Alan: Why you should take steps toward postgraduate study

At age 50, Alan began his tertiary education at USQ with a Graduate Certificate of Business to complement his work as a project manager. In 2015, he graduated from USQ’s Master of Project Management and Master of Business Administration. Alan completed his studies while working full time and fulfilling the many responsibilities of being a father of four children.


For a long time I struggled to decide whether I should undertake postgraduate study. I found my job as a project manager both challenging and rewarding, but at that stage had no formal qualifications to complement my experience. I’d been thinking about uni study for a while, but at age 50, while working full-time and juggling this with my family of four, the decision to take on postgraduate study in addition to everything else was not one to be taken lightly. My journey to study was a steady one, but I hope that by explaining the steps I took to gain a postgraduate qualification might be the motivation you need to take that first step yourself.

Knowing where to look

With so many things to factor into my decision, I spent a lot of time doing research on postgraduate studies and found two sites that were particularly helpful. Both Career FAQs and Graduate Careers had information that helped me to understand how postgraduate study might help my career. After reading these articles I then did further research into project management degrees and, to my surprise, found that there was quite a lot on offer at universities all across Australia. 

Finding the right fit

As my full-time role also included regular travel, I needed to find a university that was flexible and offered both on-campus and external courses. The USQ Springfield campus was only 15 minutes away from my office and as Queensland’s No.1 university provider for online study, I felt confident that USQ would be able to give me the flexibility I needed while I worked through my studies. And in the end, I was right. Instead of having to attend lectures every weekday, I went to intensive workshops on Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays which meant my study didn’t have to interfere with my work schedule. I had a great time meeting people, both students and staff, many of whom were juggling work and family just like I was.

Getting involved

Being a postgraduate student doesn’t mean that you can’t be involved with university life. I valued my experience at uni so much that I volunteered at a number of USQ events working as an Orientation Leader during O-Week, a Postgraduate Representative on the Student Representative Committee and a USQ Student Ambassador.  As a mature age student with years of work experience, I felt that I had a lot to offer other students who were also trying to find the balance between work, family and study. Being involved in university events was my way of giving back and meeting other USQ students and staff.

Reaping the rewards

Juggling study with work and a family was a constant challenge and took a lot of dedication. But alongside the difficulties were the many benefits. Undertaking postgraduate studies gave me the confidence and knowledge I needed to excel at my work. I was able to implement a number of changes in the way we managed projects and responded to Requests to Tender documents from customers and potential customers. My cross-team communication skills and confidence improved and I was able to help our Sales Team to understand the issues faced by the Projects Team if documentation and information wasn’t clarified and complete from the very beginning. It was a proud moment for me when I saw the flow-on effects of those conversations reach our Installation teams and just generally saw an improvement in communication across all teams as a whole. In a nutshell, postgraduate studies made my job easier and more rewarding. I feel more confident, more competent and better informed to do the job I’ve always enjoyed.

If you’re considering postgraduate study I won’t encourage you to rush your choice. I understand that when a career and family life have to be factored in also it becomes a complex decision. What I will say though is that from my experience, it’s completely worth the challenges of juggling it all. Postgraduate study made a huge difference not only to my performance at work, but to my confidence in my career as a whole. I’d encourage you to at least take that first step, start your research, explore your options and start moving along that path. Yes, it’s a big decision, but my only regret is that I didn’t make it sooner.

If flexibility and support are going to be important factors in your postgraduate studies, then start your research with the team at USQ.


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