Education that is…
Happy New Year Hedy Journeyers! Not sure about the rest of you but despite the best laid plans of mice and men I didn’t have the most productive of festive breaks. It all started with good intentions, but ended by finishing two TV series I’d been watching (you must all watch The Bridge), almost getting blown off the side of a cliff (at the picturesque Dunnottar Castle) and only reading 4 pages of my Christmas book (Ada Lovelace – Bride of Science). All of which means I’m starting back at work with a rather large To Do list.
One of the things I was supposed to do was apply for a Masters. After a long search I have finally found the Masters that fits my broader career goals, is flexible enough to be completed whilst in my current role and more importantly is industry specific. I’m looking forward to starting it, once I finish my personal statement and prove to the UK education system that my Australian qualifications count.
This will be the first study that I’ve completed though a university since I left university as an undergrad at the end of 2006. I have been toying with the idea of a diploma or Masters for a number of years but never found the one that fits. I have completed plenty of smaller courses through work that bolster my qualification and count towards CPD hours but for some reason never signed on the dotted line to become a student again.
For the purpose of this week I am defining further study as a course requiring at least a 12 month commitment, part or full time. It’s a big decision, and I am in no way devaluing the contribution to your career of shorter courses.
In my line of work I have been busy working long hours and some crazy rosters, working in remote locations, and lucky enough that practical experience counts for more than a piece of paper. Which is exactly the conversation I had with my bosses in my end of year performance review in December. What do employers value more – a Masters or practical experience?
In the current economic climate this is a particularly pertinent question. I know of many graduates, in the UK especially, who have spent months if not years working outwith their fields of expertise to simply pay the rent. This includes science and engineering graduates. I know of others who have flown to The Promised Land, otherwise known as Australia, to spend the next 18 months driving a cheese van around Perth to afford the exorbitant rent whilst searching for that actually rather elusive mining job.
So the question remains – how do we differentiate ourselves to employers, how do we get ahead, is it going to be further study or practical experience? In the UK it seems that almost every man and his or her dog completes a Masters degree straight after they complete their undergraduate so a Masters degree isn’t the differentiator it is at home. So in that case practical experience will single you out to employers but without the Masters to get you to the second round to start with you end up with a chicken and egg situation.
Personally I believe it to be industry specific and that their isn’t some broad brushstroke answer to this question. But now I have more than 8 years practical experience managing engineering projects and people, being able to have the skills and experience I’ve gained in the field formalised, and complement it with broader economic, financial and management theory seems like the next step.
Have you ever contemplated, enrolled in, dropped out of or completed further education? Why did you decide to invest so much of your time and money on yourself instead of, say, the stock market or housing?
And once you’ve decided to take the step you are then confronted with 100s of institutions only too happy to help you part with your hard earned cash so how do you choose which program and at which university, and which delivery method? Over the next couple of days I will give you a brief run down of some of the options available to you and the questions that you need to be asking before signing on the dotted line.