Advice on balancing an MSc and life?

17-Jan-13, 00:44
edited about 28 seconds later
by nasmith
Avatar for nasmith
posted about 7 years ago
Hi, I'm new to this forum but thought it would be a suitable place to turn for some advice.

Firstly, I graduated from my undergraduate course in Physical Geography & Geology last July with a 2:1, since then I have been working full time and I am now living with my other half.

I am looking at applying for a masters starting in October 2013, however because I'm going to have to fund the postgraduate course myself, I'm worried about being able to afford tuition fees, maintenance, rent, bills, running a car, commuting to uni ect. The tuition fees are looking to be in the region of around £7000p.a, but I shall be doing the course part-time in order to work, therefore will be around £3500p.a over 2 years. I know about the CDL that is on offer and will be looking into it whilst applying. I have also read extensively about alternative funding methods such as charities, but I do not qualify for the majority of those advertised.

I would be very grateful for any information on how other people out there have managed to balance work, masters, costs of living and life in general.
Also, I'd like to know (especially in the current economic climate) whether it is worth spending so much money on a masters? I'm worried that I may be left in the position I am now - qualified but not able to find a relevant job using my degree. Ideally, I'm looking into continuing in academia on completion of the postgraduate course.

Many thanks for reading, again any advice or personal experiences would be greatly appreciated.
17-Jan-13, 00:56
edited about 21 seconds later
Avatar for ReaderinPikey
posted about 7 years ago
Can you be more specific in terms of your subject and how competitive you are? Do you want to get a job in a company where 10000 applications are received for 2 places (in the private sector)? Do you want to teach at Cambridge or you don't mind teaching in a less prestigious institution (in academia)? In most cases in the private sector, a Master's degree is the optimal qualification for an entry level position. So you will be competing with fresh grads for the same job.

The way to think about it constructively - as you rightly point out, 30k (7k and min living costs) is expensive if it doesn't add any value to your CV - is to think of a Master's as creating or adding value to your CV. And think about what those values are.

Please also remember that the academia is one of the most dysfunctional industries that exist today. Just try searching unemployed PhDs on Google - there are so many and some hold their qualifications from such prestigious universities. One UC grad (American) said in an article "yes my PhD has prestige, but I can't eat prestige." He is on food stamp with a PhD from UC! Sadly I don't think he is the exception. He is a typical PhD with no professional work experience other than "assistant to" experience in academia.
17-Jan-13, 02:08
by nasmith
Avatar for nasmith
posted about 7 years ago
Hi ReaderinPikey,

In clarification, my prospects are of lecturing probably in a less prestigious university as my undergraduate degree is not from a highly recognized university (Edge Hill University).

I would consider any industry employment based around the Geoscience/ Earth Science subjects, however these are the jobs that are rare and are the ones that you mentioned will probably get 10,000 applications per 2 places, as well as needing the MSc for entry level.

I understand the world of academia is a very competitive and a hard ladder to climb. As for looking into lecturing, I'm talking on a time-span which extends into decades rather than merely years. I'm hoping that in the progression of reaching that goal, I could get a few years of industry/private sector experience behind me before even considering applying for a PhD.

It seems from quickly searching that an MSc seems to be beneficial in terms of getting a job in specialist industries, but it looks to be the opposite at the moment for those exceeding MSc level.

The main concern I have if I do the MSc is about affording to live whilst having to pay tuition fees and the ever-increasing costs of living. I guess it is worrying me more because I'm currently on minimum wage and not on a yearly salary. My hours and pay vary a lot and are mainly weekend/anti-social hours, however my employer is willing to be flexible around me and my studies. I feel as if I don't progress further in education I'll be stuck in a low paying job for the rest of the foreseeable future, yet if i do progress onto the MSc I will have yet more debt, a lower quality of living for 2 years and have marginally increased chances of employment in the fields related to my degrees.

Many thanks for your advice and apologies if I seem to be talking utter jibberish- its a big step to take and I want to make sure its the right one!
18-Jan-13, 08:17
Avatar for pikirkool
posted about 7 years ago
hey nasmith,

there's a lot of menial work to be done at the university. u know, the kinda work that professors don't really wanna do. i earned a reasonable amount of $$$ during my undergraduate days by doing those kinda work, like taking care of the lab, finding papers for professors etc. i even taught basic maths to their kids LOL. they paid me 25 bucks / hour for that. easy money at that time :)

it's good money if u know which job to choose and which to 'diplomatically' decline. plus, it's also great for networking. by the time i graduated for my degree, i got plenty of offers to join the faculty. thanks to the series of recommendation from those professors.

with regard to ur time management in pursuing ur MSc, i recommend that u invest some time researching on how to optimize thinking and accelerate learning. for instance, i used to spend, like 2 hours reading a journal. however, with minimal comprehension.

alhamdulillah, after learning some of the advance reading techniques (no, not speed reading), i managed to peruse and understand articles within at most 20 minutes, with optimal understanding. the same goes with writing and other research related tasks. i found out that most of the time, we're doing things the wrong way and time is repeatedly wasted. so learn to optimize ur studying time as much as u can because balance can only be achieved that way.

they say that a little kindness goes a long way. help those around u but don't ask for reward from them. instead, ask from God and u will find that every sincere enterprise would often result to a fruitful reward.

hope it helps!
18-Jan-13, 09:59
by nasmith
Avatar for nasmith
posted about 7 years ago
Hi Pikirkool,

Many thanks for reading & replying.

That is actually a brilliant idea, I have played with the idea of private tutoring and during my undergraduate years would have been perfect as our subject group was very small and specialized. Its definitely an idea to consider for during my PG to get - as you said- experience, networks and a few ££ on the side too!

As far as reading and writing are concerned, I might be a bit rusty after taking this last year out of education, but again during my UG years, I was in a similar situation to you and able to more or less understand articles in about 20 minutes or so. The work which the PG may throw at me isn't really phasing me, its more the expense it incurs.

After speaking to a friend, I'm doing a bit of budgeting to see how far my savings and current earnings can get me.

Thanks again for your help!
18-Jan-13, 13:08
edited about 6 seconds later
by wowzers
Avatar for wowzers
posted about 7 years ago
There are many, many reasons people continue to study and not all of them are for money or better chance of a job. Some people like me actually like studying. How easy is it depends on your aptitude and ability to organise. I started a 3 year part time MA while working 30 hrs per week as a trainer in work based learning (very low pay, under 20K FTE). I had two children a baby and toddler. I finished my MA a year early with a distinction for PgDip year (awaiting dissertation results). In that time I also applied for funding for a small research project for my dissertation and that helped to pay for some of the fees and for the rest I used wages and a professional career development loan. It's do-able. I wouldn't say work load was horrendous. Good luck
18-Jan-13, 13:59
by nasmith
Avatar for nasmith
posted about 7 years ago
Hi Wowzers,

Thanks for sharing your experience, this was the type of advice I was looking for!

I enjoy studying, this year I've had out of education has been nothing but boredom and frustration of not doing anything productive.

Reading your experience has made me feel a bit more confident. If it's possible to make it work around a full-time job as well as children, then I should be fine!

Many thanks again, and good luck on the dissertation results!


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