How do I decide between doing a master’s or joining the workforce?

Upon graduation most students face the difficult decision of whether to head straight into the workforce or continue studying. Blogger Mehul Parekh explains why he decided on the path that he did

April 30 2019
postgraduate, masters, university, student, choice

If you’ve ever considered embarking on a postgraduate course, then hopefully this blog on my experiences will prove to be helpful.

When I was at school, I eagerly awaited the day I could finally leave full-time education behind and step into the real world. Most of us can’t wait to escape education and enter the workforce, the perceived “real world” of adulthood. But is this really true, or are their alternatives?

Surely, no one in their right mind would want to stay indoors and revise for that pesky exam on a sunny spring day, or would they?

Confused? Don’t worry – I too was conflicted by these same thoughts when I graduated from my undergraduate degree course.

After gaining a first-class honours degree in Law LLB from De Montfort University in 2018, I was, like all students, faced with the most dreaded and difficult question: what next?

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We live in a world where, upon graduating, the world is your oyster. It’s confusing, as there are so many options that you could pursue, the most popular ones seemingly being to travel, to enter the workforce or to pursue postgraduate study. Unfortunately, none of these options is clear-cut.

I found myself in the “money vs time dilemma”: do I find a job and start earning; do I invest my money in experiencing the world, or do I spend it on more education?

I quickly dismissed the prospect of travelling the world for now, which meant that I had to choose whether I wanted to start work or continue studying. If I got a job, I could start earning money, but if I chose to undertake more study, I could expand my knowledge. To help me decide, I did what I knew best. I started researching the perceived pros and cons of each option.

After speaking to many people, I quickly learned that I wasn’t quite ready to put on my big-boy shoes and get a job. In fact, such conversations helped me to see that legal practice was far from the glamour displayed in the US legal drama Suits. I realised that I didn’t want to pursue it any longer, and that’s when I seriously started considering not only embarking on a master’s course in law, but a career in legal academia.

Of course, people choose to study postgraduate courses for a whole host of reasons, ranging from it being the only option available to them, to seeking to expand their career options. For me, however, a postgraduate course was a necessary stepping stone that would help me to cement a research topic for my PhD, a necessity nowadays for entering the world of academia.

For me, the choice of where to do my master’s was simple. De Montfort offered a range of postgraduate courses in law that interested me, and I did not want to leave the university because I had become accustomed to its academic values and its overall culture.

In October 2018, I began studying on the International Business Law LLM course. Call it naivety or stupidity, but I started the course thinking that it would be similar to undergraduate studies.

The road wasn’t as easy as I imagined, and early on in the course I struggled to stay afloat in the world of academia.

Gone were the days when I had to attend mass lectures aimed at hundreds of students. Instead, I found my timetable sparsely filled, with no more than one seminar a day, which spanned two hours. I no longer had to attend university every single day; rather, I was timetabled to attend at most three days a week – and some weeks I didn’t have to attend at all.

In the first month, I wasted away hours surfing through social media and watching shows on Netflix. But once I structured my time by scheduling dedicated reading and research hours, I found myself being more productive, which enabled me to make valuable contributions in my seminars. Not only did I start doing well in class, I achieved brilliant results in my assignments. I certainly learned the value of time management.

Compared with undergraduate study, my peer group is now much smaller, and we learn in an informal setting that provides a forum for interesting, open and meaningful discussions on challenging international business practices and how the law affords protection. Despite my early reservations, I now prefer seminars as opposed to learning through lectures, as they have helped sharpen my debating skills, vital for a career in academia.

Through the study of various international business-related modules, studying for my master’s has inspired me to delve deeper into academia. Therefore, upon completing my master’s, I aim to pursue a PhD in law, with a focus on consumer law, which should ultimately help me to pursue a career in academia.

I believe that postgraduate study is a lifelong investment that has positively challenged me and helped shape my future by sparking an ambition to educate my mind – all while providing a whole new experience of what university life has to offer.

Read more:How to write a master’s application

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