Should I do a Masters Degree?

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A Passion for the Humanities

If you have a passion for English, History, Ethnomusicology, the Theatre or Brazilian Portuguese, or a subdiscipline of these, the moment you leave University you might realise that most others do not. This comes as a shock to start with but it may mean that you have discovered something about yourself. The subject you studied at Uni (or a related subject) is important to you. If that is the case, you must consider doing an MA. You will be able to pursue the subject, meet others who are serious about it and mark yourself out as a motivated and highly qualified person with an understanding of the human condition and a refined critical eye.

Prospects for MAs

It is not Universities alone who want to employ such people. You may carve a career for yourself in publishing, the creative arts, journalism, the theatre, the media, music (you do not have to be a musician to work in the music industry), galleries or museums, teaching, or the public sector. The University environment gives you some brilliant opportunities to build your work experience or portfolio and give you your first step on the ladder. If you have clear goals, enough energy and reasonable time-management skills, you should be able to take advantage of most of these, build lasting friendships and still aim to get your MA with Distinction. The aspirational ethos of the University and your circle of fellow-postgraduates give you the additional opportunity to try out enterpreneurial initiatives in a supportive and slightly forgiving environment. Many Universities have incubator schemes and offer financing. Also, your MA group of classmates can be a precious resource of contacts in the future, much more than a PhD circle, which is a time when people are much less likely to reach out or form long-term bonds.

The Finalist’s Dilemma

Many people with great BA qualifications from top Universities decide not to do an MA. They are eager to secure their first job and get ahead on the promotion game. This sounds eminently sensible. Many of these people are lucky enough to make the right choices and lead successful professional lives. Another year in education would not have been for them. However, many others are rushed into situations that they find restrictive or uninspiring. They burn out far quicker than the normal wear and tear or drift and lose interest altogether, despite their early promise. For those an MA may have changed their route, broadened their horizons, made them more ambitious  – or ambitious in a field closer to their hearts – or given them the confidence to lead rather than follow. In other words it could have transformed them. The career prospects and the personal benefits of such transformation are worth all the hard work, and the financial strain can be eased with careful planning. In addition to the list of traditional funding bodies, it is worth applying to smaller trusts and charities and investigating opportunities for related part-time work. The latter will not only help you pay your way but also increase your chances for a more prosperous career afterwards. Your professional identity can be transformed during your MA year.

It is win-win

The upshot of all this is that if you have a scholarly disposition there is no dilemma involved in the Master of Arts degree. Once you are given the opportunity to do it, grab it with both hands. Whether stand-alone or stepping stone, it is a win-win situation and perhaps the best investment you can make in your educational career.

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