A Masters degree is one of the less talked about options when first you pick a university to attend. There is far more emphasis on the typical BA/BSC and even more encouragement to take part in a year abroad. But for most students, once you reach the first semester of your final year as an undergraduate, life after your original course seems incredibly overwhelming. Many students, including myself, will often opt for a ‘panic masters’. A quick, not necessarily well thought out decision to do another year or two at university because the fear of the outside world is too much to handle. But is this the right choice for you?
There are multiple obvious benefits in completing a masters degree. First of all, you have the opportunity to really delve into the world of academia, looking deeply into a specific topic of your choice. If you love a certain topic in your subject field, a master’s degree presents a great opportunity to specialise in it. Who knows? It could lead you to study for a PhD and discover something fascinating.
Michael, from the University of Warwick, said to me that ‘as someone who’s really interested in Chemistry and whose goal is to work in research, an MChem degree was the natural path for me when choosing a course’.
Having a master’s degree also opens many doors in regards to higher-paying jobs. The world we live in means that, if you’ve got that extra degree, then usually a bigger paycheck comes along with it. Although many argue that money doesn’t bring you happiness, I’m also sure many would say that, while having a good home and all your bills paid brings a certain level of relaxation, many unfortunately don’t have that luxury. Big paychecks also usually mean fancy job titles. If becoming a CEO as fast as you can is in your ten-year plan, that master’s degree might just push you up the ladder a bit quicker.
When you start university as a fresher, three years seems like a long time. Three years of fun and studying. But, time flies when you’re having fun. The final year comes around before you even know it, and even the idea of looking for jobs or grad schemes can make anyone want to stay in the familiar spot as a university student. Although you may want to make sure you’re not getting yourself into a rut, hanging around for another year or two may just give you the time to prepare yourself for the rest of your adult life in a safe environment.
The first thing that most people think about when choosing a masters is cost. Degrees cost money, and a masters degree usually costs more than the standard £9,250. Student Finance England do offer a (small) loan for people entering a masters qualification. But many find this is not enough to pay for the masters itself, never mind live on. If you’re lucky enough to have access to a large chunk of money this may not be a problem for you. But, if you can’t find extra funding for a masters, it is a very unfair wall in the way of this path.
If you’re just panicking and choosing to do a masters as you are not sure what else there is, you might be missing something perfect for you. Grad-schemes can seem scary, but they present great opportunities for freshly graduated people to enter the world of work. Level 7 apprenticeships are worth the same as a postgraduate degree, but you are more active in a workplace, and get paid all whilst still learning new skills and knowledge! Open up Google and search for any job, scheme or apprenticeship that might suit you. It may seem scary at first but, the more you look, the less overwhelming it becomes.
Adding more years to your studying life can easily cause burnout! Three years at university are tiring enough- late nights, strict deadlines mixed with social activities. Adding a fourth or even a fifth will elongate your burnout some more. Of course, if you have great techniques to counteract this pressure, you should be raring to go into another year. But looking after oneself at university is always harder than it looks.
You also don’t necessarily have to start a masters straight after your undergraduate degree. You can investigate the world of work, and then come back into education after gaining knowledge of where you want to go in life, while being well-rested. Before you put that application in, think if you will be able to handle another year in education.
I asked nursing student Solenn at the University of Birmingham about her plans after her undergraduate degree. She told me ‘I want to gain practical experience in the field and then go back and complete a masters further in my career to become a nurse specialist’.
Deciding whether to stay at university or move into the adult world of work is a very hard choice to make. With a variety of pros and cons of doing (or not doing) a postgraduate degree, it can seem very confusing for anyone. Go through all your options. Do research into anything that might interest you after your undergraduate degree is finished- whether it be a job or a masters degree- and go from there. Either way, your decision won’t last a lifetime and you can always change your mind!