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Should You Do A Master's Degree?

You’ve completed your undergraduate, you’ve taken pictures in your silly hat, you didn’t trip up on stage, you’ve gawked at the shiny certificate. You made it.

(Quarter Life Crisis enters stage left. Protagonist did not see it’s approach. The graduation scene fades. Weeks pass.)

What now?

There are some people, the lucky ones, who have known exactly what career they want since they were twelve. Others – myself included- take a lot longer. We want to keep our options open. We want to explore what’s out there. We want to… usually we don’t have a clue what we want. And, that’s okay. You’ll get there eventually.

One thing you might consider during this seriously awful period is to continue your education. But, is it for you? The truth is, only you can know the answer. But whilst you try to figure that out, lend me your ear… or, eyes, I guess.

The first thing you want to consider when looking at doing a Master’s degree is, well, why do you want to do one? Typically there are two answers to this; you need it for the career you want to pursue or you just want to do one. We won’t discuss pushy parents right now.

We’ll talk about the career progression path first. Some careers simply need a Master’s degree of some sort. If this is the situation you’re in, then the decision to do the Master’s is actually pretty simple; if you want that job, you have to do the degree. Perhaps then, the question to ask yourself if you’re in this situation is, do you want that job? If you are unsure of this, hold off on applying. Instead, look for some internships or work placements within that field. Get some experience in your field and it will help you to make up your mind regarding your next steps.

Now, if you’re considering doing a Master’s simply because you want to, then that’s a different situation. My main advice in this situation would be to know what you’re getting yourself into. Once you have chosen the university you want to go to, get every single bit of information about the Master’s programme that you will be applying for. You need to this regardless of why you want to apply, but personally, I think it is more important when you’re not necessarily doing the Master’s for a particular career progression. Find out about things such as module options, mode of assessment, contact time, tuition fees, extra costs and anything else you can think of.

Speaking of cost, can you fund a Master’s? A government postgraduate loan is now available in the UK. But you might already be in some hefty debt after your undergraduate and don’t want to take on anymore. In that case, could you self-fund your studies? Something to consider here is applying for a part-time Master’s so that you can work alongside your studies and pay your tuition in instalments.

Once you’ve decided you want to do a Master’s, you need to consider whether you can do a Master’s. One thing I was definitely not adequately prepared for when starting my Master’s was the leap between this and my undergraduate. There is – at least in my case there was – a huge change in the required quality of work on a Master’s. That means you need to be putting in a lot more work. I pulled my first ever ‘all-night study session’ during the first assignment on my Master’s. It was not fun. This kind of demand isn’t for everybody. Try to talk to some friends, Professors you know, search forums or YouTube for an insight of life as a Master’s student to begin to decide if you think you’re cut out for it!

This might all sound gloom and doom, but the truth is, a Master’s is hard. It’s not something to rush into. With that being said, I did consider all of these things and I have really, really enjoyed my Master’s. I went into my Master’s for a what I would call a ‘bad’ reason; I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t know what career I wanted to pursue. I knew I e njoyed university, so I applied. Over the course of my Master’s, I’ve realised that in fact, I clearly did know what I wanted to do or at least where I wanted to be; academia. My postgraduate journey so far has only reinforced this decision and given me the tools I need to go ahead with that path.

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Whatever you decide, further education or employment…. APPLY! AND GOOD LUCK!