Many students cannot afford the cost of spending yet another year in full-time education - but there are alternatives. Studying part-time means that students have the opportunity to earn while they learn.
In today's competitive market place employees need to have more strings to their bow than ever before. Even highly qualified engineers are finding that they need to formally demonstrate a commitment to improving their skills and as such are opting to undertake postgraduate level qualifications.
There are many opportunities for part-time postgraduate study. For example, KIT eLearning and the University of Liverpool provide online MBAs and MScs in IT.
Study is undertaken in the university's "virtual classrooms" comprising of up to 20 students who can participate from anywhere in the world, without having to commit to a fixed time of day, time zone or day of the week. This is specifically designed to allow people with variable schedules, demanding careers and busy family lives to complete a qualification with the minimum of disruption.
Moreover, 100 per cent online courses allow for 100 per cent flexibility so students need not suffer from loss of earnings. KIT will also allow students to pay per module, so that they can spread the fees of a greater period of time, which means the cost of a postgraduate qualification is actually very manageable.
Furthermore, KIT offers an option of paying for the course in monthly installments. This makes it even more manageable to pay off the tuition fees.
There are also hidden benefits to online courses that go way beyond the offerings of traditional distance learning courses, such as the opportunity to network with other IT professionals from around the world.
Keith Fitzpatrick is a qualified electrical engineer who currently works full time for a local authority and is studying for an MSc in IT with the University of Liverpool and KIT.
"I work for a local authority department that is responsible for the management of all public land and property within the area," he says. "I am responsible for the management, continuous development, maintenance of the ICT infrastructure of the department and support to all staff using it. In accordance with both local business requirements and corporate strategy I ensure the technology used by the department is reliable, safe and offer the staff optimum performance so that they can carry out their duties efficiently.
"Other important aspects such as data protection, data integrity, disaster preparation, recovery and business continuity are just a few main items that are my direct responsibility," Fitzpatrick says. "Although my job is very demanding I felt that I needed to develop my skills to continue my professional development and enhance my future prospects. My colleagues all have a high level of academic qualification, so it seemed particularly relevant that as manager I have an appropriate level of education."
"However, I was not able to give up my job or only work part time, therefore an online course was the most viable option as it offered compatibility with my finances and lifestyle," Fitzpatrick continues.
"In the long term having a postgraduate qualification has improved my marketability and employment prospects, but in the short term the course has given me a vast amount of knowledge and the confidence to engage with new areas of work. I was very lucky that my employer agreed to pay for the course fees, however they have certainly reaped the benefits of my new skills and I would recommend approaching your manager for funding if you are considering undertaken a similar course.
"Overall The University of Liverpool and KIT eLearning enabled me to learn wherever I liked, providing all the support to facilitate the new online learning experience. It was hard at times and pushed my organisational and academic abilities to the full. But looking back it was a worthwhile experience and one I would certainly recommend to professionals who don't have much time but still wish to undertake a challenging and impressive learning experience."