Embarking on a Masters degree is a big commitment. Jack Wetherill explores whether it's worth the jump or whether an internship might be the way to go.
Life as an undergraduate is amazing, you’ll surely agree. Apart from what seems like constant deadlines, university is like a party most of the time. But when you finish the deadly dissertation and put on your mortarboard, real life starts.
Some people can’t wait to get into the working world, even if it is unpaid for a while. Internships are a popular way into a first job; they offer invaluable experience in a career you may be interested in pursuing further, but many are unpaid. Tiffany Preston, 23 from Birmingham, studied Fashion Writing and Culture at Southampton Solent University before getting a social media and PR internship with fashion company Living in Light. Her role is to produce all the online content that is shared from the company’s social media outlets. She says, “My internship is unpaid; however, this works well for me because I am able to work from home and do not have to financially support myself in a city I can’t afford to live in.
“I wanted to get a taste of the industry; however, I do not feel I am ready to start my career yet. This is just a fantastic starting point for me which enables me to write creatively every day about something I am extremely passionate about.”
Living in Light is a Christian style company, and Tiff says the internship has helped her write confidently about faith and fashion while developing her ability to manage time and work under pressure. She chose not to pursue further education because she felt she had already been studying for many years and was ready to put her skills to use in a professional environment.
On the other hand, if the ‘real world’ is a scary thought then a postgraduate course might be a better option. Continuing at university allows you to build your confidence in your chosen discipline before entering a career. Data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency also shows that 74.6% of those with a postgraduate qualification end up on a permanent work contract, compared to 72% of those with an undergraduate degree.
After studying Magazine Journalism and Feature Writing at Southampton Solent, Marnie Theyer, 22, stayed at the university to do an MA in Fashion Merchandise Management. “My previous BA degree did not prepare me for industry and it was too general,” she says. “I wanted to focus more on a fashion-related course.”
And as well as being more specialised, the class size is also a lot smaller, with only two full-time and three part-time students on the course. This is only a good thing, though, as Marnie says, “We receive more contact time and tutorials with our lecturers. They can often personalise the lectures to our interests.
“I definitely would recommend a postgrad course. It has prepared me for industry, as well as helped me realise several potential future careers.”
Clearly, that extra year at university isn’t for everyone. But for some it can be of huge benefit, despite the extra cost. It allows you to really focus on honing your skills and, often, where class sizes are smaller the help you need is more available.
Those choosing internships can expect to gain real working experience, though be careful when you take that first step. Many unpaid internships are technically illegal, so make sure you know what you will be getting in return for your hard work. And make sure it is work you are doing – whilst often a foot in the door, there is nothing worse than six months of making tea and not actually doing anything of value.
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