By Sophia Fedorowicz, MSc by Applied Research student
What is master’s study all about? Twelve months ago, I would have described it as a stepping stone to PhD. As a way of expanding knowledge before committing to a PhD or perhaps a way of qualifying for some kinds of clinical practice, such as occupational therapy masters courses. I think many students think about masters courses that way and some even hop over that stage of study completely and go straight for PhD. I completed an MSc taught course one week ago and now I feel very different about master’s level study. Yes, it is training course to give you skills for what comes next, whether that be PhD or practice, but it is also an arena for growth and experimentation. I wish I had known this before I started so here I am to pass on the hard won knowledge.
A level 7 course situates you in a place where you are free to try new approaches, explore new ideas and network the dickens out of conferences whilst developing your professional identity. Here is a place where you can explore the culture of the discipline you have chosen, read outside the curriculum, outside of seminal texts, even cult pamphlets if you want to, so you can understand more about your area, what is happening in that area and where you want to fit into it.
My broad area of interest is mental health and I went into my master’s from a psychology undergraduate course not really knowing where I would go with it. I just knew that I wanted to learn more. In the past year I have undertaken two applied experience placements, written blogs, spoken to people from every area of mental health from academics to practitioners in many different areas to people in the third sector supporting people with mental distress. I have presented at a conference and gone on a trip to York University to volunteer with the Cochrane Common Mental Disorders Group and written so many essays. I have taken every opportunity to explore what kind of researcher I want to be, what my passion is and how I want to develop after the course. All of this would not have been possible without the support of my small group of peers, this experience had taught me the value of connecting with other students and how powerful just meeting up for a coffee is in terms of personal wellbeing. I have been exceptionally busy for months and months at a time and have developed some tried and tested, armour-clad stress management strategies as a result.
Moving forward, I am starting a PhD this year and I couldn’t be more sure that it is the right thing for me to do. The topic is right, the approach is right, the supervisors are right, and I feel like a different person from my undergraduate self. I feel like an early career researcher with a point of view, connections under my belt and a career ahead of me. From my perspective, that’s what master’s study is all about.
Bio: Sophia Fedorowicz is a PhD student exploring experiences of suicide risk assessments, bringing experts by experience into the research process and working to develop guidelines to improve the assessments. Areas of interest include public and patient involvement and engagement and how individuals experience and communicate experiences of mental distress. She loves collaboration and coffee so get in touch if you want to connect.
The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.
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