Graduate job vs. Master's Degree?
Meet Oliver, a newly-joined member of the MyKindaFuture Universities Team, who has kindly agreed to share his experience of choosing a Master's Degree over taking the path of a graduate job - and how this both benefitted and challenged him...
"Hello everyone! So, my name is Oliver and I’m a University Partnerships Admin Assistant at MyKindaFuture, and I’ve just finished studying a Masters in English Literature at Exeter University. By ‘just’ I mean the very beginning of September: summer was quite a stressful period! I know there is a lot to think about during your final year – the dreaded dissertation, finishing off the degree, moving home or elsewhere, and a whole host of other things such as your final nights out and goodbyes. One thing, though, that can cause worry or apprehension is what to do next once the degree is finished. A Masters? A graduate job? Travelling? A year of self-care? The options are seemingly endless, and I think most graduates can agree that choosing the right thing for you can be simultaneously exciting and daunting, and so I thought a blog post that discusses the Masters vs. Graduate job debate would offer some insight and advice to those who may be considering their options! Of course I can’t comment first-hand on what it is like going into a graduate job after final year, as I went straight into a masters, though I hope my experience and advice can offer some insight anyway!
I decided I wanted to study a Masters because I wasn’t quite done with the study of literature at undergraduate level, and thought ‘why not make my life more intense by studying another degree, but in the period of one year instead of three?’ I quickly realised—between my final year and actually moving there—there are a lot of pros and cons to balance out when going into a Masters, and the balancing is quite hard when positives and negatives can overlap and conflict...
University is expensive, isn’t it? And yes, that is an understatement. While the£10k postgraduate loan is offered (it is actually £10,280, but don’t spend the extra all at once), the loan can only cover so much when tuition fees for Masters range from £6,000-£9,500 on average. I had to work all summer at my hotel job to shoulder the costs after student finance—accommodation, tuition, food, coffee expenditures—, and had a casual job on campus alongside my MA (word of advice: uni jobs pay a nice £8.50-£10 an hour!), which helped massively. I would say that if you are considering a Masters, working out your financial situations and budgets for everything is crucial! There will always help at your university
I stepped away from my undergraduate university (Plymouth) to study my MA at Exeter, which, in a small sense, made me feel like an undergraduate again by getting used to a new location, a new university, and new housemates. This was indeed nerve-wracking, but so exciting, and (thankfully) worked out well! Getting used to everything again, particularly when you did not study there beforehand, can be rather stressful, but it offers you a chance for more experiences and opportunities! I was able to speak at some conferences and increase academic networking by throwing myself into lots of events, which made me get used to being in a new place more easily (and quickly!) Be sure to take everything at your own pace, though, and jump out of your comfort zone, and never be afraid to ask questions! And remember: there are always more people in the same boat as you than you think!
If I’m being honest, I was rather naïve to how much the workload would increase. ‘One year of studying? That’s fine, I’ve just done three!’, I thought to myself when I was applying for it. The thought was nice. And brief. I experienced the increase in workload from undergraduate to postgraduate within my first few days. From this I would definitely agree that you should only do a Masters if you are genuinely passionate about the subject, because that will carry you through when times are stressful! However, although the workload and expectations increase, and this is of course stressful, other things increase too: the acquisition of knowledge in the field you’re studying, and the opportunity specialise in specific area!
After some of my own experiences, advice, and maybe some moaning, I think it would be a good opportunity to evaluate some things between a masters and graduate job:
- Finance can be worked around in many ways! Such as how some people work at the same time and choose to study their Masters part-time, thereby completing it over the duration of two years instead of one. If you are considering this, you could facilitate the financial expectations more efficiently. The workload, too, would be distributed out, which would be a massive help to the stress that is the dissertation project (20,000 words were…a lot).
- A graduate job would, of course, offer you money more quickly than a Masters due to the financial costs, which is definitely a positive thing after finishing an undergraduate degree. I mean, think of how much more money you would have to spend on coffee! While it is more lucrative than studying a Masters, it’s important to remember the costs needed if you are expected to relocate for the role!
- As with a Masters, there are demanding expectations of a graduate role, and I believe it is more competitive to get into: you are, after all, competing with many other people rather than yourself and your own grades. But, on the other hand, there are so many opportunities, routes, and types of fields to go into to apply for and choose from! The right thing will come up and the right time, and the reward will come if the work is put in!To offer some final advice for those who are conflicted, I would say that if you are considering a Masters, taking breaks is important: the workload of a full-time masters is super demanding and breaks of self-care, resting, socializing, (and lots of coffee and wine) to have some time out and headspace away from the intensity of the course is essential. If you want to figure out what career path you want to take, it is arguable that both a Masters and a graduate role can assist you with deciding that! Stress is, of course, not exclusive to university alone, and can be experienced in any environment. Whether you go into a Masters or a graduate job, or any position, remember that stress can be eased and controlled by being balanced. Looking after yourself – physically, emotionally, and mentally – is a top priority.
Finally, I want to end by saying: do what you want to do, not what you think you should do, because, above everything else, being happy is most important!