concerns before embarking on this journey were; is it possible to do that? Would it be difficult? Is it something that is common for people to do?
According to the Higher Education Funding Council for England, approximately 40% of people in the UK choose to go in a different direction for their postgraduate degree. And the more you think about it, the more sense it makes that people would want to change their field. As you usually make a decision on your undergraduate degree in the first two years of university, you are still fresh and not yet open to the different fields that are there for you. Again, I can personally relate to this because during my last year of university, I took a psychology class as my last elective and midway through the course, I realised I made a huge mistake in not looking into this field a lot sooner.
One of the challenges you will face when deciding to change your field for your postgraduate studies is having to do some extra work. The reason for that is that you will probably be joining a postgraduate program where the majority of students have already taken this field as their undergraduate degree. So you don’t want to be lagging behind when it comes to having prior knowledge concerning this field of study. Some universities might require you to take prerequisite courses, just so that you can gain some knowledge about the field you are going into.
So the answer to the questions, is it possible and is it common, are both yes and yes. The question whether it is difficult or not comes down to you. I eventually decided on a masters in Media and Communication, and what I did to help me was go talk to with the professor who was head of the department before starting the course. I met him and introduced myself and told him that I am not familiar with this field as my undergraduate degree is in another area. At first, he questioned my decision to do that, and he believed that you should always stay on the same path that you were on. But, I gave him my reasons for making the switch, and how much I am interested in this field now. After hearing what I had to say, he changed his stance and applauded me for making that decision. So if you are truly passionate about the field you are going into, and are willing to put in the extra work beforehand, then this should not be as difficult a transition as you might think.
If you haven't decided or are looking for a particular program check out all of the postgraduate programs offered by universities in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and the United Arab Emirates on SchoolApply.