It is a big decision, whether or not to pursue a postgraduate degree, either directly after earning the general degree or working for a few years first.
Research must be done into the potential field of study, meeting potential supervisors and attending talks and seminars.
Just as important is planning how the studies are to be funded. Remember, it will take about three to five years to complete a postgraduate degree and there will be expenses.
You must consider how these are to be covered, especially with no stable or recurring income.
The cost of graduate studies can seem overwhelming – tuition fees, course material fees, travel, food, student housing or external accommodation, childcare and other personal expenses.
Here are some funding options to explore…
1. Student loan
Before choosing a student loan, consider the postgraduate return on investment. Otherwise, you’ll risk being burdened by a loan that will not benefit your career or increase your income.
Bear in mind that if certain conditions are achieved, such as First Class Honours, the loan may be converted into a scholarship.
One of the most popular student loans is from the National Higher Education Fund Corp (PTPTN), which provides financial assistance to students from different financial backgrounds.
Students with a household income of less than RM4,000 per month are eligible for a full loan while students with a household income of less than RM8,000 receive a 75% partial loan. Those with a household income of more than RM8,000 are eligible for a 50% partial loan.
To apply, open an SSPN-i account and submit the application. Then check the status and submit the hard copy of the application to the college or university of choice.
Bumiputeras can apply for a Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Mara) loan. The Graduate Excellence Programme (GrEP), for example, is a convertible loan for postgraduate degrees at institutions of higher learning locally and abroad, as specified by Mara.
Another Mara loan is the Professional Development Programme (Pro-P), aimed at increasing professional or expertise levels for outstanding graduates that have an impact on national employment.
Students who have received study offers from institutions recognised by Jabatan Perkhidmatan Awam and professional recognition bodies can apply for these loans.
Many universities or organisations give out scholarships based on merit and qualifications. It is worth casting your net wide in the hope of securing a suitable scholarship, be it a partial or full one.
Scholarships help save money during the study period. At least your tuition will be covered and the money does not have to be repaid. But you must maintain good grades to avoid losing the scholarship.
3. Tap savings
It is recommended that you have at least six to 12 months’ expenses saved. If you are confident you have enough cash in hand for a rainy day as well as daily expenses, you can consider utilising your savings to fund the postgraduate journey.
Cash in hand can pave the way to an easier journey financially, avoiding the payment of accumulated interest on student loans and other expenses. It is worth exploring advanced degrees that are in demand by employers for a good return on investment.
4. Part-time job or secondary income
Earning money through a part-time job or side hustle can be a great way to help fund study expenses.
A part-time job is ideal, especially for full-time students to earn money without having to deal with the burden of responsibility as a full-time worker in a company.
Being a full-time worker while studying does have its perks too – gaining experience and helping to fund expenses – but working part time offers more time and space to focus fully on your studies.
5. Talk to your employer
Some employers will partially or fully fund their staff’s education, for example, to attend graduate school. The assumption is that the skills and knowledge obtained will benefit the organisation.
Have a discussion with Human Resources or your manager about the options available. But be aware that there may be conditions, such as a bond committing you to remain with the company for a certain period of time.
So do not sign up unless the company has a great working environment where you would not mind spending a large part of their career.
This article first appeared in MyPF.