Masters' degrees: Are they worth the bother?

Your degree might be coming to an end, but are you ready to leave university yet? A master's degree may work out for someone like James Franco, but is it right for you?

For many undergraduates in their final year at university, the spectre of graduation is looming ever closer on the horizon. Some will relish the prospect of hitting the job market, armed with a fully furnished CV and a wealth of experience at their fingertips. But with 957,000 16 to 24-year-olds currently unemployed in the UK, and as parents begin dusting down old bedrooms for the return of their qualified kids, the majority will feel shut out by an austere economic climate.

Yet there is hope for the so-called ‘boomerang generation’ stuck at these crossroads. Postgraduate masters degrees have become a popular alternative to mowing the lawn for Mum and Dad, as they offer another year of independence and a chance for further study, enhancing the skills adopted at undergraduate level.

After achieving a 2:1 in English Literature (BA) at the University of Surrey, 22-year-old Imogen Jones opted to stay and applied to do an MA. She is now five months into her chosen course, and while she has enjoyed the freedom of university life, she has also realised it is no easy ride.

“I wanted to do a master's and I felt most comfortable doing it at a place where I was familiar with the department and the staff and also the student life,” she admits.

“I thought it would be like final year but the step up has been enormous. I've got to grips with it now but at the start it was quite daunting to realise you didn't know enough already. I'm planning to do a PhD and then become a lecturer so this is a vital step towards that.

“I don't think it’s for everyone, not because they aren't intelligent enough, just because it’s a bit like being self-employed and you need a lot of motivation.”

Yet just getting on a masters course can be daunting, as different institutions have different application deadlines. LSE’s application process urges students to make a decision in their first semester, as last year applications opened on 15 October and successful applicants were notified in January 2013.

But what does it cost?

Price is also an important factor when considering a masters, with fees varying wildly depending on institution. The cheapest course for an English MA last year was at Leeds Trinity University College with fees starting from £2,000 for home students. In contrast, Exeter University’s cost up to £18,500. For MSc courses such as medicine, the fees increase dramatically. Oxford University quotes fees from £5,970-£30,488 for home/EU students, while the starting figure for overseas students ranges from £16,788.

While the cost of a masters is not to be shirked, students willing to shop around may find grants they were not otherwise entitled to.  Edward Gough, 21, is studying for an MA in Environmental and Regional Policy at the University of Aberystwyth. His choice was partly a fiscal one; having been offered Access to Masters funding, a scheme backed in Wales by the Convergence European Social Fund (ESF), it enabled him to take the course at his former place of study.

“The availability of funding was a huge factor in my decision, and I don't regret it as I think it's greatly increased my options,” he says.

“It's also furthered my interest in the policy making sphere; I've been inspired to move on to PhD level study as a postgraduate.”

Will it help you get a job?

Yet perhaps the most important question is, will a masters get you that dream job? Or is it just vital for teaching where a PGCE is desired? Cyrus Engineer, 23, who has an MA in Twentieth Century History from the University of Liverpool, is sceptical.

“I guess it shows to people that you have a certain degree of self-discipline, but I think employers prefer to see experience on a CV rather than a load of educational merits,” he explains.

“Whilst I did enjoy it, looking back if I could do it again I probably wouldn't. Given the fact that I ended up doing an NCTJ journalism diploma, I would probably rather have just gone straight into it and missed out the MA.”

However, Beth Nightingale, 22, who did an MSc in marketing at University of Nottingham, thinks it can make a difference to graduate job prospects.

“I got to stay at uni and extra year. It was a great experience as I met new friends and it looks good on your CV,” she says. “It does make you stand out a little more. Pretty much everyone now has a degree, but not many have a master's.”

Overall, it seems a master's can be beneficial for those who feel their future lies in academia, or even those who want extra responsibilities or a new challenge. Although the financial burden may appear risky, students currently stuck at those all-important crossroads should not despair. With an ever-increasing number of people donning the robes for a second time, postgraduate study is not to be sneered at.

News
people
News
A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
Sport
Sean Abbott
cricketSean Abbott is named Australia's young cricketer of the year
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: Trainee / Graduate Helpdesk Analyst

£20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Data Analyst - Essex - £25,000

£23500 - £25000 per annum + Training: Ashdown Group: Graduate Data analyst/Sys...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Account Manager

£16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate Account Manager is r...

Guru Careers: Graduate Account Manager / Sales Executive

£18k + Uncapped Commission (£60k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Account Man...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea