The last couple of months have been busy with essays and the dissertation. I’ve also spent a certain amount of time researching Masters courses at a range of institutions. I have applied to the University of Oxford. While I took the application process extremely seriously, I am going to presume I will not get in and so am looking at a ‘plan B’ university.
Should you study for a Masters degree? In general, I would say no. There is no point studying for a Masters or any other postgraduate qualification unless you know exactly why you want to study for that qualification. Doing a Masters to stand out will only make you stand out if you excel at it and you can demonstrate what you have got out of it. And that is something that is difficult to fake on the spot in an interview. Even with the new postgraduate funding, a Masters degree is a year of hard work and a lot of money. Is it really worth it?
For me personally, I intend to study a Masters for two reasons. Firstly, because I loved studying criminology and wish to study certain aspects in greater depth. Secondly, because I intend to either become an academic or work within a research related role. For that, I need further research skills and a chance to plan, carry out and analyse another research project of my own. A Masters degree will help me with both.
Through my process of researching institutions and courses, I have gained three valuable pieces of wisdom that I wish to pass on:
- Choose the right course
The right course might be the same subject as your undergraduate degree or it might be something different. But you need to choose a course which is not just interesting to study but will help you in the job market. That might mean a particular focus on research skills. Or a whole course on a module you loved in your undergraduate degree. But there needs to be a specific reason for choosing the course.
- Consider Changing Institution
If you have enjoyed your undergraduate degree, your first instinct might be to stay at your current institution. And why not? Familiarity, knowledge of the location, possibly being taught by the same academics and staying at an institution where you already have friends are all significant advantages. But I would also advise changing institutions. Studying elsewhere will give you more academic contacts and you’ll look a more attractive candidate if you can excel at two different institutions. That demonstrates flexibility, adaptability and the experience of thriving in different settings.
- Research Funding
Many universities offer significant funding to the best qualified candidates. So if you have achieved or will achieve a First, pay close attention to the scholarships available, albeit that there will almost certainly be a separate application form to complete and that there is often limited scholarships available.
Alternatively, your current institution may offer an Alumni discount if you stay at your current institution. For example, the University of Leicester offer a very generous 20% discount on tuition fees. Details can be found at this link:
My last bit of advice is research a lot and don’t rush the decision. It will be worth it in the end.