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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Software Developer

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Join a fast growing software co...

Guru Careers: Graduate Account Executive / Digital Account Executive

£20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate / Digital Account Exe...

Guru Careers: Junior Designer / Design Graduate

£18k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Junior Designer / Design Graduate to join...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager / Graduate Trainee

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Key Sales Account Manager/Graduate Trainee i...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum