What’s It Like To Do a Masters?

masters-liverpoolgirlgeeks

image credit With so many of us graduating from university now, it can be difficult to stand out from the crowd when applying for jobs. Having a masters degree on your CV could give you the edge over other applicants, but they take a lot of dedication, not to mention how expensive they can be! I spoke to three of our awesome girl geeks, Chelsea, Rebecca and Helen, to pick their brains about what doing a masters is really like…

Why did you decide to pursue a masters degree?
 
Chelsea: My first degree in media and marketing didn’t immerse me enough in digital. I had experience in digital marketing outside of university and wanted to study the theory behind it.
Rebecca: For my first masters I wanted to expand on the study that I’d completed in my undergraduate degree. The masters course offered me the space and freedom, to a certain extent, to guide my own research.
 My second masters is industry based, without it I will be unable to continue on my chosen career pathway so it’s a lot more practical than my first one.
Helen: I had in my head from the first year of uni that I wanted to continue with academia as I love the atmosphere of university and learning new things. It was a personal goal, something I wanted to say that I had and allowed me to spend another 18 months researching something I found truly fascinating.
 
What did you study and where? Did anything in particular sway you towards your chosen subject/uni?
 
C: I was on one of the first MA courses in Social Media and had to commute to Birmingham as nowhere else in the country did it. Again, because of my passion for digital and technology I thought I would combine them with my skills in marketing so that I could continue to have a career in something that I love that is currently ever changing. 
R: My first masters was in Victorian Literature and I completed it at the University of Liverpool. I chose Liverpool because it had a fantastic reputation for 19th Century research. Also I had studied there as an Undergraduate and knew what to expect and that I’d be receiving a fantastic learning experience.
 For my second masters I am studying Law at the University of Law in Chester. I chose the University of Law, again, based on reputation and feedback from their recent alumni. I picked Chester because of the location, Manchester was perhaps closer but it was city based whereas Chester was more rural and felt calmer.
H: I studied at the University of Liverpool for the longest degree title known to man. MA Geographies of Globalisation and Development (Research Methodologies). My BA was in Geography, with the subject being my focus since I was 14/15. Uni-wise, the course was suitable for the economic geography I wanted to study as well as receiving a discount due to previously graduating from UoL.
 
How did you fund your masters and how easy was it to get funding (if applicable)?
 
C: I tried to get a Barclays career development loan which wasn’t a success. Eventually I chose to do the course part-time whilst working 2 jobs so I could fund this myself (I even still got to have a social life it’s not too bad ;)). Best decision I have ever made and I couldn’t thank Barclays enough for denying me of some money – ha!
R: For my first masters I was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. It wasn’t that easy to achieve, first I made a paper application and I was then invited for a presentation and interview which was incredibly nerve wracking. However the interview wasn’t as bad as I was expecting, it was more of a discussion about what interested me about the subject area and what ideas I had – it was a great insight into how a professional literary discussion would happen.
 I have been fortunate again in that my second masters has been funded by my current workplace as part of my professional development with them.
H: I funded it myself by saving both my BA scholarship and to some money from my student loan in year one and year two. I worked all through university and became a university research assistant during my MA to provide a regular income.
 
Did you go straight into your masters from an undergraduate degree?
 
C: Yes. I spent a few months at the end of my course thinking about my options. The main and probably only reason that swayed me was that it was the first course of it’s kind so I knew not many people would have the same MA as me.
R: My first masters I did, I graduated from my undergraduate course in July 2010 and started my Masters in the December. At the time I wished I had taken a break as I felt exhausted and just didn’t have the energy to achieve what I felt I had the capacity in ideal circumstances to be able to do. Having started my second masters after a 3 year break I really wish I hadn’t taken so long. I felt so out of touch with the processes of learning, how my mind acquired information and how I wrote academic pieces that I felt 50 years old not 25. My advice would be to give yourself a year after graduating in the real world, take a break from learning to build your passion for it again, as that is what a masters takes, passion for your subject. However don’t leave it too long as I found it really difficult to get back into it all again. Try and find your own balance.
 Also I completed my first masters full time, and I am now completing my second part time. I would strongly advise, if you have the capacity to be able to do so, to complete your masters full time. It is so much easier finding the time to study and dedicating yourself to the subject matter when that is all you have in your head to complete. Studying part time is so much harder than I expected it to be, my job is one where there is constant pressure and deadlines and managing that alongside University deadlines is tough. I’ve pretty much sacrificed any form of a social life!
H: I did! I was certainly burnt out by the end of it and just craved a normal job for a while! However now I have had time out, I’d love to be able to resume my studies again sometime.
 
Are you still interested in the subject you studied?
 
C: Sure am! This is actually how Liverpool Girl Geeks was created. If it wasn’t for my one of my assignments Girl Geeks may not have been formed!
R: I am for my second masters as I am still completing it and each new topic I cover is incredibly interesting and exciting to me. It’s really the same for my MA in Victorian Literature as well. Although I’ve committed myself to this second masters in Law I’d love to one day complete my PhD in the same area… whether that will actually happen time will tell! Every so often I’ll see a TV adaptation of a Victorian novel and it’ll inspire an area of study. At one point I thought that I had at least an MA level essay to write on Doctor Who’s obsession with a Victorian Christmas, but I may have been getting carried away with myself!
H: Yes, I always consider myself a geographer no matter what I end up doing. Geography encompasses so many different elements that you can always find something to interest you or study!
 
Have you found it easier to make progress in your chosen field having completed a masters degree?
 
C: My degree pushed me into getting experience even though I have always been keen to work in the field and have been lucky enough to have opportunities arise! The great thing about my MA was that the work experience module lasted for 2 months, so you really had to get stuck into your role – I worked at an app agency here in Liverpool and was given a job as soon as I finished.
R: It hasn’t directly for my first masters, although the transitional skills definitely helped me in my first job and I’ve been told by my manager it made me more employable as it showed an extra level of ability. However for graduates who have good work experience on their CV I would say this would probably have the same effect. My second masters in Law will absolutely help me progress in my chosen field as it is a prerequisite for a lot of the progression routes in that field. Also because Law is really competitive it will be a huge bonus if I can get a great grade.
H: Yes and no. I found it hard to get a job after uni, however I think that was just a sign of the times I certainly wasn’t by myself. However the skills I learnt through my degrees  have helped me progress during my semi-unemployment. I made my own experiences online and won a scholarship for the Google Squared social media/digital marketing course which helped to solidify my academic research with real-world applicable skills.  Employers really love the research side to my degree and I made the most of those skills.
 
Has obtaining a masters degree had the outcome you hoped it would?
 
C: The best thing about it for me was having live briefs set for me. Almost every aspect of the course could be seen online, whether that was in a blog, a YouTube video or at an event. Each module was focused on different aspects of social media whether that be for business or community. Creating Liverpool Girl Geeks off the back of a masters has been a huge success. The contacts I have made, the people I have met and the amazing people I have had the chance to work with is worth so much more than what i paid to do the course. I am writing this interview on my own blog for one of my unbelievable bloggers that has wanted to work with us. I could never have asked for any more than that (haha aren’t I cute)!
R: I feel fulfilled, in that I have been challenged and achieved something fantastic for myself. I am proud that I can say that I have a masters. Both of my masters have been quite single-minded pursuits in that I didn’t look too hard at what the outcomes would be for my career but rather how I felt doing them and what I would come out of them with. I think you do need to have an element of single-mindedness as you are committing yourself to quite a high level of study for an extended period of time – outside of where it’ll get you and what it’ll do for your career you need to think very hard about if its something you can do for the next 10 months or more!
H: See above. My degree assisted in opening more doors, even if I had no ideas what those doors were during my time at uni.
 
Finally, would you recommend pursuing a masters degree and do you have advice for anyone considering one?
 
C: I think it totally depends on the subject. Most people would probably argue that if it’s a theoretical subject then yes, if it requires a physical skill then no, but I disagree a little. My subject doesn’t obtain much theory, but being forced to be in real life professional situations knowing that at the end of it you are going to get a qualification out of it really is motivating. Don’t get yourself into debt. If you can afford one, do it. If you can get funding – do it. Think about your subject matter – go out and meet people, go to as many networking events as you can and get your face known. It may end up taking you in a different direction!
R: Absolutely, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed both of mine. For me if you’re inquisitive and a lifelong learner then a masters is definitely the avenue for you.
H: Yes, if there is something you really want to research and experience, do it as a masters as you may not get the chance to set out the research as easily once you enter the job market.  As for a tip, save as much as you can so money isn’t as much of a worry.

Thanks girls! Hopefully these answers will help those of you considering doing a masters. If you have anything to add on the subject, we’d love to know your thoughts! Leave us a comment or tweet us @lpoolgirlgeeks.

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