Monday, 2 June 2008
Masters Degrees : Advantages Disadvantages and Expectations
If you are considering embarking on a Masters Degree in any of the Social Sciences you might be wondering what is involved and what you will be committing too. Several factors may have combined to encourage you to take the plunge and much of the marketing blurb from universities home in on those needs and reflect them back to you such as:
i) a competitive edge in an employment world where more and more people have first degrees
ii) acquisition of specialised 'know what' & 'know how' to be gained from course content
iii) the achievement of a personal goal through stretching academic endeavour
What is particularly interesting about the ways in which Masters degrees are positioned is the disconnect between the 'instrumental', 'vocational' and 'course content and structure' benefits that are presented to prospective students to get them to enrol and the 'transformational effect' and 'academic demands' that are the reality of the experience.
The crucial difference to grasp is that Masters education is not simply about absorbing 'given' knowledge. It is a process through which the student is expected to become a more independent, critically reflective individual. You mustn't expect tutors to 'tell' you things that you need to simply memorise and understand. In order to 'master' your subject YOU need to engage with it and STUDY it and this means READING. Of course you will be signposted to key texts, key ideas and key thinkers but not independently investing a significant amount of time in subject research and you'll find yourself struggling.
It should also be borne in mind that a Masters degree is an ACADEMIC endeavour, and whilst many subjects will have practical applications and relevance, the achievement of the qualification relies on demonstrating fluency and ability in the academic arts of:
i) extensive research and evidence gathering
ii) synthesising and making sense of diverse,and complex ideas
iii) formal structuring and referencing of cogent academic writing
iv) clarity of informed and persuasive argument
v) conceptual thinking and manipulation
Do not expect tutors to tell you how to structure assignments and what to include. Do not expect them to tell you what is a 'correct' answer and approach to an assignment. Do expect to be left to your own devices after contact time.
Do a Masters degree for you not necessarily for a job.Many people who job interview you will not have had a Masters experience and will not be able truly understand how your thinking skills are different. You are being trained to be a heretic and a questioner and sadly in many organisations today that is still a dangerous occupation.