Want to do a PhD - should I do a second Master's?

posted
31-Jan-17, 19:50
edited about 25 seconds later
by Yazoo
Avatar for Yazoo
posted about 3 years ago
I'm new to the boards, so hi to everyone!

I am 32 and interested in undertaking a PhD in History. I'm also considering whether to do an MRes first, even though I already have a taught Master's degree, in part due to my rather chequered background.

My undergrad was in a well-regarded uni in Ireland. I really found my "thing" in studying History, and received a 1:1 degree as one of the highest performers in my cohort. It seemed a no-brainer to go straight to a Master's and I had stars in my eyes when I got a place at Cambridge (working class background, first generation uni-goer etc). In reality, I was a little immature and only had a hazy dissertation idea. I had also experienced an unexpected tragedy in my final undergrad year and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, so in retrospect it would have been wise to take time out.

While no disaster, my Master's didn't go to plan and I got a rather middling pass (just Pass/Distinction for that course, no Merit). My essay papers were distinction / high pass level, but my dissertation was pretty mediocre. It was still a valuable experience and I got a decent job (non-academic, policy based).

After a decade in industry, I'm much more focused and confident. I have a clear idea for a PhD research proposal, which I'm currently fleshing out (and researching potential supervisors and funding routes). I'm considering doing an MRes first. This would (i) hopefully improve on my Master's grade, particularly in respect of the dissertation component, to make me more competitive when applying for a funded PhD; (ii) give me an opportunity to get back into "academic mode" after a decade out (and confirm that the PhD route is indeed the one for me).

Is it odd to have two degrees at Master's level? Am I overestimating the impact of my first Master's grade on applications for a PhD? Any thoughts?
posted
02-Feb-17, 10:12
Avatar for TreeofLife
posted about 3 years ago
It might be a bit different for History, but in general the advice is two masters degrees doesn't really help anyone. Your masters grade shouldn't really matter, especially if you have a first. I would just start applying for PhDs if it was me.
posted
02-Feb-17, 11:02
edited about 26 seconds later
Avatar for crystalclear
posted about 3 years ago
I agree with Treeoflife. I got a first in my undergrad, and a slightly less than middling MA. I applied at 2 universities for my PhD. I got accepted into one of those, with a studentship. I don't think having two masters would make much difference. You have not mentioned if you have any publications. Those often make a difference (but are not essential to getting a funded PhD place)
posted
02-Feb-17, 13:13
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 3 years ago
I don't think the additional masters would make you more competitive. But if you're applying for multiple funding options and some of them include the Masters year, then the MRes is definitely a good primer for doing the PhD, if you feel you want or could do with that.
posted
02-Feb-17, 14:32
by Yazoo
Avatar for Yazoo
posted about 3 years ago
Thanks for all the responses, very helpful indeed!

@TreeofLife - You definitely have a point. I guess I'm overthinking the Master's grade, possibly because I still regret my dissertation choices!

@crystalclear - no publications in the field, I'm afraid. However, recently I've been able to leave my full time job to work on a more flexible freelance basis, which leaves me with a bit more time to concentrate on getting back into research mode and focussing on my proposed topic (I am looking to start the PhD in 2018) - so I could try to get a publication under my belt during this time. Not sure if this is realistic, although I know it isn't necessarily a deal-breaker if I don't succeed. Good to hear that you got a studentship, that's fantastic. Are you in the humanities?

@Tudor_Queen - I will definitely look into MRes + PhD funded combinations. I feel like it might be a useful stepping stone to do a period of research that leads into the PhD, given I've been out of the academic realm for 10 years.

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