Postgraduate Queries


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I finished my first degree (in French and German) a couple of years ago and haven't got anywhere in the job market yet, so my thoughts are turning to postgraduate courses. What language-centred options are there out there that might help me get a job?

The most obvious postgraduate route you could take is teaching, and what you may not know is that these days you can use a language speciality to train as a primary teacher as well as for the more traditional, secondary school, route. The National Centre for Languages ( is probably the best place to find out more.

Aside from teaching, the two main areas where language skills are central are translation and interpreting, and the fact that your first degree covered two languages is in your favour here, as language-related jobs, particularly interpreting, usually require proficiency in more than one foreign language. For obvious reasons, interpreting demands oral fluency, as well as written skills, and the confidence to think on your feet in two languages at the same time. At the top of the profession, it can be a highly paid and richly varied job.

Working as a translator will probably be much more solitary, but it's also likely to be far easier to fit into to a life with competing demands, such as raising a family.

Two organisations can steer you further: the Institute of Translation and Interpreting ( and the Chartered Institute of Linguists (


I'm interested in a career in genetic counselling. Do you have to have a medical qualification to get onto postgraduate courses? My first degree was in biology.

Until recently, little was known about human genetics, so the discipline of genetic counselling (advising people on what their genes mean for their health prospects) is not widespread within university departments. However, Masters courses are available at the universities of Manchester, Exeter and Cardiff, and none requires a medical degree for admission.

Recommended first-degree subjects include biology, nursing, psychology and social sciences. This reflects the fact that the job is principally one requiring the human, caring qualities of a counsellor, rather than high-end scientific and analytical skills. If you lean more towards the scientific area, then perhaps a Masters in human molecular genetics (offered at Imperial College, for example) might be a better bet.

Either way, more advice is available through the Association of Genetic Nurses and Counsellors (, which is part of the British Society for Human Genetics (


Even though I'm only in my second year at university, I'm pretty certain I want to carry on into postgraduate study, but I'm a little worried about the accommodation factor, since I'm from outside the UK. Do universities help postgrad students find places to live? Generally speaking, postgraduates come low down the pecking order for accommodation provided by universities. The vast majority of places in halls or residence, for example, are earmarked for undergraduates, who are generally younger and less experienced in getting along on their own in the world. But that doesn't mean there'd be no help for you in finding a place to live if you end up on a postgrad course somewhere in the UK.

At every university there is an accommodation offices, which has close links to the local private rented sector and manages the university's own residential properties. Staff can offer you advice about where to look for accommodation and which parts of town attract other students. So don't feel you'll ever be left entirely on your own in this respect.


Send your queries to Steve McCormack at