I had studied sociology and social policy at undergraduate level at Stirling, graduating in 2014 so I was keen to also do my masters there as well. The focus of my undergraduate dissertation was on alcohol and substance use, so although it was written from a social science perspective a lot of themes covered were closely related to health.
I had been set to apply for the MSc Applied Social Research, however I met Niamh Fitzgerald (lecturer in alcohol studies at Stirling) at a conference and she suggested that I might be better to consider the MRes Health Research. So after that I met Nicola Ring (programme director at the time) who gave me an excellent introduction to the course and from there it was an easy decision to take up the course.
Although the course was online, I lived about a 40 minute drive away from the university so I would usually go in one day a week to use the library and to get a break from studying at home all the time. Other than that everything else was online and I found it a lot more enjoyable than I anticipated. I had been a little unsure about the idea of studying fully online at first, especially having just completed a campus-based degree, but being able to learn at your own pace for most of the modules was a massive help as I was working shifts at the time. The concern I had was about the loss of face-to-face interaction but the use of Skype and blackboard meant that actually it was not much different and equally valuable.
Having studied at Stirling before I knew the university, the mechanics of how everything works and many of the staff. It was also local to me as well, so for those reasons I didn’t even look at many other places when I was choosing as I felt the continuity would be a big advantage.
As cliche as it is, I enjoyed all of it! The best part was probably the structure, the 4 modules in autumn that I took all fed in nicely to the spring modules. These all helped me to develop and enhance my learning for the dissertation as well, so it felt connected and with a good flow to things.
Yes, I certainly do - I had two interviews before I completed my studies and both employers asked about the masters and what the benefits it would have. I was also offered both jobs so I think perhaps the masters helps you to stand out, particularly with research as it gives you a strong analytical background as well as academic writing with the dissertation.
Do it! The beauty is that it works for a whole range of backgrounds. That actually helps with your learning as you meet people from other backgrounds who can give you insight into their work and you learn a lot from each other. Being able to choose your own pace to work means you can work unsociable hours and not lose out so it has something for everyone.
I had applied for PhD funding through the Carnegie route but was not selected. I had 10 years of experience working in aviation so I had a choice to make about what to do and I felt best to stay in that industry. I applied for a job in Doha with Qatar Airways and a job in Abu Dhabi with Etihad and was offered both. I’ve been in Doha for 3 months now working for Qatar Airways as a policy and procedures officer at head office, dealing with most aspects of ground operations. I would never say never about returning to do a PhD or about a career in health research, but I’d always wanted to live and work abroad and two excellent opportunities appeared at the same time which would have been very difficult to say no to.