Deciding to do a Masters degree requires a heck of a lot of thought. Unlike your Bachelors, they are not covered by the same Student Loans company (unless you do a combined degree, but we’ll discuss that later), and you’re probably having to look at self funding yourself through a year of education to the cost of around £6000, like myself and all my course mates did.
So how do you do it? What are the benefits? How are they different to Bachelors?
Jump right in and lets discuss!
Some background about my own course…
I did an International Relations (European) MA at Durham University that cost me £6200 for the year. After spending some time working in Japan and travelling around Europe I felt like my History BA, which mainly focused on Medieval and Renaissance Europe, and 20th Century British social change, did not give me enough understanding of the world as it was now. I wanted to learn about Globalisation, finance, and supranational organisations and institutions.
I studied at Durham’s School of Government and International Affairs and the standard of teaching was phenomenal. I ended up doing a First Class dissertation on the European Neighbourhood Policy and how they used money as an influence in Tunisia’s democratic transition since 2011. Overall I feel like the course has given me a great foundation of knowledge to build a career in diplomacy on.
How to Apply
Once you’ve found the course that you want you have to decide if you’re going to switch universities. I did, and all of my undergraduate friends did. Most went to universities closer to home, but it just so happened that I wanted to study at Durham University which was drive-able from my grandparents house (very lucky, I know). If you’re staying at the same university see if you can add your Masters year into your current course by switching to a 4 year combined course, which means you don’t need to re-apply to the university or for student finance.
If you’re switching university you need to re-apply all over again. There’s no UCAs this time, and you should look for the application system on the university website of your choice. You’ll need to write an extensive personal statement about why you want to do the course, your plan on funding your course and lifestyle, and why they should accept you. For my personal statement I wrote about any volunteer experience I had done, and how this and travelling had gave me a passion to switch to a course which could broaden my knowledge of the world. If you’re switching courses, do some research into the modules so that you show an understanding of the course already and want to learn. Name drop authors of key texts. Say why you want to study at THAT university; university reputation, the specific atmosphere of the university and how you feel like you would fit in there. Sell yourself as a model student, and show that you are very passionate and knowledgeable about your subject.
Lets talk funding!
As soon as you’ve decided that you want to do a Masters degree, the first thing you should think about is how you’re going to fund this. I know that this year the government plan on introducing a scheme which lets you borrow up to an extra £10000 which gets added onto your current student debt, which is a great scheme as previously you had to take out a personal development loan with Barclays which comes with larger risks. However, student loans are already amassing a large amount of repayments. My undergraduate only cost £3000 a year but by the time I left I had nearly £28,000 to repay out of my wages. I haven’t payed any of this yet so I imagine that figure is now around the £35,000 mark, and only adding to that is going to leave a considerable amount coming out of your wages per month for a large percentage of your working life. So don’t make this choice with a light heart.
By my second year of university I knew that I wanted to do a Masters degree so I worked hard on summer holidays and throughout the year to add to my savings account, and by the time I had started I had raised half of the amount. The rest I made by working part time on evenings as a cleaner at a car showroom (yes, I cleaned toilets to fund my education). It was a great little job that was easy, stress free, loads of overtime available if I wanted it, and I even met my wonderful mechanic boyfriend there too. If you can self fund I would really recommend it.
How the Work Differs
I write this as a Humanities and Social Science graduate, for science based courses like MSc’s I have no experience and understand that a practical degree would be completely different.
I found that my Masters degree gave me so much more freedom to decide what I wanted to learn about. It followed a similar format to my BA, which had set seminar and lecture topics which you were told about from the start of the module, with a reading list. However, I rarely had a lecture for my modules. Core modules, yes, as they were designed to teach you skills for your other modules, but actual optional modules were taught through seminars and not lectures. This meant that if you had, for example, a seminar on the Kosovo war you were free to prepare to talk about any aspect of this that you found interesting. For some this would be the genocide, for others this would be the American involvement. Everyone found different aspects interesting, and thus made for great discussions.
Masters degrees are even more focused on independent study, with very little time at University and actual help or guidance, therefore you need to be prepared to put in even more hours at the library. Some people find this difficult, and I would agree that you need a large amount of self motivation to get the work done.
It really does feel like a step up from your Bachelors.
Your dissertation is longer. Mine went from 10,000 to 15,000, but because I enjoyed what I was doing I really didn’t notice. But remember, this is only a one year course, so you need to throw yourself in at the deep end and start straight away. It’s like third year undergraduate, but the room is on fire and everyone has confiscated all of your alcohol. There’s still room to be social and have fun, but you’ll probably spend less time doing this to get your head around the work. I did not have a single night out during my Masters, mostly because I had too much self-teaching to do, and because I had no money too.
|Have a drink ready for when you finish, God knows you’ll need it!|
How the Overall Experience Differs
Masters degrees aren’t usually taken straight after graduating from your Bachelors. Most people use this opportunity to get into the world of work and do some travelling. Personally, I already had half of the money saved and I knew that I would waste it had I left it. I was also worried about how I would get back into learning. I was by far the youngest person on my course, with the average age being that of 28. Most of the people on my course were international students, and at first I struggled to fit in, but being surrounded by experienced and knowledgeable older adults matured me so much.
In that one year alone I feel like I grew as an adult more than I ever had before, and I am so thankful to my fellow students for teaching me some priceless life lessons. My best friend from there was a now 28 year old Dutch guy, and we got on like a house on fire. At undergraduate everyone in my year was my age, with the odd mature student. On my Masters course I understood the alienation felt by mature students on my undergrad course, as I was sat in a room full of people in their late 20s and early 30s, but they taught me a lot about professionalism and maturity.
Hope this post has helped you understand more about Masters degrees. If you have any more questions then leave them in the comments and I’ll update this post accordingly. Good luck to all prospective Masters students, it’s a roller-coaster of a ride but well worth it!