updated on 20 April 2021
I'm thinking of doing a master’s – could this help me to stand out when applying for a training contract?
Most UK law firms do not include a master’s qualification in their academic requirements, so adding one to your CV will not necessarily give you an advantage as an applicant. Instead, most firms ask for a good undergraduate degree result (ie, at least a 2.1) and three good A levels (ie, As and Bs). Doing a master’s will not make up for any bad results you may have accrued at these earlier stages.
But although completing a master’s will not give you a competitive edge as a job applicant, there are several other reasons why continuing your studies could make perfect sense. These include studying for the love of the subject (as long as you are prepared to pay the fees or take out a postgraduate student loan), or an ambition to become a specialist (eg, studying tax for the tax Bar if you are pursuing a career as a barrister). In fact, for some areas of the barristers’ profession, a master’s is almost essential. And if a postgraduate qualification is something you regard as a personal ambition, then this is an equally valid reason.
LPC and Bar course loan funding
Another – very pragmatic – reason to do a master’s is because the vocational qualifications needed to become a solicitor or barrister are not eligible for the government’s postgraduate student loan scheme, but when combined with a master’s, both the LPC and Bar course become eligible. LawCareers.Net’s first advice is to always apply for a training contract before undertaking the LPC, as many firms sponsor their future trainees through the course. However, if you are having to self-fund the vocational stage, incorporating a master’s into your studies can mean that you avoid having to pay the fees until you are working full time.
To find out more, head to the Finances section.
SQE course funding
The Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) is a new system designed to assess solicitors at the point of qualifying, which will be introduced in September 2021. The SQE will gradually replace the LPC over the next few years, so depending on how you plan your career journey, you could end up taking a new SQE preparation course instead of the LPC. Find out more about the similarities and differences between the SQE and traditional routes.
Many SQE preparation courses can be combined with a master’s in the same way as the LPC or a traditional law conversion. This means that students can access postgraduate student loan funding to help them through the SQE route, while also having the opportunity to add an extra qualification to their CVs.
Keep an eye on LCN for more detailed information about the new SQE preparation courses in the coming weeks.
Practising in an overseas jurisdiction
Finally, in some international jurisdictions, a master's is as important as a first degree. If you are an international student returning home at the end of your studies, or if you are hoping to train overseas, it is worth finding out what the desirable level of education is in that jurisdiction.
Head to the Courses section to find out more about some of the institutions that offer postgrad study.