This post was on my previous blog but I have moved it over as I feel like it contains some useful information. Graduation season is nearing for students who just completed their 3rd year of their undergraduate degree. Congratulations if that's you btw [despite the COVID19 situation that's stopping some ceremonies from going ahead...
Some of you might be thinking about doing a masters degree, so I thought I'd share my experience of doing one [2018/19] in my case straight after my undergraduate. The above photo is the University of Leicester, the picture makes it look like a gloomy place and well...[no comment]. But down below you can see a real photo of me flexing on the day I collected my Master's degree and could finally walk away from that place, feels like yesterday.
My postgraduate year was one of the most defining years of my life. I can't condense it all, so this is a long post; but if you are interested in continuing your education after your degree, this is definitely worth your read.
Why do a masters degree?
I'll keep it real I did my masters because I had no idea what I wanted to do when I finished university. I mentioned I was a lazy student, so I didn't do any placements or anything throughout my time studying, I just sailed on through storms and got to the end. Didn't really know where to start because I didn't know what kind of job I wanted.
So I studied Management Studies for my undergraduate degree at the Uni of Leicester. When I finished that I did my masters there, in MSc, Management, Finance and Accounting. I wanted my knowledge on finance and accounting to be more refined, so that's why I chose that. Not because I have an undying love for the subjects or anything, but I've always been interested enough to study them.
Plus I thought having a masters is great, and at least I was being productive for the year. Cool. Anyways besides that a masters degree is a great challenge! You are studying a lot of different topics in a short space of time, you're brain can't be asleep lol. Also, what I appreciated most was the NEED for you to read. You can't get away with not reading. The more you read, the easier your life gets.
My study experience
One year. Full time course. Was intense but just one year, and it was over. You tend to find that your friends become more diverse than they were during undergrad. You learn a lot from different people. You will definitely find yourself becoming stronger at presentations, critical thinking, verbal reasoning, academic writing, seeking credible information and a lot more.
I studied up in Leicester but I'm from London. That's 4 years in that mad place. Not everyone is the same but I didn't mind being in Leicester. Only time it became annoying was if something social was happening back in London. If you don't like being alone or don't enjoy your company that much, you might want to consider studying closer to home, because it can get reallll lonely, and your work is your BEST FRIEND. It's always by your side 🙃
I also didn't like the fact that nearly everyone I went to uni with was back in London, working their jobs, living their life. And honestly I couldn't join in, I wasn't getting student finance/ didn't have a job. I was there to do one thing, study. That got me down cos I was constantly comparing myself to people, but I had to remember that I was doing this for myself and I will be proud once it was over. And I was.
My days and nights consisted of this:
Time went quite fast during the masters, I'm not sure how other uni's do it but there were 3 semesters. First and second semester we got through 8 modules. Then the third it was an 8k disso and 2 more modules. So, 10 modules and a dissertation - that's a lot of things to learn. But that is one of the biggest upsides of doing your masters degree, all the knowledge you take in, in a short space of time.
I didn't have a job and get student finance which... is tough. I had to pay the uni myself for my tuition fees and you don't wanna play with that, as soon as you get your money, pay the fees. Then I had to manage whatever I had left to pay my rent. Speaking of rent, I got away with only paying for one term because I lived in a nightmare accommodation where homeless people were using needles downstairs so...I only spent like £900 on rent across my entire year. Rob this England was in full effect lol.
I would recommend having a little side job, even if it's 12 hours a week. That extra bit of income will help loads. You need to make sure you're comfortable and if I didn't have good people around me that helped me, I don't know how I would have managed COS I WAS DEAD BROKE. 🤣
As I'm talking about the emotional/personal side of doing a masters, I'll include some tips of how to cope with that aspect below:
• Keep Busy - you'll always have work to do, but also get a hobby too. I was going crazy with my website designing when I was up in Leicester by myself because it took my mind away from my reality. So find something you love and just channel energy into it.
• Keep faith - if you're religious, just keep faith in God. Don't doubt and always pray because it's soothing and a great source of comfort. Especially if you are in the position I was in, alone, no friends around, doing something extremely challenging, dangerous living situation, broke. It's not easy so yh stay prayed up.
• Make new friends - I wish I did more of this. But during my masters year I made two AMAZING friends who are still up in Leicester now. I still go and visit them, they're international students and we've become such good friends that I actually go out of my way, to travel to Leicester and see them when I'm there. I imagine I will be doing this for a while because they have another 3 years left. But they are great people, and my point is that when you're in that environment, always keep your mind open to making friends with different people. You don't know how well they might fit into your life.
• Believe in your self - sounds so cliche but really, do. If you couldn't do it the uni wouldn't have accepted you, you wouldn't have got the grades to even go on to do a masters. Remember why you're doing it, it's for YOURSELF! Pace yourself, and most importantly never lose sight of the end goal... FINISHING WHAT YOU STARTED. You can do it!
So my masters was set to finish in September 2018. I left Leicester to come back to London in June 2018 so I was looking for a job from that point onwards. I hadn't even finished studying yet but my main aim was getting a job and getting some coins so I can actually live my life lol. I started applying, probably submitted like 10 applications a week which to be honest isn't even that much for someone who was "desperate" to find work. My first ever interview I got to the assessment day of a grad scheme, was enthusiastic about working in the company but my hopes were literally shattered at the last hurdle. From that point onwards I decided I don't want no grad scheme, I'm good lol. I then had like 4 other interviews and then come August I got a job.
My biggest challenge was trying to apply for good jobs while practically having 0 corporate experience. I had to draw on the practically of my masters degree a lot, for example I can work under pressure, I can keep to deadlines, I can multitask, I can present, work in a team and erm hellooo, I'm educated LOL. Those were really my main strengths. If you are doing a masters, try to boost your employability by having some experience to couple it with. Maybe if I did that I wouldn't have found job hunting so daunting.
Anyway the first job I got was predominantly admin which I wasn't happy about, I was working in a customer facing team but for a very reputable accounting body. I felt very under-used and the only thing that was keeping me there was the wage. But that's what drove me, because I like the company and saw myself having a long term career there. They payed really well for such a job so honestly, I just felt very lucky to be working. Anyway fast forward 7 months (currently) and I secured a move to a retention role; where I get to do marketing, sales and book-keeping, and I am charged with raising revenue for the firm with a monthly and yearly target. I still have to speak to people but it's at my discretion and I like the fact that I can keep that interactive element.
I remember in my internal interview, my (now) manager asked me "where do you see your masters fitting into this role?" That is an important question, so you must know exactly how to answer that when applying for ANY job, especially when you don't have much experience. Anyway step by step, I see myself utilising things I learnt during my masters degree more, by Gods grace the pieces will keep falling together. But my advice? Please try and get a placement for 3 months this summer, especially if you're looking for a grad scheme or want to boost your chances finding a job quicker.
Masters vs Professional qualifications
I'll keep this short and sweet. A masters is amazing for knowledge and you can never have too much of that. But I'm starting to consider a professional qualification, to boost my practical skills and how I actually apply the knowledge I have. Professional qualifications are costly but it's an investment in your career and it does differentiate you from a lot of people, considering you become 'chartered' (qualified) to do certain jobs. Employers will never turn a blind eye to that.
If you're into my field, I would recommend bodies like CIMA, ACCA, AAT as they equip you with practical knowledge and skills that all employers are looking for. CIMA definitely offers a broader range of career paths though so it is worth looking into.
Also, if you have a masters that is relevant, most of these professional accounting bodies have fast track routes that enable you to skip multiple exams, so you only have to sit a few before you become fully qualified, so that's the good news.
I finished with a Merit in my masters, you know what they say " I wAnTeD a dIsTinCtIon" but no honestly I was happy to achieve my Merit. I definitely worked hard but I would say there are a few things you need to consider if you want to do well in terms of grades, so here are my tips:
• READ - can't stress this enough, if you're given academic reading to do for a lecture or a seminar please read it and make notes on it. each piece might be like 30 pages long but try to skim over it, looking for the most important parts. You'll gain marks for quoting readings that you've been given throughout the term. Also, look elsewhere for supporting pieces to read as well. It will help.
• PLAN - you need to plan your assignments to a high standard. You cannot do well if you don't brainstorm how you will draw upon alllll this information that's been thrown at you. Plan your work so that the structure makes sense when you write it.
• DON'T be afraid to think differently - honestly. Write academically but write creatively. Even in exams. Because the assessors appreciate someone, who isn't scared to show them how they interpreted a theory differently. They like that authenticity in your work and you have every right to show you're unique as an academic! This is definitely where the increase in levels between undergrad and masters is, it's about how you present your views.
• Interact with your tutors - I feel like tutors have a better rapport with you when you're doing your postgrad / PHD because they are really interested in their fields and they feel like you are too. So when you actually give them the time of day, showing up to their office hours, answering their questions in lectures etc, they tend to be more fond of you. This will help if their the one who has to mark your work lol.
Ultimately guys whatever choice you make will be the right one for you. It's all part of a journey so just try to enjoy it! Learn from it and it will be a testimony for you. Please let me know if you found this segment useful and of course it goes without saying, I'm only speaking from my own experience.
For anyone who is doing any sort of studying, I wish you the best of luck! You got this! Thanks for reading