What I Gave up and What I Gained by Going back to University for a Master'sby Kristina
My third year of university was exciting, terrifying, stressful, and existential. I’d studied a course I knew I didn’t want to pursue as a career, and I had no idea where to steer my life.
It seemed like half my friends had bagged highly paid consulting/banking grad schemes, whilst I was stuck in a rut.
In one of many mindless searches on the internet, I came across an MSc course at Newcastle University – Global Wildlife Science & Policy (now called Ecology and Biodiversity), and it ticked all the boxes for me. I realised this was the perfect chance for me to start on a new path, setting myself up for a career in a field I was truly passionate about...
Choosing between working and studying
For me, choosing between working and studying was pretty easy. The first thing I knew I had to sacrifice was earning money.
I must admit I still don’t know what my next step after this is, but I feel certain that I’m on the right road, which fills me with much more fulfilment than my undergraduate degree ever did.
Whilst part of me envies friends who have more money and freedom than me, I wouldn’t change my situation for anything. I knew I wanted to specialise in a field very different to my undergraduate degree, and this MSc at Newcastle seemed like the perfect opportunity. I chose it so that I could improve my skillset, learn about career opportunities, network with like-minded people and even potentially set myself up for a PhD.
How my MSc has enriched my life
I’ve only been at Newcastle University for 8 months, but my personal growth has been huge. Me studying Chemistry was like pushing a square peg through a round hole, and whilst I conquered it and I’m proud that I persisted, the experience was completely incomparable to my MSc. Postgraduate study has made me feel like I’m pushing through a me-shaped hole, and as a result I’ve flourished and achieved grades which I genuinely didn’t believe I was capable of.
One great benefit of studying a masters, particularly in a niche field such as mine, is that it allows you to network with amazing people, who all share the same academic interests and passions as you.
I’m so grateful for the support network I’ve built with my course mates – we all share a common goal of wanting to work in conservation, and because we’re all from different backgrounds, we’ve all got valuable insights and inspire each other.
I definitely don’t just learn from the lecturers in this degree. That being said, the lecturers are brilliant too. It’s inspiring to work directly with people who have spent their lives working in your dream career.
Within the Modelling Evidence and Policy research group, there are teaching staff who have worked with IUCN, DEFRA, APHA and all sorts of influential organisations. This probably won’t mean much if you’re not interested in ecology, but it’s worth considering what networking opportunities you’ll gain from the masters you choose – this is your opportunity to get guidance from some real experts in whatever field you’re passionate about! Choose carefully!
Since being an analytical, mathematically-minded chemist, my MSc has transformed me into a policy-focused ecologist. I’ve learnt a huge range of skills; coding, quantitative and qualitative analysis, GIS, science communications, and ecological fieldwork. The most important thing to consider when choosing a masters is: what will you get out of it?
What does the future hold?
One downside is that I’ve once again found myself in a position where I don’t know what the future holds. With a job you have a fairly secure future, because it’s pretty much indefinite. However, with academia, you never know what the next step holds.
This can be challenging sometimes, as I personally struggle with the idea of uncertainty. However, the important thing is that I have a deep-rooted feeling I’m on the right path, so whenever the fear of uncertainty crosses my mind, I just ground myself in that thought. I’m working through plenty of applications for next year, so I’ve just got to hold tight that one will pull through!
Go for it
Despite being a year rather than three, I’ve found my MSc to be much more valuable than my undergrad. It’s a chance to really specialise in what you love, meet like-minded people, and massively improve your employability.
For some people, it’s a chance to change the trajectory of your life by switching to a different discipline, and it’s a chance to experience a new university which might have different societies and styles of teaching compared to your undergraduate university. If you are determined to work hard, sacrifice a year of earning, and get the most out of the masters, then you should go for it. After all, it’s an extremely valuable experience and it only takes up one year of your life.
For more support and advice on pursuing a postgraduate degree, why not read our latest blog post on whether you should do a masters? For those particularly concerned about the differences between going into work or further education, you can find impartial support and advice with our careers service.
Published By Kristina on 05/06/2020 | Last Updated 17/03/2023