How to choose the right postgraduate course

Graduates at recent NUI Galway conferring.

Competitiveness and high demand levels in the market reinforce the importance of exploring what distinguishes you from other graduates. In this sense, one of the main steps taken by professionals is to enrol in postgraduate courses, after all, they offer benefits such as expanding knowledge, networking possibilities, access to the best opportunities, etc.

With almost 200 Taught Programmes and 150 Research opportunities to choose from,  
NUI Galway is one of the most popular Irish universities for graduate study. However, with this range of options available, a common question may arise: How do I choose the right postgraduate programme? If this challenge sounds familiar, don’t worry. To help and guide you through this process, we’ve prepared this post.  

The main differences between Taught and Research Masters 

There is a significant difference between these two types of courses, and depending on your objectives, one type may better suit than the other. This article highlights the key characteristics between Taught and Research programmes.

Taught Courses 

Postgraduate taught courses  (PGT) normally indicate that most of the course is ‘taught’, usually through lectures, workshops, and seminars. The student may be required to do some supplementary work, including assignments, essays, group projects, and other tasks. However, the core delivery of the course will be through taught classes, allowing further specialisation through a range of different modules. Taught Masters are usually one year in length (and a minimum of two years if taken part-time). 

Ready to find out more? 

You’ll find all NUI Galway’s taught courses on our course website. We offer a range of course-types, including master’s, postgraduate diplomas, postgraduate certificates, and higher diplomas.

Research Programmes 

Postgraduate research programmes (PGR) are almost entirely focused on academic research. The course usually lasts a minimum of two years and involves working on a research project under faculty supervision and submitting a thesis. Entry to a research master’s is usually open to applicants holding an honours level bachelor’s degree or an equivalent international qualification.  

A research programme is a great option for those who enjoy extensive research and a more independent style to pursue the course without the restrictions of attending scheduled lectures. A research programme provides students plenty of flexibility to organise their personal timetable and workload, allowing them to focus on the topics and themes they are interested in. 

Ready to find out more

You’ll find all NUI Galway’s research programmes on our course website. We offer Research Masters and Structured PhDs, as well as other research study options.

Which one is best for you? 

Taught master’s degrees are often preferable for people seeking to enhance their employability by acquiring extensive knowledge in certain fields. This applies in particular to individuals who want to pursue a career that demands a specific qualification.  

On the other hand, research programmes are generally seen as a way of getting into a particular academic field. Many students who decide to study for a research master’s do so to progress to a doctorate level and gain a PhD. Therefore, this type of master’s may be a valuable option for students considering careers where high-level research skills are necessary, but a doctoral qualification is not required. 

Flexible Online Learning 

NUI Galway offers a wide range of part-time, flexible courses suitable for professional development, to upskill or enhance career prospects. Many of these programmes are taught entirely online or via blended learning, so they especially suit those who are working full-time or part-time.   

These flexible delivery modes allow you to study at times that best suit you. In an online course, you receive all your course materials online. They are designed in a self-instructional, easy-to-follow format with an opportunity to engage in online discussions and receive course feedback, activities, and assignments online. If you enjoy working independently, have strong organisation and time management skills, and are comfortable working with technology, then this flexible learning mode is for you. Find out more here


Part-Time vs Full-Time Master’s 

Part-time Courses 

Part-time study is becoming a more common option for students who want to balance their continuous academic progress with either a career or personal life responsibilities. The flexibility offered by this mode of study is usually very appealing to those with multiple commitments. A part-time master’s usually takes two years to complete. These programmes typically include two to three classes per week that are offered on-campus, or online if the course offers hybrid learning. Part-time education offers clear advantages since you may develop other aspects of your life while completing your postgraduate studies. 

Full-time Courses 

A full-time Master’s degree normally takes one year to complete and is considered the more “standard” mode of education. As opposed to part-time, full-time study is a more intensive programme that will require more of your time. Some full-time courses may include a specific number of hours of teaching or contact time per week while also requiring a significant amount of self-directed study.   

Postgraduate courses are typically studied full-time by students who are continuing their education after completing their first degree, or who have decided to take a career break and return to study full-time, to complete the course as quickly as possible. 


Still not sure? 

Don’t worry, we can help you to take the right direction. We offer a meeting or a call with a representative from our Postgraduate Recruitment Team where you can get a more personalised follow-up on this process. 

Complete our online form to arrange a meeting, and a Team Member will be in touch with you. 


For more information: 

Postgraduate Studies at NUI Galway 
Apply online here 

NUI Galway is one of Ireland’s top universities for graduate employability. 96% of our undergraduates and 94% of postgraduate students are in employment or further study within six months of graduating. Career prospects are excellent for NUI Galway graduates both in terms of an exceptionally high employment rate upon graduation and in terms of career progression.