How to find the right MA course for you

How to find the right MA course for you by Nottingham Trent University

This article was written by Maria Tomlinson, published on 3rd February 2013 and has been read 10569 times.

Maria, a KCL graduate, is doing an MA in French Literature and Culture at King's, hopefully including an exchange teaching English to undergraduates at Nanterre University in Paris, and she is also tutoring A2 French. Here is the advice which she found useful for choosing a Masters degree...
So you have started the final year of your BA and you are wondering whether or not to apply for an MA? Here are a few things you should consider...

To do an MA or not to do an MA?:

1. Many recent studies have shown that MA graduates are more likely to be employed than those with only a first degree, especially those who have studied foreign languages. However, employers may rate work experience over a second degree so make sure an MA is right for your chosen career path.

2. The best MA courses ask for a 2.1 or First. If you always achieve high 2.1s and Firsts, an MA is a great addition to your qualifications because it will set you above the rest, and give you the chance to shine in the aspects of your subject you excelled at and enjoyed in your BA.

If there was a particular aspect of your degree you really enjoyed, you may benefit greatly by taking an MA course because you will get the chance to further develop your knowledge of something which interests you through a long dissertation at the end of the course.

For some careers paths you must have an MA or it is highly recommended, for example if you want to go into research or translation.

MA courses are often very expensive, so before you apply you should look into funding opportunities. Unfortunately, funding opportunities for MAs are rare. To see whether the course you are applying for has funding, check the university website. You can also see whether the AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council) offers funding for your course by checking their website.

When deciding which MA course to choose ask yourself the following questions

1. What are the career prospects for this MA?
Have a look at a variety of different universities and see what career prospects they list for your course.

2. If I do not get funding, what are my options?

Make sure you know before you apply.

Do my previous qualifications relate to the MA I am applying for?
If you decide to do an MA that does not have any apparent relevance to your previous qualifications ask yourself how any experiences you have gained could be relevant.

How is the course assessed?
If you did better in coursework than in exams it may be best to choose a course with more of the former.

How is the course graded?
On some courses you may be able to achieve a merit or distinction which could set you apart from other students taking courses without these grades.

How large are the class sizes? How many contact hours are there?
Try and find an MA which has small class sizes so you get as much attention as possible but make sure that the modules you are the most interested in are definitely running. Of course, the more contact hours, the better value your MA is. If you want to take a postgraduate course which involves mostly your own research it is worth looking at MRes courses.

Who will I be taught by and does the university have the resources I need?
If you have a specific interest which you would like to develop, for example Contemporary Women’s Writing in France, make sure the university you are applying to has a specialist in that area. University websites have a list of academics and their publications so you can see who best fits your research interests. Also make sure that the university has resources available which match your specific research area.

Does the university for which I am applying have any industry links?
An MA with such links could help you make valuable industry connections. Some universities may help you find a job afterwards.

Is the qualification transferable?
If you are considering applying for an MA abroad or a career abroad after completing your MA, make sure your qualifications are recognised in the country in which you wish to work.

Should I do my MA in the UK or should I go abroad?
Doing an MA abroad could really set you apart from other graduates and you could learn another language at the same time. Better still, MA courses abroad are often cheaper than courses in England. However, MA courses abroad are often two years rather than one.

When is the deadline?
MA courses have different deadlines so make sure you keep on track with when they are. Writing out a table is a good idea.

12. Is there a chance the course will not run?

If you want to apply for a course which very specialised make sure that you have a back-up option in case the course does not run. From personal experience, I was let down by a university last minute despite receiving an offer a few months before and being told on the phone that the course would definitely run. I was informed the course would not run after all other MA deadlines had closed, and I could not take any action because of the small print which stated that the university could cancel the course at any stage. Thankfully, the university at which I did my BA was very supportive and offered me a place there. Please do not fall into the trap I did, it is devastating – make sure you always have a back-up option.

Helpful websites

1. Find a Masters

2. Masters Compare

Prospects' Postgraduate Study website


 Postgraduate Online Research Training is mostly geared for PhD applications but also gives some handy tips which are relevant to MA applications

The guardian website has some useful statistics and advice

If you are considering a career in academia, Oxford's Preparing for Academic Practice website may be helpful because it contains testimonies of some academics and highlights the advantages and disadvantages of such a competitive yet rewarding career.

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