Hi everyone, it’s me again, back and ready to discuss a topic that has become particularly popular amongst 2020 and 2021 graduates – is a Master’s degree the right choice? With a job market slump following the pandemic and very few jobs available, many people in my graduating class of 2020 chose to do a Master’s degree in order to further their knowledge and expertise and give themselves an edge in applying to jobs next year. While this option seems to have been popular during the pandemic, it does not mean that it is the right choice for everyone and choosing to do a masters is not an easy decision to make.
First of all, Master’s degrees can be extremely expensive. With most in the UK costing thousands of pounds, it is not always an affordable option, particularly if your area of interest is in a more expensive field – for example business or finance. Student funding for postgraduate degrees can be insufficient depending on where in the UK you want to study and where you are from – for example, coming from Scotland, I was only entitled to £5,500 in a tuition fee loan despite most courses in the country costing much more than this. It is always worth checking the fees and finance options for the course as some may offer some form of support, but for UK students, scholarships and bursaries can be few and far between. That being said, reaching out and using your presence on social media such as twitter can be a great way of finding funding opportunities and it is well worth searching for your different options if a Master’s does interest you. It is also important to note that while the concept of taking out a loan for further study may be daunting, it is very much an investment in yourself and your future and in my opinion is worth every penny.
There are different types of Master’s degree options available, most notably a taught vs a research masters. I am currently studying for a taught degree as I wanted to learn more about dementia research and I didn’t feel I had enough experience or knowledge to enter the field of research yet. Others may choose an MRes as they have a particular research topic that they are interested in and want to carry out their own piece of research before moving into further work such as a PhD or a research assistant role. To move straight into a PhD can be overwhelming and many want to gain more experience before doing so, but if you feel that you know what exactly you want to research and where you would like to do so, or if you identify an advertised project that you like, it could be worth grasping the opportunity as the cost of a Master’s degree can be so high. It is also possible to work in the field of research through roles like a research assistant or research technician first before applying to a PhD. Working in the field will give you a good background when it comes to the application process and can be great for meeting potential supervisors.
Research jobs can be great for networking but the same can also be said for a Master’s degree. I know from personal experience that learning from some of the world leading researchers in the field at UCL has been invaluable and that I have made great connections that I otherwise would have missed out on. I have been given research and job opportunities through making the most of the networking experience that is available. While working in the field may offer equally valuable experience, a Master’s degree, particularly a taught degree, may allow for you to meet more people in a shorter space of time and to interact with them more through lectures and tutorials.
There are many pro’s and con’s to undertaking a Master’s degree, and it really depends on who you are and what you hope to gain from it.
It tends to be a large financial commitment and isn’t always an accessible option and if this is the case for you, then please know that there is not one correct path. Each individual will have different needs and while I felt a taught Master’s was the best option for me, many of my peers went straight into PhD’s or jobs and are equally thriving. My advice would be to do your research into what options are available to you, and what you think will best fit your future goals. Regardless of whether you are an undergraduate student, working in the field or looking to make a career change, there are many options available and something to suit everyone. Please tune in to the rest of the careers week festival from the 1st-6th of March to hear more about how to enter a career in dementia research.
Best wishes and thanks for tuning in,
Morgan Daniel  is an MSc Student at University College London, studying the along the ‘Dementia: Causes, Treatments and Research (Neuroscience)’ track, Originally from Loch Lomond, Morgan completed her BSc in Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Glasgow in 2019, and she hates all forms of potato! Morgan is sharing her MSc journey during 2020 / 2021 with NIHR Dementia Researcher.
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