What Being a Master’s Student is Really Like

Published by Isa - MRes Biotechnology and Business Enterprise September 12, 2018 4:27 pm

Starting a postgraduate degree can seem daunting, especially after the stress of undergraduate study. However, a Master’s degree can make a difference in your job hunt post-university, with less commitment than a PhD. Your Master’s course can also be loads of fun if you make the most of it!

After completing a one-year Master of Research (MRes) degree in Biotechnology and Business Enterprise, I can say that it was well worth it and that I enjoyed every moment of it. Here’s what you can expect from your Master’s year at Newcastle University:

A welcoming community

After feeling like “just another person in the crowd” at undergraduate level, it was refreshing being focused on more as a postgraduate student. I felt more valued in the postgraduate community, and I had the opportunity to get to know my lecturers and supervisors. I engaged more with the content in smaller lectures. In fact, most lectures happen in seminar rooms/classrooms, rather than large lecture theatres where most undergraduate lectures take place.

A smaller classroom

Average room size for the smaller postgraduate lectures

Large lecture theatre

Large lecture theatre – not many lectures will be in a room this size!

Some perks come with being a postgraduate student as well. One of my favourites was the ability to use previously-forbidden areas of the Medical School, like the shiny new Ridley Atrium that I longed to enter as an undergraduate student. It’s not much, just a small café and lounge area, but the idea of it was exciting!

Ridley Atrium

The Ridley Atrium – a former undergraduate student’s dream come true

The Ridley Atrium was also a great place for postgraduate students and staff to meet up and have casual conversation, especially during the busy work day. One of my project supervisors even treated me to coffee there while discussing project topics – just another great perk of being a postgraduate student.

A course fitted to you

For the first half of the year, many postgraduate courses allow you to choose most of your taught modules from a list. This lets you tailor your Master’s course to what you’re interested in. Some of the content can be challenging, as I have found. But the motivation from learning subjects you enjoy makes revising for exams easier and more interesting.
You could also tailor the course to match your interests through the large amount of project topic choices in the second half of the year. I completed a project on the use of seaweed supplements in weight loss, which almost felt like no work at all because of how interesting it was!


Isa and her poster

MRes research poster event – happy to be done, but (inwardly) sad to move on

Although I had plenty of help and one-on-one time with my supervisors throughout my research project, I was expected to be a great deal more independent compared to undergraduate projects. It was liberating to choose my own project direction, but terrifying at the same time! However, I learned how to work more independently in both the lab and the office, which are important lessons for the work force.

Vibrant student life

Just because we’re not undergrads anymore, doesn’t mean we can’t still be involved and have fun! This year, I continued fencing as I did in my undergraduate years, but with less commitment, since I could no longer attend fencing matches. This opened me up to try new things this year, like swing dance and pole dancing.
I can certainly recommend giving new things a try as a postgrad, since taster sessions, societies, and clubs are not just for undergraduate students. I’ve made a lot of new friends this year through my course and activities, while also finding other hobbies I enjoy. There are even some events for postgraduate students only, where you can meet other people from similar backgrounds.


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