Christopher Pfoster, Bee Fancier, Eccentric, Academic â€“ â€˜I took an MA because I wanted to be the talk of the town and the envy of the county. I keep bees for a similar reason.â€™
Now that many of you are getting stuck in to your summer internships (if you arenâ€™t, you still have plenty of time so donâ€™t despair!), you are starting to ask, â€˜what next?â€™ Graduates are increasingly considering post grad degrees, so we are continually being asked about their value. An MA student myself, I have pounced on the unsuspecting to ask their thoughts, whether from the point of view of a graduate or employer. Savills Director, Roger Hepher responded he â€˜would generally view a candidate with a Master’s degree more favourably… [Typically] the longer they have been in formal education, the intellectually stronger the person is likely to be. Furthermoreâ€¦a Master’s will often have been selected for its relevance to a particular career path, which means the person should have a more directly relevant set of knowledge/skills than otherwise.â€™Alternatively, recent graduate Lina Pio suggests, â€˜It’s something a lot of friends from last year did in an attempt to boost their degree in the eyes of employers in a tough job marketâ€¦IÂ think if you want to do an MA the best motive is for the love of the subject and academia itself. If your motive is the hope of getting work, the best thing to do is forgo the extra academia and just go out there and do lots and lots of work experience, shadowing and eventually internships – working for free, but you’d be working for free anyway doing an MA with less of a guarantee of a job at the end of it, plus you’ll have more of the skills employers really want. As an ex-colleague of mine at Apple once said to me ‘the last person who told me proudly they got a first from Oxbridge, I replied â€œI’ll have milk with that and a croissant please, thanks.â€â€™
Obviously there is a huge variety in post grad degrees, and some graduates find that in order to enter their chosen field they need to have done a relevant Masters degree. Helen Prince, Simon Hepher and Kathryn Wood all found themselves in this situation and so have just finished Masters Degrees in Real Estate Investment. Kathryn explains that, â€˜I took mine mainly because I had to, to become a qualified surveyor, and be RICS-accredited. If I hadn’t had to I don’t think I would have – more studying wasn’t exactly my ideal choice! I would recommend a masters if it’s in somethingÂ vocational you really want to do. Otherwise it’s an expensive way to spend a year which doesn’t really get you any further than a good undergrad degree would. I think I’m in a minority, but I don’t really buy the whole argument of just doing it in any random subject as something to do for the year, if you haven’t worked out how it will help you afterwards.â€™ Helen added that from her experience, â€˜I would recommend doing one as it broadens your knowledge and opens more doors to either a change in career or a development if a current career.â€™
Some of my fellow historians decided to continue along the route which we had enjoyed so much at BA level. Laura Woods tells me she did an MA â€˜mainly out of love for the subject and for studyingâ€¦whether or not I would recommend doing an MA to someone depends on their reason for doing it and circumstances. It’s an expensive and rather avoidant way to delay getting a job/making any serious decisions, and some subjects – management, for example – IÂ think are better learned by experience…if it’s of possible value to your career path, or if you genuinely want to continue studying, then, yes, it’s great.â€™ James Edwards agreed, â€˜I took an MA principally out of passion for the subject…Whether I would recommend an MA would depend on the individualâ€¦mine’s been really worthwhile, socially, academically and (hopefully) economically, but I don’t think that a Masters is for everyone – I think circumstances and motivations matter. Though, overall, it would always be a qualified ‘yes’ from me.â€™ Committed academic Susie Stoddart added that she chose to take an MA, â€˜because it develops the powers of independent and original thought, which are important skills whether you are going onto a job or further academic study afterwards.â€™ It is important to give your options careful consideration however, MA student Heather Mackie warns that a postgraduate degree is very hard work, and should be taken on the spur of the moment!
Many universities are responding to the demand for practical post grad degrees. Last year Royal Holloway debuted its Public History MA â€“ a more vocational alternative to traditional history. Sarah Taylor, Roz Skellorn and Emily LeFeuvre all discussed their experiences with me. Fellow Inspiring Intern, Sarah, â€˜took an MA mostly due to the fact that I couldn’t get a job and found the course interesting. I thought it would be a better way to spend the year than waitressing or being unemployed.â€™ Roz was seeking to â€˜develop my skills, as I had a particular idea of the type of job which I hoped to do. My MA helped me to consider a wide range of different job prospects. It also meant that I had another year to think about what I wanted to do in the future, whilst gaining a valuable degree.â€™ Emily chose her MA because it â€˜had more transferrable and practical skills than other MAs. I managed to secure funding and as the job market was looking pretty poor (not that it’s much better now), I thought it was a good plan to get as qualified as I could. I wouldÂ definitely recommend doing an MA to others because it doesn’t mean that you have to become an academic, but it does show that you’re willing to put in an extra year of work for a subject. I think these days employers look for people who have something extra and doing some further study could be that extra thing.â€™
Even applying for your undergrad degree can be an incredibly bewildering experience for many sixth formers. Those looking into science related degrees are noticing an increasing level of four year university degrees, and are debating the benefit of this over the more traditional Bachelors degree. Hannah Fosbraey controversially announces: Â â€˜MA’s are for chumps. My MPhys is different because it was a 4 year undergraduate degree. I took it because you need better A-levelsâ€¦so I thought it would be a better qualification and would make me look better to potential employers. I also wanted to stay at university a bitÂ longer because I enjoy learning and had no idea what I wanted to do after. I would recommend doing it for those exact reasons. It’s also good because the fee for each year is kept at undergrad levels and covered by the student loan, where I know some masters can be more expensive. It depends what you want to do; a physics degree puts you in a decent position for non-research jobs whether it’s a BSc or MPhys, so it can be a bit unnecessary. Still good for keeping your options open though!â€™
There are increasing options for funding further degrees, with many universities offering scholarships. This is making it an increasingly viable option for young graduates. This is often not very well advertised, and for further information it can be a good idea to approach your BA course administrator or careers advisor. For many degrees, History included, there are relatively low levels of seminar hours, meaning that, for many students it is possible to combine the degree with an internship or part-time job â€“ as I have. At Inspiring Interns we arrange placements all year round, and by going down that route you are proving your work ethic at the same time as you show your intellectual worth.