Masters vs Jobs: what’s best?

I’ll start this post off with the very obvious answer: whatever you decide, is what’s best for you! This is such a subjective topic and the answer is something that only you can come up with once you’ve decided on various things.

In this post, I am not going to say do or don’t do anything, I’ve just put together a few simple things for anyone to consider before applying for a masters, or deciding against.

I have always thought about doing one myself if there was a subject I felt passionately enough about or if I felt I needed one for my career – so I completely understand why people opt for doing them! Masters are a great way to continue our learning and so with the right intentions behind it, you’ll get a lot of enjoyment and expert knowledge out of one.

With the current job market looking quite daunting for recent university leavers, the idea of doing a masters or further qualifications is looking like a good option to avoid trying to secure a job. The term “panic masters” typically refers to enrolling in a postgraduate degree in order to have a plan for what’s next, so it is very natural to consider this as an option given the situation.

However, while things are quite scary in the job world, that doesn’t mean you should jump straight into a post-grad course that you’re not really sure about. I’ve spoken to a couple of people that are on master’s courses, something they chose to do to become more qualified in their fields and also just to have a plan for what’s next – what they deem as a ‘panic masters’. You can read these at the bottom of this post.

This post is not to scare anyone out of doing a masters, or make someone feel as if they should be doing one. Always do what you think is the best idea and best investment for yourself. I’m not an expert, but I want to use my blog to say that it’s okay to be scared about what’s next after university but continuing education isn’t the only option or something to do just because.

So here are a few things to consider before applying for a postgrad course or what’s been called a ‘panic masters’:

Are you doing a masters out of fear of ‘what’s next’?

When we make any decision in life, it should be for a range of reasons. Not just one or two. It should be something we’ve taken a lot of time to consider, weighing up the positives and negatives.

If over the last few weeks, you’ve toyed with the idea of doing a post graduate course because you’re afraid of facing the world of adulthood and trying to land a job, consider whether that’s a justified reason to do it.

We all leave university feeling a bit scared, unsure what we want to do and whether we’re even better off from our undergrad degree. In previous years, we’ve had the option to jet off to an exciting new country once we hand in our final assignment or hear “pens down” for the last time. It’s different now and the classic idea of a gap year has changed for 2020 grads.

Whatever decision you make, don’t base it on fear of the unknown. There are lots of other ways to fill your time at the minute if you can’t get a job that may make you even more qualified for a role than a master’s course.

Remember that it’s completely okay to not go straight into a job after university, find yourself in a non-graduate role, or take a month or two to just relax and enjoy being education free.

Panic masters degree - image shows an iPad with UCAS on the screen and a notepad and pen next to it
Write out a list of pros and cons for doing a masters

Consider whether it’s beneficial to your career

For a lot of people and industries, doing a masters might not make them stand out for a role. Sometimes it’s better to just try and gain relevant experience or knowledge from shorter online courses or using some of these tips for getting experience when you’re out of a job.

If you’re struggling to know whether you’ll get ahead in a role with a masters, why not use LinkedIn to see if people in a company you’d like to work for have a postgrad degree and where they are now? You can find out more about how to use LinkedIn as a student or graduate here.

You could also approach people at the university and get their views on whether it was worth it for them and their role. Always try to do lots of research, which includes asking other people too!

Will it be the same as your undergrad?

The life of a student is looking likely to have changed as we approach the start of the new academic year.

If you loved your time at university for reasons that are currently on hold, such as crowded lecture theatres, big nights out and hot desking in the library, consider the idea that all of that might be missing this year, or at least for the first semester.

Making the decision to do further study should be based on your passion for the subject and your investment in yourself, not whether you just absolutely love a night out or need the safety net of education – sadly.

However, your master’s degree can be different to your undergrad with an option to do a part time course. This can help if you need to earn some money on the side too!

Do what feels right for you

It doesn’t matter if your friends have gone into a job, have decided to do a masters, are pursuing their own idea of a new gap year, whatever it is. Don’t be guided by other people’s choices when it will affect your life hugely.

Do your research, if it makes sense and you know it’ll be the best decision – then go for it. If you have a passion for the subject don’t let it stop you – you might decide that you want to do a PhD from there and find a career in teaching or research in that field.

Don’t let anyone tell you that what you’re doing is a ‘panic masters’ if you’ve got your heart set on it and it’s what you want to do!

Photo by Baim Hanif on Unsplash

Some 2019 postgraduate student perspectives

Joanna, 22, Sheffield Hallam – MSc Psychology

I did an undergraduate degree in Criminology and Psychology. However, the degree was British Society of Criminology accredited, not Psychology, which is what I needed to get into the field I wanted.

I couldn’t get a job as an Assistant Psychologist or any job I wanted as an Occupational Therapist in a forensic mental health unit (my long term goal is to be a Forensic Psychologist). I was just getting decline after decline from jobs. I got rejected from a masters in Forensic Psychology because I didn’t have the experience (compared to others where this is their second to last stage to a doctorate). So I decided to get my BPS accreditation by doing an MSc in Psychology.

But now I so wish I took the time out to discover what I really want – I was just so unbelievably scared of being continually rejected. Again, that’s a personal problem, and the job market when you come fresh out of uni/education was terrifying and I really felt like I was hard done by. I felt that I deserved some sort of chance in the field I studied my undergrad in, because that’s what we’re told I suppose.

So now I’m coming to the end of my masters, and my friends have just finished their undergrads, so I feel that same pressure and graduate anxiety that I did last year. Doing this has made me question whether I even want to go into the field that I originally chose to do the masters for.

Overall, I’d just say to really think about whether a masters will benefit you in the long run, or whether you’re just using it as a way to have a plan after finishing your undergrad.

Tom, 22, University of Leicester – MSc in Crime, Justice and Psychology

I did my masters for many reasons but primarily to delay the search for graduate jobs. I wanted to stay on and learn more and was less keen on entering the world of work with only an undergraduate degree.

I liked my course, department and uni, and feel very lucky to be in this position. But please do not choose to do a masters to simply delay life. It could be an expensive mistake and could deter from taking other more worthwhile opportunities, such as an internship or a perfectly acceptable non-graduate position.

I considered my course as a panic masters because I applied relatively last minute and didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do with it.

Expectations: it would be challenging, it would be more specialised and it would give me an idea of what I wanted to do in life.
Reality: all expectations were met. I was challenged sufficiently I felt although it was more similar to undergrad than I expected. I had more choice over modules and assessments so it was very specific to what I wanted and finally it gave me a good impression of my future career path. I have applied for a PhD at the university of Birmingham and have received a conditional offer.
Conclusion: postgrad was an overwhelming success.

Some top tips that I would give would be to research heavily to determine the correct course, department and uni to go to. Make a decision about whether to do a full time Master’s or a part time one. It may allow you to earn much needed money on the side.

Have you been considering doing a panic masters? Have you signed up for one? Leave a comment below with why you’ve decided to do one!

This post is not to scare anyone or make them think that they shouldn’t do a masters, it’s simply to remind anyone that’s a bit unsure that there should be many factors for deciding to continue education. Don’t let fear of the unknown guide you into doing one, you’re a lot tougher than you think so don’t be scared by the job market or the thoughts of ‘what now?’.

You can find further articles about panic masters during Covid-19 here.

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This Post Has 4 Comments

    1. Maddie

      Thanks Rohan! Definitely. Thanks for sharing, it’s great to see other people’s ideas too and make sure everyone can be informed about their decision!

  1. Rhi // The Violet Journal

    This was a great read and made me feel more secure in my decision not to take on a master’s, even though most of my friends are staying on. I have the rest of my life to do a master’s – no point rushing into the decision (even though the future is very scary… 😂).

    1. Maddie

      I’m glad it’s helped you feel more reassured in your decision! I couldn’t agree more that you have a lot of time to decide those things 😊

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