Going into the third year of my undergraduate degree, I had a fairly strong idea that I wanted to stay in education. Even though it was something we had only touched upon briefly, I knew I was interested in a career in social research. A postgraduate qualification would help me to gain the skills I needed, as well as conduct my own research in an area that interested me.
Getting advice from the careers service proved extremely beneficial in helping me to understand the postgrad admissions process, funding procedures and dates for open days. Being open to moving (although I ended up staying in my home city!) is a good idea, as although location is important, if you’re going to commit to a Masters course you should focus more on the quality of the teaching and the university. Behind all this, of course, lies funding and I certainly couldn’t have joined the course without a scholarship, so looking for funding and making sure you fulfil the criteria is crucial.
Taking the time to attend open days is also important - meeting current students and talking to teaching staff gave me an idea of the structure of the course and how different a Masters course would be from undergraduate level.
Through doing my course, I was hoping to gain an insight into designing and conducting my own social research while also further developing my own interests. I also hoped that I would be able grow more as a person and develop better social skills, something which I have certainly been able to do and which has helped me improve my own work and the interactions I have with staff and other students.
Of course there’s no denying the workload and the pressure that comes with studying for a postgraduate course. Making that jump from undergraduate level isn’t easy, and there have been times when I am been overcome by the workload and wondered if I should have taken a break after I graduating. What has got me through this has been a combination of the great support services available at the university, great support from people on my course, and my genuine love for the subject and for the dissertation that I am currently preparing for.
Being on a Master’s course is hard work and you have to have a genuine love for what you are studying. But despite the constant assignments and research proposals, and the higher expectations being placed on the level of your work (particularly in terms of independent study), it’s great to be able to choose your own research topic, using your own methods and feel like you are contributing to wider knowledge in society.
Peter Shaw, MA Social Research