When is the best time to start your Masters degree? Straight after finishing your undergraduate studies – or is it best to work for a few years and to then apply for a Masters? In this post I share with you 8 tips that will help YOU decide.
1. You Love the Subject and You Just Can’t Get Enough
The best reason for going straight from your undergraduate degree into a Masters is – you really love the subject and you can’t wait to dive deeper into it.
If that’s the case for you, it’s great you have the enthusiasm and energy, so why wait? The only thing I’d say is, don’t do a Masters degree that’s very similar to your undergraduate course – choose a specialised Masters instead.
2. Doing a Masters is Expensive – and not only Because of the Fees
Depending on what subject your Masters is in and where you do it, you’d have to budget about £25,000 – £30,000 in tuition fees and living expenses – or more for some courses. On top of this you won’t be able to work for at least another year.
So when adding up the cost of your Masters don’t forget to include the full-time salary that you won’t be able to earn. For me personally, this was the biggest difficulty, which is why I left university to work before starting my Masters. Think about what would work best for you.
3. If You Wanted a Job Right Now, Could You Get One?
Often, your job options are the same whether you a Masters or you left university with a Bachelor degree. But in some countries or for some positions, a Masters degree can give you a real advantage – or may even be essential for being hired. Or if the job situation is not great right now, staying in education may the better option.
If you want to do a Masters to get a specific job, I always recommend that you find out BEFORE what employers exactly look for. Will it help you to have ANY Masters degree from the UK? Or are employers looking for a specific qualification, subject or even type of university?
4. It May Be Best to Go With What’s ‘Less Complicated’?
Often it’s just less complicated to start your Masters straight after your undergraduate degree. You still have what you’ve learned fresh in your mind and you’re in ‘study mode’. Plus, you’d probably joining most of your friends who are continuing with their education.
If you leave university it can be harder to find the ‘right time’ to go back to university. In a few years’ time you’ll probably have a flat / partner / job / lifestyle – things that you can’t simply ignore as you’re making your future plans.
5. Everybody Needs a Break Sometimes
If you can’t face another year of essays, studying and exams, don’t feel bad about it – it can be great to take some time out. Remember, Masters degrees in the UK last 12 months: that’s a full year of working hard day in, day out, every week. Is it what you want? Or would you like a break from all the studying?
If you do take a year or more out, think about interesting projects to work on or experience to gain in this time. Make sure it’s something that will look good on your CV and that might also help you with your Masters application and studies.
6. Masters Students Are All Mature and Smart? Think Again
I did my Masters degree part-time as I was working full-time already (if you’re here on a student visa, this is not an option for you). In the first year, the cohort was mainly recent undergraduates and, to be honest, on most days it felt like I was still doing an undergraduate degree. My experience as a Masters student was not great.
In the second year, things were different. There were some students who had worked and had a more mature attitude. I learned a lot from exchanging ideas and thoughts with them, and I really enjoyed my degree a lot more.
I guess the point I’m trying to make is: waiting a year or two before doing your Masters can help you develop and grow as a person. You could offer a fresh and different perspective when you enrol on the Masters. You’ll probably also have a much better idea of the type of Masters you want to do – and why you want to do it.
7. Did You Know Work Experience Can Make You a Better Student?
Working in a full-time job means taking on responsibility, learning to work on your own as well as with other people, meeting deadlines, accepting and acting on feedback and much more. It can also help you get a better idea of what you’d like to do – now and in the future. Can you see how this can be useful for your Masters studies?
Also, don’t forget that for some Masters degrees you need work experience BEFORE you can apply. For example, for a good MBA course you’ll need to have worked at least 3 years full-time before you can enrol.
8. Will You Have Time to Apply for a Masters?
Applying for a Masters, especially if you do it on your own, takes time. You have to find the right universities and courses, write your personal statement, organise your references, keep on top of university replies and so on.
Doing this in your final year on top of your assignments and exams can get a bit stressful.
But, of course it can be done and final year students do it all the time. If you’re really organised, you could start working on your Masters application in the summer break before your final year starts. Just a thought.
As you may have guessed from this post, there’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ time to start Masters. It all depends on YOU, your circumstances and what it is that you want to achieve.
Personally, I was glad to have started working first but of course it was easier for me. I was already living in the UK and didn’t have to move country or give up my job.
Whatever you decide to do, you’ll always find other students in the same situation as you. Many international students continue with their Masters straight after their undergraduate degree. Others come back to university after having worked for a few years.
In my experience, a good Masters course will bring together students from different background, nationalities, age. and gender. When choosing your Masters course, it’s really important that you find out about the student mix on your course. Go to my next post and you’ll see why.