Should you do a Masters?

After being in education for seventeen years, it was daunting not knowing what the next step was after graduating from my Bachelor’s degree in English.

I got my GCSE’s, A-Levels, BA degree; I’d got the set of qualifications my teachers had always encouraged me to get. But, then what?

Nobody at the University of York pressured me to look at Masters, which I loved.

At our department drinks after we’d handed in our dissertations our tutors and our wonderful Head of Department, Helen Smith, were genuinely interested in our next steps, however uncertain or unconventional that path might be.

There was no pressure, no suggestion of what we should or shouldn’t do. It was simply, what are you going to do now?

It was my own decision, for what felt like the first time.

Yet, after a few weeks I chose to continue my education, but this time for myself.

On the way to my Masters Graduation last week, my Mum said it seems like a Masters is a requirement or expectation now – most people have one.

I hadn’t really thought too much about whether I would or wouldn’t do a Masters.

I found a Creative Writing MA and as I wanted to (and still want to thankfully) be a writer, I thought it would be a useful qualification and that I’d finally to have something to show that I was a writer as I’d never been published or written that much at the time just a handful of plays and half finished novels.

I felt like I needed to learn more about it to be able to do it. It was also an opportunity to finish projects, expand ideas and get feedback on my existing work.

What you should know

Funding

Student Finance can provide up to £10,000 for your Masters fees, if this is your first MA. Therefore, to me it seemed like a no brainer. My course was £7,500 and it had relatively little contact time – starting at two days a week, diminishing to no hours a week after six months. That meant I could work part-time alongside the course, to fund my living costs.

What course do I do?

There are so many courses on offer at Master’s level.

During my graduation from Leicester I learnt a huge amount of MA’s that I’d never heard of and that I didn’t even know existed.

First of all, Google it. If you have any inkling of what you’d like to do, give it a Google and I’m sure there will be an MA in that subject. If you know which institution you’d like to go to then it narrows down your field a bit more. Just keep your eyes peeled.

Choose a course that you think you’d enjoy and gain a lot from. It could be a joint honours degree, it could be a subject you’ve never really done before but always been interested in. Try to specialise or chose something slightly different than your BA (even if it’s literally narrowing the field to a specific period of time, or aspect of your BA course).

Definitely pick something you think you’ll love and gain a lot from. It doesn’t matter if you think you will or won’t be good at it, as you won’t know till you start, but either way no one will ask you what you got when you have an MA. You just have an MA.

What are the benefits of a Masters?

It’s a good way to specialise in your field, gain accurate knowledge and feedback on your work at a higher level and usually on a more one to one or small group basis.

It also helps you stand out from other candidates when applying for jobs. You’ve chosen to further your education and do something to both challenge and extend yourself.

It’s also an opportunity to meet likeminded people at different stages of life. I was one of maybe five people in my group who was in my 20’s, whilst the other ten or so people were all aged 30+. It’s a remarkable opportunity to gain a chunk of life experience from other people, to learn through them, discover new ways of approaching a topic or craft. It’s far more diverse than Undergraduate and it’s really refreshing and rewarding.

What is the course like?

It’s a very intense course. Third year at Undergraduate level is full on, but a Masters is something else. Every deadline I had (for my two modules per term) was 10,000 words in four 5,000 word essays. That is more than my BA dissertation and I worked on that for a year.

Within six months I’d submitted 20,000 words. It is a big step up (work wise) from a Bachelors. Expectations are high and the work load is tough, especially if you’re working alongside a course.

Should I bother?

I think the first thing you need to ask yourself is can I afford this? If you can get the SF loan for the fees and work alongside the course, then there’s you answer. Just do the maths first.

Then, ask yourself, do I need this?

It might be a necessity to have a Masters to work in the field or get the job that you want to. For me it wasn’t a necessity, I didn’t need to have a Masters in Creative Writing to be a writer. But I also had no experience or understanding of how to write a novel well, the kind of structure or techniques to use, or simply how to finish a long body of work and then edit it.

It might be that the answer is no to the previous question, but then ask yourself, do I really want this?

Are you just doing an MA because it feels like you should? Or because someone else you know has chosen that path or simply because you don’t know what to do next? Well then maybe, it isn’t what you want.

Take your time to think about it. I could afford it, thankfully, and whilst I didn’t necessarily need the qualification, I really wanted to continue my learning and have a qualification in the very thing I wanted to do as a career.

And, I’m so glad that I did.

If you need any advice with an application, choosing a course or simply knowing whether an MA will be right for you, then get in touch!

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