Work and postgraduate study - how to strike the delicate balance!

What will I need to do on a masters?

Masters degrees fall in to two categories: taught masters programmes and masters by research. My degree was an MRes (Master of Research), lasted twelve months and had taught elements that were there to help build and refine my research skills.

These workshops and seminars ran throughout the year for a few hours each week, I was also invited to different talks and events- some of the guest lectures were the most valuable parts of my study as they were an excellent way of examining where my research was placed in the context of those working in the field. I also had to check in with my thesis supervisor regularly about how my project was going (my supervisor was so flexible with our meeting times, I really can’t thank her enough!)

I had to prepare two presentations, two pieces of coursework (related to my larger research project), one proposal (this isn’t marked and is to help the staff evaluate the strength of your project), and one thesis (a casual 25,000 words). The hand in dates were all given well in advance so it was possible to draft up a rough schedule for myself pretty much as soon as the academic year got going in early October. 

Did you take up a loan to study/how on earth do you fund postgraduate study?!

The very handy £10,000 loan did not exist when I did my masters degree. I really recommend you take it up!

However, I did receive a 10% alumni discount and a grant of £2000 towards my studies from Plymouth University.

I used my interest free student overdraft to pay a further £800 and paid the rest of my fees with my wages.

a plymouth university where's wally- spot me if you can (i look steely and scarily determined although i honestly was really happy!)

a plymouth university where's wally- spot me if you can (i look steely and scarily determined although i honestly was really happy!)

 

How do you fit work around your study commitments and where did you work?

In a word: flexibly. I had two jobs while doing my masters degree, I worked as a Youth Life Coach for The Zone (local youth services organisation) on a 16 hour per week contract and in a bar called the Bread and Roses between 12-22 hours per week.

As a life coach I worked with five young people and would meet with them for two hours a week each, sometimes it would just be coffee and a chat, sometimes I’d be helping them make CV’s, finding out about careers information and once a month we would go up to Lopwell Dam up on Dartmoor for an outdoors activity day which would be all day. The hours changed each week and as long as I made sure to see the young people I was working with then I could work pretty much when I liked.

At the Bread and Roses I worked mostly in the evenings, starting about seven o’clock in the evening and finishing between one and two am, I would also work during the day of one day of the weekend.   

my fave thing about working at the pub was giving everyone crazy names on the till. 

my fave thing about working at the pub was giving everyone crazy names on the till. 

Although I was doing close to full time hours I pretty much always had at least a whole morning or a whole evening off, I also worked in the city centre so I could easily get from work to the library or vice versa. My diary would vary from week to week with work but I endeavoured to keep one day clear so that I could have a full day each week of just concentrating on my research.

It wasn’t all work and no play though! This was actually one of the healthiest times in my life for work-life balance. Having to be so rigid with my time table meant I was really reluctant to pilfer time away and when I had a few hours free I spent it wisely. I got in the sea when the weather was fair and got up to Dartmoor at least once most weeks, being able to have down time in the lush surroundings of Plymouth was so important to the success of my work because it kept my muscles warm and my brain from over flowing with references and theories and emails I really need to send.

As my degree was research based I spent the last four to five months writing up my masters thesis, I visited the library during this time but I didn’t need to be on campus as much as this was independent working time. I stayed in Plymouth until mid-June and then went home to stay with my Dad and step mum- bless their souls- with the little pocket money I had left over from work (I'd put back enough to keep my car running and to stave off the worst of the malnourishment). This was when I really started to power through my thesis and I spent about four weeks just writing which was such a luxury after months of crazy timetables.

I supplemented this time by spending three weeks working for NCS, this was two weeks of residential work (fed, watered and given a bed) one in an outdoor activity centre building confidence and social integration with young people and another in university halls helping teach young people living skills followed by a week in a school, the money was great and I didn’t spend anything while I was working there which was ideal, they’re a fantastic company to work for I would really encourage anyone with any youth or leadership experience to take it up. 

If there's anything more you'd like to know then feel free to pop a comment below and I'll try and answer as best as I can!

I hope something here helps you, good luck in your applications! 

G x

my fantastic NCS team :) 

my fantastic NCS team :) 

taking my team up scafell pike (the tallest peak in England) was so much fun 

taking my team up scafell pike (the tallest peak in England) was so much fun