So, what’s it actually like to study a vocational Masters degree? Your experience may vary, but I’d pick out the following highlights.
Less people = value for money
Knowing there was going to be a lower number of people on my course isn’t what attracted me to my MA, but I know it’s quite common for vocational Masters. On my degree, there is myself and one other student. Yep, just two of us.
But this is by no means a negative. In fact, it has meant a complete change in the way I studied. Seminars were much more informal (often held over coffee), as well as being much more focused. With only one other student present, it was almost like having a private tutor all year. That’s definitely value for money. It also means that individual ideas go a long, long way.
As mentioned above, undertaking a vocational Masters degree meant having a lot more control over what I wanted to study. There were still set modules with set themes, but when it came to essays, straying from those themes wasn’t a problem. Sometimes it was even encouraged.
In my second semester I undertook a project in partnership with Sheffield Archives, alongside my fellow course mate. We chose the topic, how to research it, and how to present it to the public. This was also the case for my dissertation: find a topic, research it, present it to the public.
Both these projects have allowed me to pursue my interest in Sheffield’s local history, researching issues which a normal curriculum might overlook.
You (probably) won’t need to read as much
Well, I’m not making any promises. But as the year progressed, there was much less set reading involved. Instead, much more of my research involved going out, meeting people, and learning from my experiences.
My Masters has focused largely on processes, and reflecting on those processes. So, rather than just re-evaluating somebody else’s thoughts, I am in charge of what I think about a certain subject.
You (probably) won’t need to write as much
Again, no promises. The average dissertation length for ‘regular’ taught MAs is around 20,000 words. Typical dissertation lengths for most vocational MAs is between 5,000-10,000 words lower. Mine is 10,000.
But don’t be fooled into thinking this means less work. It is simply a different kind of work. As my MA includes a project management component with a final self-curated exhibition, this contributes to the dissertation as a practical element. Similarly with Masters that have an integrated work placement, these may contribute as a practical element to your dissertation, reducing the necessary word count.