19th Century hipster philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, (seriously check out his moustache) once wrote: “When one has finished building one's house, one suddenly realizes that in the process one has learned something that one really needed to know in the worst way - before one began.” It’s in this spirit that I’m going to write about my decision to do a Master’s.
I originally chose my course because I wanted to go on to a PhD. However, I’ve found it opened up other opportunities as well - two of my course friends have secured jobs in international development which are, frankly, awesome. I also feel it’s given me an advantage over other job applicants who only have undergraduate degrees. I don’t think this is simply because I will have more letters after my name, but because postgraduate study is more independent and has given me confidence in my ability to take on tasks I hadn’t done before.
One of my undergraduate lecturers gave me the best advice for choosing a Master’s: choose an institution with an excellent research reputation in your chosen field. I found this sage advice for a number of reasons. Firstly, some of the most prestigious universities at undergraduate level don’t have the best research reputations (the converse is also true). So you really need to do your homework – a good place to start is the Research Assessment Exercise website.
Secondly, Master’s teaching is more in depth, current and top researchers have the soundest knowledge of their subject. This is particularly important when you start your thesis. You’ll be expected to write an original piece of work and the best researchers can make extremely helpful and inspiring supervisors. My thesis supervisor was one of the top behavioural economists in the world and I feel really privileged for the experience.
Another thing to seriously consider is studying abroad. A lot of European Master’s courses are now taught in English, are free of charge - or only cost a small administrative fee - and have far better weather! Bear in mind two things, though: you might have to sit additional exams, which can be quite expensive. If you’re thinking of paying for your course with a Career Development Loan, as far I am aware, you’ll need to show there is no similar course on offer in the UK to be eligible.
Good luck with the search. You’ll have a great time.
Liam Wright, MSc Health Economics and Decision Modelling