Should you do a Masters? The Pros and Cons

In the final year of your bachelors, you might start considering whether or not you should progress and do a Masters degree. The amount of people entering third level education is increasing, along with the amount completing level 9 qualifications. While the decision about doing an MA can be a difficult one – it is a significant time and financial commitment – it can also dramatically change the type of career you can pursue. Having just completed my own MA virtually, I’ve compiled this list of pros and cons to help narrow down the main things to consider. Of course, this is just what I’ve learned from my experience and ultimately everyone will have their own priorities when making this decision. 

Pro 1 –  A Leg Up 

  • Completing a Masters can have significant benefits professionally. Some careers require a postgraduate qualification to even enter, such as secondary school teachers. Even if the job you want doesn’t strictly need an MA, they can give you a distinct advantage over other applicants. As the job market becomes more saturated with people who have a college education, choosing to progress your own studies further can make you stand out to employers while also demonstrating your interest in the field. 
  • Lots of opportunities can arise throughout the course of your studies that might develop into a job or position. Many courses have mandatory work placements that can help you get your foot in the door at big companies. The majority of these companies offer graduates full time positions after their placement. 

Pro 2 – Time to Grow Up

  • Most college graduates will say that aside from the knowledge gained in their degree, the personal growth that happens in college is the most valuable thing they gained. Balancing numerous time commitments, developing interests and networking are essential life long skills. A masters allows you to grow even more, taking more responsibility for your academic performance and making you think deeply about what path you want to take after college. As well as a specialist education, an MA degree builds on other skills too. At the postgrad level personal accountability is a big part of completing your course. The work ethic, self accountability and organisational skills needed are obvious to employers and will assist you in all aspects of life. 

Pro 3 – Scratching the Itch

  • Perhaps the most important thing to think about when deciding to do an MA is whether you’re interested in the degree. Specialised postgraduate courses are the perfect opportunity to study the areas of your bachelors that intrigued you. It allows you to build your own theories instead of just studying the work of others, and teaches you how to conduct research thoroughly. In a world with misinformation on the rise this in itself is a valuable skill. I know for me personally feeling like I didn’t learn enough about the topics that were most important to me was a big contributing factor. If your undergrad left you craving more, a masters can scratch that itch.

Con 1 – Money, Money, Money

  • There is no way to deny it, a masters degree is a major financial undertaking. Most courses last from one to two years and range from €4000-6000, with some in areas like law costing as much as €10,000 a year. It’s significantly more difficult to get SUSI funding for postgrads, and rarely for the full amount. There are also other hidden costs to consider. If you’re not living at home you need to factor in rent and bills, there’s books and class materials, some courses might require trips or travelling. All of these costs add up. 
  • An MA requires a lot of time and working part-time or full-time to support yourself through it can be difficult. That being said, it isn’t impossible. If you decide early on you can make efforts to save and work out the best way to get funding. Paying for your course does require a lot of thought though. If your heart is set on doing a masters, consider if it’s a good idea to wait and work so you can lessen the financial pressure while studying.

Con 2 – Suitability

  • Just like how going to college in the first place isn’t what’s best for everyone, a masters degree doesn’t suit everyone either. For some careers it might be more beneficial to start working as soon as possible to work your way up the ladder. If an extra qualification won’t make a real impact on what kind of job you can get or what level you’ll start on then it could be more worthwhile to use that time working. The stress and mental load of a postgraduate course might outweigh the benefits, and could even adversely affect the grade you would get. If you find yourself counting down the days to graduation now, signing up for another year or two probably isn’t the best idea. Taking a gap to work and gain real life experience or travel is always an option too. You don’t have to decide straightaway and could find another course or type of training that is better in the long run. 

Con 3 – Life gets in the Way

  • Life has a habit of not going to plan, and just because you’ve planned to do X, Y and Z doesn’t mean things will go that way. Take the pandemic for example, thousands of students have completed entire courses that they paid a lot of money for online. While there are advantages to virtual learning, no one can argue it’s the same as in-person. There are countless things that could affect the quality of education you will receive and your ability to dedicate time and resources to participate. It’s impossible to predict the future, but it’s important to be realistic too. Maybe it is more beneficial to do a different type of course of training if you think you need more but can’t commit to a masters.
  • You might have people in your life saying you need to do a masters, and they might be right. But you need to be confident in your own decision, at the end of the day you’re the one who will be doing the work. It’s important to take stock of where you are in life and what your immediate goals, and decide if an MA fits in. 

At the end of the day, no one can decide whether or not a masters degree is worthwhile apart from you. For some students, it could be as plain as day if they want to or not. For others it can be a grey area of indecision. Hopefully this list offers some clarity on the things to consider and weigh up when it comes to a postgrad course.

Read our interview with UCD Confessions here.

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