When I graduated the GFC had just hit. Law graduates (even ones with Honours) found it hard to secure a grad job. Some pursued paralegal work, while quite a few enrolled in postgraduate study. Now we’re on the brink of Recession Mark II, it seems as apt a time to dig up postgrad study options.
Postgrad study isn’t just about postponement of ‘real life’ or getting a ‘real job’; it can give you the opportunity to specialise (and more importantly, demonstrate your expertise) in a specific area of law, or pursue academia via higher degree research. So here’s some facts about postgrad study:
1. Postgrad is divided into two paths
The options are: ‘coursework’ and ‘higher degree research’.
This is law faculty code for an LLM (Masters of Law), or a specialist Masters like a Masters of Dispute Resolution or a Masters of Communications Law.
3. ‘Higher Degree Research’
This is an umbrella term for a range of courses such as an LLM (by research), a PhD (paging Dr -insert your surname here-) and an SJD (Doctor of Juridical Science). An SJD is actually an incestuous hybrid of research and coursework designed to ensure you don’t go completely mad during the 3-5+ year writing of your doctorate level thesis. Half the course comprises of masters subjects, while the other is your thesis. You know, so you get out and meet real people during your thesis hibernation years.
4. Academia is booming
Academia is hungry for young guns. Academia has spectacular work-life balance compared to private practise. Academia is as eccentric as you’d expect and more intellectually exhilarating than you might think.
There are two routes into academia, though both ultimately converge into higher degree research. The first is by becoming a casual law academic. You will need a minimum of Hons I to be eligible, though LLM is preferred. The second route (to which the first will eventually lead) is by undertaking higher degree research as either a LLM by research with a view to undertaking a PhD or SJD.
Much like many other sectors of the Australian employment landscape, academia is on the cusp of a serious skills shortage as the baby boomer generation retires. That’s right – the fact that we are the affluenza generation, few in number, affluent and educated in our upbringing – is finally about to weigh in our favour. Many universities are now developing or already implementing long-term strategic recruitment plans to attract bright young law graduates and lawyers to academia with scholarships and higher education teaching and training programs.
5. Scholarships and the Research Training Scheme
If you’re thinking postgrad research, there’s a flood of scholarships on offer. Some can be sourced from the Jason website, a fairly comprehensive database of all Australian postgraduate scholarships, while others can be found directly on Law Faculty websites. The Quentin Bryce scholarship, a very lucrative scholarship, is an example of a direct find, which may have gone under the radar.
Worried about postgrad fees? Well here’s a best-kept (read: accidentally-kept) secret: many postgrad research places are actually Federally funded by the Research Training Scheme. Essentially, if you’re eligible and obtain an RTS place, you may seek exemption from paying tuition fees. UNSW provides a good overview of the RTS scheme.
Interest piqued? We’ll have a few more posts on posgrad coursework and research to demystify the uni jargon and marketing buzz soon!
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