Considering/have always wanted to complete an MA/PhD in History - advice?

posted
17-Apr-17, 17:00
edited a moment later
Avatar for KerryLouise
posted about 4 months ago
Hi all,

I'm at a bit of a crossroads (big old cliche) and am considering leaving my current career and embarking upon a Masters and a PhD.

Background - I love history always have but steered away from completing an MA at the end of my degree as I didn't feel my family would support my decision - I was already considered a slacker for not going straight into work at 16! With support I would have gone straight onto an MA then PhD.

I'm now 25. I worked for a year for the National Trust as part-time steward in a seventeenth-century property before becoming a teacher. I am considered a good/outstanding teacher. I've given lectures and workshops at conferences and at the IOE on and am writing an article on teaching the witch-hunts for the historical association's teaching section currently. I'm a bit miserable though and have been for about six months - I enjoy sharing my knowledge but ultimately my passion in history is in the writing, research and learning for myself.

Ultimately I have a first class degree in history during the studying for which I received academic awards and used archival research. I would want to return to studying masculine cases of witches in my MA. I'm considering applying to Oxford/Cambridge or Warwick for an MPhil/MA.

Am I mad in leaving a job I'm already considered good at? Anyone been in a similar situation?

Thanks!
posted
18-Apr-17, 09:54
Avatar for beancounter
posted about 4 months ago
Much better to do it now than in another 10 years when you are really p***ed off.

Just make sure that you've worked out how any funding loans etc will be enough to see you through.
posted
18-Apr-17, 10:12
Avatar for timefortea
posted about 4 months ago
I don't think you're mad at all! 25 is a good age to embark on a new career. The National Trust funds some PhDs which might be worth looking into too.
posted
18-Apr-17, 16:40
edited about 23 seconds later
Avatar for KerryLouise
posted about 4 months ago
Thanks - it's all a bit scary but I do feel better about the idea of going back and doing some studying.

Funding wise I'm okay - I have some savings and a supportive long-term partner who makes a pretty good wage in programming (very lucky).

The only thing holding me back I suppose is actually getting in. Applications begin I presume in September 2017 for September 2018?

Kerry
posted
18-Apr-17, 19:28
edited about 3 seconds later
Avatar for bewildered
posted about 4 months ago
Kerry - the general advice for arts and social sciences students is, unless you really are rolling in it, then you should apply for PhD funding (especially as with a 1st you might well be a good candidate). There are so few academic jobs available that going down that route is likely to mean years of piecing together part-time / temporary work, so it's good to leave your savings for then. There may even be partial scholarships for the MA - definitely worth looking around a bit.
Things you might want to consider with a future funding application in mind:
- consider where possible PhD supervisors might be based when making your MA applications. It is so much easier to put together a competitive PhD funding application to the AHRC (the funder for history) if you are already at an institution with a viable supervisory team. (A percentage of the score is for supervisory 'fit').
- Specialised research training availability might also matter - e.g. will you need particular language skills to make the archival work viable - if so can the institutions you're looking at provide that perhaps during the MA?
- And do check that the institution can sponsor an AHRC history bid - there are some surprising omissions in the South East.
- When you start the MA make an appointment to see the person running the PhD programme - the more information you can get early about applications and funding the better.
posted
18-Apr-17, 21:11
edited about 22 seconds later
Avatar for KerryLouise
posted about 4 months ago
Thank you very much Bewildered for all of that advice! I will look into it all in the next couple of months. I definitely want to select an MA where a future PhD would also fit well in terms of expertise within the department. Oxford looks good (though the PhD is very competitive) as does Kings. Kings would be somewhat better as I could move back in with family (eek) and avoid too many living expenses as I am from London.

I'm looking into some courses I can do in the lead up to the MA at the moment to brush up on my Latin. In my previous experience the main stay of my materials were in English albeit hastily written during court cases - I definitely need some help with palaeography! I've seen that many courses cover that I remember an undergrad panic in the Kent archives and spending 3 hours plus piecing together depositions.

Kerry :)
posted
18-Apr-17, 23:08
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 4 months ago
Hi KerryLouise
From what you've said you HAVE TO DO IT! Otherwise you are going to be bored/miserable/regret it forever! You could write up what you seriously have to lose... no one can take away from you what you have already achieved... and teaching posts aren't going to disappear... I say follow your dreams... it will be challenging to secure funding etc, but you'll get it in the end if it is what you really want. And then who knows what lies ahead!
I left a comfortable career that I excelled in (although it wasn't one that required much in the way of qualifications). It was hard to secure funding - I had to face some rejections. And then when I did leave my job I gave up my flat and car and moved away from the most important people in my life. But I can honestly say that it was all worth it. And even if I ended up back in my old job or similar (which I don't think I will), this has been the best adventure ever... pursuing my passion... and being recognized and appreciated for doing what I absolutely love! :-)
All the best
Tudor

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