by Cara Rodrigues, Editor (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Syanne Walker, Assistant Psychologist shares her thoughts and insights into the challenges and rewards of studying an MSc at a top university.
What did you study at Postgraduate level?
I studied a Master of Science (MSc) in Early Intervention in Psychosis at King’s College London where I graduated with a Merit.
Why did you decide to study an MSc? And more specifically why in Psychosis?
I decided to study a postgraduate course because I felt it would open some doors for me. I found my undergraduate Psychology degree, although useful, did not provide the opportunities that I thought it would. I wanted to start a career in Psychology and I realised once I graduated, my degree alone wouldn’t be enough to kick-start the career I wanted.
I decided to study an MSc because after much research and rejected job applications, it became clear that the competition in the current climate was fierce and undertaking an advanced qualification would help set me apart from the rest. Having been inspired to pursue a career as a chartered Clinical Psychologist since studying my A-Level in psychology, I felt that this was the right move for me.
I was attracted to the MSc Early Intervention in Psychosis at King’s College because it came with an attached clinical placement. The course seemed to cover a more specialised area in mental health, something I found lacking in my undergraduate degree, and would allow me to learn more about mental health in a realistic clinical setting, combining theory with the practical work.
Tell us about your experience studying at King’s College London?
I’d have to say that my experience at King’s was bittersweet. On one hand, I really enjoyed meeting new people, engaging with my fellow students and achieving a milestone in my academic career, but on the other hand, I felt that parts of the course itself did not live up to the expectations I had come to expect from such a prestigious university.
I felt slightly let down and discouraged by my tutors and supervisors when it came to some aspects of the course. I understand of course that with postgraduate level there comes a substantial amount of independent study, but the communication left me feeling completely deflated. The student experience in any university is always subjective and I am sure not everyone feels the same as I did, but unfortunately my experience was somewhat negative. I graduated the course feeling misjudged and disappointed.
Most people who study an MSc believe that it will open some of the more exclusive doors for them; do you have any thoughts about this?
I think that if you want to study at postgraduate level it could be a really great opportunity but the MSc alone isn’t enough to progress. I recommend undergoing work experience related to the field because it will help the employer to see that you have both practical and theoretical knowledge. In my experience, being proactive in the moulding of your career is essential and studying at postgraduate level I feel will help. Taking advantage of networking and volunteering opportunities is a good way forward in progressing yourself and your career.
What stood out for you about your MSc?
The six-month project. In most postgraduate courses there comes an original research module which carries a lot more weighting on your overall grade percentage. From my experience, this is your chance to be original and show your skills in research and writing. My experience taught me that if for any reason you are not happy with the project or you feel that things aren’t going well, speak up about it and make sure you’re 100% happy. If you don’t, you will find yourself having a lot of regrets. The MSc Project is your chance to prove yourself in research so I would recommend definitely making sure you feel supported and listened to. You have a right to tell them you feel unhappy or unsupported. This is your project and your career.
Did studying an MSc make a difference to your career progression?
I think yes it did make a difference to my job prospects but I think this is due to the coupling of both my work experience and my MSc. Doing the MSc was the extra boost I think mainly due to my skills having been gained through completing my MSc Project and showing dedication to psychology and early intervention. I also found a mentor during this time who was extremely helpful in moulding my applications.
Ultimately however, it was useful in terms of learning that not everyone will like you or want you to do well. It was a real test of relationships and personalities and definitely a significant learning curve. The MSc helped me to develop mechanisms to deal with difficult situations and to overcome the obstacles set out in front of me. It’s definitely a cut throat world.
Do you have any advice for students seeking to do an MSc?
For me, I would say the key is to building a good rapport with your project supervisor; trust your intuitions, first impressions count! And if something doesn’t feel right or you feel it isn’t working for you, make it known and don’t be afraid to request a change. Speak up loud and clear if you are unhappy and make sure you know your rights as a student. Utilise the Student Union and don’t let anyone be dismissive of you. This is your degree and your future. Don’t let anyone sabotage it!
If it doesn’t work out the way you wanted, it’s not the end of the world. For me, I focused on building myself up and doing other things to get over the disappointment I experienced doing my MSc. Finding my other passions in life and setting up Visionary Minds allowed me to put my skills to a professional use and to actually start enjoying myself.