To what degree do you need a degree? My next challenge…

It’s not like I don’t have anything else to fill my spare time but last year was pretty monumental… got engaged, moved house, got a dog, celebrated someone special’s 30th birthday, got married, honeymooned and spent my first Christmas as a wife surrounded by a lot of snow after only just making it home from New York in time thanks to an icy runway at Heathrow.

So this year, apart from another house move, has been pretty tame in comparison and I do like a challenge. And this one’s pretty huge too – in a couple of weeks I start an MA in Online Journalism with Birmingham City University (distance learning).

What’s so big about that I hear you cry? Well, I work full time in a busy job as it is, have a pretty active social life, sporting commitments and a family who occasionally like to see me (go figure) so there’s the time angle. This MA will take up around 18 hours of my week and when you factor in everything else in my diary, that’s not going to leave a lot of time for lazing around reading crime novels, watching my Murder She Wrote boxsets or scoffing curries after work with my colleagues.

But there’s anther angle too… I don’t have a degree and a Masters is what you’re supposed to do after the degree. Luckily for me my experience ‘in the field’ has made up for my lack of degree and not only did they let me in, they also gave me an advanced scholarship. So I don’t want to let them, or me, down.

Journo Nest logoI say lack of a degree like it’s a bad thing but I have to say that not having one has never ever held me back. I’ve always applied for jobs which are for graduates and got interviews; and, of course, got my current job that way. Yes, my current employer – a university – questioned my lack of degree but I answered with: “I have three years experience working full time in the industry instead of a degree. That makes me three years ahead of anyone else my age with a degree, it would be impossible for them to have as much work experience as I do.” And that did the trick.

And in newspapers, the industry I worked in before my current job, it was never about qualifications, it was about experience, ability and enthusiasm. That’s not to say qualifications aren’t necessary, they often are and I’ve endeavored to do any qualification offered to me while also working – some NVQ Levels 4s, a CIPR Diploma in Public Relations etc – so on top of experience, so far, that’s stood me pretty well. If you can gain experience AND work towards a qualification, grab the opportunity with both hands. It’s one of the reasons The Open University works so well, it offers people of any age and background the chance to do both. But don’t underestimate the power of experience, it’s what says you can actually do the job.

When I did my journalism training at just 18, my mentor confessed to preferring to take on 18-year-olds than 21-year-olds grads – we were youger, keener, easier to shape and the full-time college experience was much more a replica of a working day than the traditional university lifestyle which made graduates a bit lazy. His words, not mine.

So, not only am I worried about the time it will take me to complete the MA – which is over three years and done from home – I’m also worried about the academic side of it. Am I up to it? I screeched and moaned my way through the CIPR Diploma because it was tough (perhaps because I was a journo sitting in a room of PRs?) but if I had my time again I’d still do it.

And this is a small worry but my peers are likely to be a decade younger than me, probably a lot cooler and grew up with online tools where as I’ve had to actively learn them. But this is minor league, I’m down with the kids and looking forward to swapping knowledge and views and experience.

But all of those worries sit beneath a bubble of excitement that I get to study the subject I love under the guidance of a well respected and talented tutor (see Online Journalism Blog), and that will boost my career and my qualifications. I’ve reached the point where I’d like to be academically more able and have some theory behind what it is I’ve been working at for more than a decade.

So, it starts in a couple of weeks and I’m desperately trying to get ahead by preparing, doing some background reading and trying to conjure up some kind of study plan. And seeing my friends because I won’t have so much time to do that when the MA kicks in.

And until it does start, I am full of excitement, nerves and questions. I’ll keep you posted. Oh, and the plan is to blog as I go at Journo Nest, the sister blog of Robyn’s Nest.

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