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Studying immunology at postgraduate level

A post-graduate degree in immunology will enable you to:

  • Extend your subject knowledge beyond undergraduate level
  • Build on your practical laboratory skills
  • Build on scientific writing skills and ability to analyse scientific literature
  • Work closely with researchers in the field
  • Gain entry into PhD programmes if you are studying a Masters degree or a career that requires substantial research experience (check out our immunology career case studies find out more)

Types of post-graduate courses explained

Masters of Science (MSc) 

This describes a post-graduate Masters taught course where the content is usually split between a mixture of lectures, seminars and time doing research in a laboratory. This course can either be taken full-time or part-time. The full-time course usually takes 1 year and if taken part-time it takes 2 years to complete.  

Master of Research (MRes)  

Master of Research is also often abbreviated as MSc (res). This usually take one year to complete and usually has a much more substantial research component than the MSc taught course.  

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) 

This is a 3 to 4 year course which require students to carry out substantial original research, and have written up a thesis and presented their research in an oral examination – the viva.  

MPhil  

This is awarded to candidate who have completed a substantial research project but is insufficient for the award of a PhD.  

Factors to consider when choosing your course

Students writing in a lecture hallThere are many reasons as to why people might choose to pursue a post-graduate degree. It is important to consider all your options carefully to ensure you get the best outcome out of your study.  

A variety of different factors might affect your choice of courses:

  • course content - areas covered and time spent in research
  • course duration 
  • reputation of course and course provider 
  • any industry or clinical partnerships the course provider may have that can broaden the degree experience 
  • location 
  • costs of the degree 
  • costs of living 
  • funding options

Masters courses

See the UCAS postgraduate page list of Masters courses

Check out the BSI career case studies section on job experiences of people who have completed a degree in Immunology. 

Interested in a career in industry?

The University of Leeds and Covance have formed a partnerships to train future leaders in the biopharmaceutical industry. The MSc course covers the full process of biopharmaceutical drug discovery and development through to the commercial launch of products. More information can be found here.

PhD

Wondering how to choose a PhD programme? Read the tips from our BSI members who have gone through the process!  

Top questions to ask when choosing a PhD from BSI members: 

Supervisor  

It is important to have a good mentor for your project. A PhD is a training programme and the success of it can depend a lot on the relationship between you and your mentor. 

  • How active is she/he? How many papers have been published in the last few years? How accessible is she/he to members of the laboratory? 
  • Are the past students in the lab successful? Did they publish any papers during their PhD? Did the students get to go on conferences? 
  • Ask the other students and staff in the lab… What are their experiences of the support given by that individual? What do they hope to do after they finish? 

Research topic  

You need to have a lot of interest in the topic area that you are researching, after all you will be committing three or four years to that area.  

  • Is the research group known in the research area you’re interested in? Are other people in the lab working on that area or are you the only one? 
  • What kind of techniques will you be using during your PhD? Are these techniques that would be useful infuture stages of your career? 

You can read more helpful advice/tips from these sites:

Career presentation  

Anne O’Gara is the Associate Research Director at the Francis Crick Institute in London.  As part of Bright Sparks 2013 held at the BSI Congress, she talked about her own career path and describes important steps and options for those wanting to a pursue a career in research.