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KatieI’ve always wanted to do a Master’s degree, but, like many people, life was getting in the way. I enjoy my job and wanted to keep building my industry experience. Plus, I like having a salary and I think the bank likes me paying my mortgage too. So, how to get that MA without giving up my job?

I came across the Build Your Own Master’s programme at BU’s Media School and I got pretty excited. Not only could I choose my modules, I could study at my own pace and keep my full-time job. Each course starts with a two-day retreat in my lovely hometown of Bournemouth (and it really is lovely), and then the rest is distance learning through a virtual learning environment.

I love writing, so I’m going to build my MA in Journalism Practice. I can even throw some other media modules into the mix to beef up my skillset. And in today’s jobs market, everyone needs a beefed-up skillset. The first module I applied for was Writing, Editing and Publishing, which I have loved. The lecturers were so lovely and got to know each of us personally, even though we were actually only in uni for two days. Because the short courses are aimed at media professionals, you learn as much from the other students as you do the lecturers. Where else would you end up in a room with an Irish radio presenter, a gun-dogs blogger and a BBC employee? And yes, that does sound like the beginning of a Christmas cracker joke. Even after just my first module, I’ve learnt so much. I’m using the new skills in my job and it’s encouraged me to write more in my free time too.

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Working full-time and studying isn’t easy – I had to cut down on things like meeting up with friends and watching Mad Men (don’t worry – Don Draper is back in my life now. The balance is restored), but the benefit of the BYOMA framework is that I can now take a break until my next module. I’ve had eight weeks of hard work, now I can really appreciate my free time over the summer and get ready for the next course. It’s also really helpful if you’ve got supportive friends, family and colleagues. My partner did a lot more than his fair share of the housework and my manager was really understanding of me booking in lots of holiday to study.

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Even though the course was distance learning, I still had a study buddy…

Most people don’t realise that there’s a lot of funding out there for postgrads, you just have to hunt for it. I was prepared for weeks of scouring the internet and begging for funding, but I managed to hit gold with my first application. Creative Skillset was kind enough to pay for 80% of my first short course through a Diversity Fund, so my first module ended up being cheaper than a weekend away.

I’m getting ready for the next course now and am hoping to take Entrepreneurial Journalism in September. I’m aiming to finish my MA within 2-3 years, so perhaps I’ll be back then to tell you how I got on!

Katie's books

If you want the whole student experience, full-time study is probably better for you. But I wanted the learning opportunities, qualifications and flexibility without the beans on toast budget.

If there’s anything you want to know about the framework or how I balanced work and study, just ask – I’m happy to have a chat! And maybe I’ll see you on the next module.

By Katie Dancey-Downs

You can find out about our Media Short Courses on our website.