Master’s degrees: things to consider

Considering a master’s degree but don’t know where to start?

If you’re reading this, you’ve likely just spent three years studying at undergraduate level. By now you might have an idea of your next steps. If you’re considering a master’s and don’t know where to start, you’re not alone! As someone who recently went through the application process, I’ve compiled a few tips for considering a master’s degree.

A master’s degree could help you alter or narrow down your path. A lot of students assume that a master’s degree only allows you to build on your undergraduate subject – but this isn’t strictly the case. You can refocus your energy on a new or more specialised path with some courses. Check the entry requirements and you may be surprised. Some courses are designed for students whose prior experience is in other disciplines entirely!

A disclaimer: master’s degrees are expensive and funding differs from the standard undergraduate loan. You should consider if a postgraduate degree is the right step for you.  There are benefits to entering the job market or looking for some vocational experience in your field. Visit your university careers centre if you’re unsure. Consider your options, take your time and follow the path that is right for you.

The first step? Thoroughly research potential courses. If there is a focus on specialisation, make sure the course coincides with your goals! Starting the course with an idea of which skills it will help develop will be useful. You could also benefit by having a rough plan of what path you might want to take as an individual.

Equally important: make sure you like your subject- as in, really like it…. For some, their experience as an undergraduate was an exciting journey. They explored a field they are passionate about and enjoyed the experience. For others it was a slow descent into an existential crisis and they weren’t enjoying the course at all. Make sure that you…well, like your subject enough to spend another year working on it. If you’re over academia, look into internships and graduate schemes for a direct route into the workplace.

Understand the course intensity. It’s easy to think of master’s degrees as a fourth year tacked on to undergraduate study. This is not the case! Master’s degrees demand a significantly increased workload compared to undergraduate level. My university doesn’t recommend working for over 10 hours a week in addition to studying a master’s. This is to ensure that students can keep up with the demands of the course. Yikes.

Another thing to consider is the amount of expected independent study time required. If you thought undergrad was a lesson in self-motivation, you’ll likely be in for a tough time during your master’s. Check course handbooks for the recommended independent study to contact time ratio. Many universities will expect a significant amount of independent study to be undertaken outside of class. Bear this in mind and don’t schedule all your free time for binge-watching Netflix shows in your pyjamas!

Finally, don’t underestimate the cost. Big numbers going into and out of your student bank account. You’re probably fairly used to it by now, but student finance is not the same at postgraduate level. Although it’s not recommended that students take on too much extra work, it’s important to consider the financial implications of further study. Full-time master’s degree students may receive a loan of £10,609 towards their tuition and living costs.

Check the tuition fee for your course and think about whether you need an additional source of income. Those weekly bath bombs and nights out that were covered by your undergraduate loan may now be luxurious extras. It’s significantly cheaper for students to live at home while they study, so consider your university’s location. Many universities also offer discounted tuition fees for alumni students. Talk to the finance team about scholarships and bursaries to help with funding further study.


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An English and Journalism student at the University of Lincoln. Lover of books, plants, animals and a good nap.

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