Postgraduate queries: Social work, affording a Masters and stage management


Steve McCormack
Wednesday 19 June 2013 11:28

Q: I am interested in becoming a social worker, and want to know what path you'd recommend, after I graduate in history this summer.

A: The established route into social work is a two-year, full-time Masters (numerous universities do them) mixing university-based theory with at least two practical placements. But two faster avenues have recently been introduced.

The first, Step Up to Social Work, is a Government-backed training programme (see the Department for Education website) that aims to get students into qualified positions within 14 months. The second, which is due to start recruiting this autumn, is called Frontline ( and aims to get you into a qualified position within 12 months. This one is modelled on the Teach First programme, which, for the last decade, has sent top graduates into school classrooms.

Both these schemes demand top degree results, from high-ranking universities, and they are very demanding, with simultaneous practical experience and coursework.

Q: I am a second-year sociology student at Coventry University, and toying with doing either a two-year, part-time MSc in HR or a one-year, full-time social research Masters, with a view to becoming a lecturer. But Masters cost so much I don't know if I could afford one.

A: There's no doubt that doing a Masters requires a considerable investment and this must be balanced against the potential benefits that any qualification would bring. These don't have to be financial, or immediate, benefits, of course. But it is right to calculate, reasonably precisely, how much one or two years as a postgraduate student will cost you in fees, living expenses and potential lost income. With that figure in mind, you then need to ask the question: do I think that, taking all my life aspirations into consideration, it is worth allocating X pounds of my resources (or borrowing power) for this purpose?

First, though, I think you might focus on something just as crucial, namely the difference between a career in HR and one as a lecturer in higher education. These would present starkly different lifestyles, and I suggest it would be worth doing some in-depth research into these two jobs to decide which one better suits your personality, skills and objectives in life.

Q: After I (hopefully) graduate with a First in drama studies from De Montfort University this summer, I am looking to do a postgrad course in stage management. However, I can only find options in London, at the Old Vic and Rada, and I'm not keen on studying in the capital. Can you help at all?

A: The only other location I can suggest is the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff. This runs an MA in stage and event management, which covers core elements common to both strands (budgets, health and safety, lighting and sound, scheduling and computer aided design) and material specific to the stage. You would also do two six-week placements with professional production companies. But the fees for a full-time, one-year course are more than £7,000.

You might therefore consider earning your stripes by working your way up in paid positions in theatres, starting as an assistant stage manager. Whatever route you choose, the professional website ( should provide some useful pointers.

Send your queries to Steve McCormack at

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