I have been debating the benefits of doing a Masters, a dilemma that I’m sure many graduates can understand. I would love to do one in producing, but would it be worthwhile? For those of you undergraduates up to your eyeballs in essays, you may find the idea of signing on for even longer ones hard to fathom, but I promise, a year into credit crunch Britain and you’ll be begging for your dissertation deadlines back.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand that a Masters is not merely a way of hiding from the current art cuts, but could it actually turn out to be a perfect port in the storm? A means of further educating yourself in your chosen field with the stagnant employment climate providing the perfect time, especially if you want to avoid huge rises in fees? Or is it an unnecessary financial burden which will leave you pretty much where you started? With so many graduates and school leavers taking on unpaid internships, are they actually getting the same education for free and with the added benefit of real industry contacts? I can’t decide.
So, I have done a little research and have found two Masters that I really like: Creative Producing at Birkbeck University and another at Central School of Speech and Drama. Both exciting courses, both with a hefty price tag. So what would be the pros and cons of doing one of these, from an aspiring producer’s point of view?
The first pro is the opportunity to focus on and learn the ins and outs of producing in a creative environment, where budgeting and funding would be explained. My second is that your fellow students could prove to be people you work with in the future. Sometimes it’s hard to meet fellow creatives when you’re starting out, and there is nowhere better to create lasting bonds then at university. You also have the added advantage of lectures and master-classes with industry professionals who are sharing their knowledge, whereas within internships the closest you get to them is perhaps with a cup of coffee in your hand. And then, of course, there is your degree: an indication to all future employers that you’re dedicated and most probably talented in the field you have pursued.
So to the cons. The first is definitely the most obvious: money. The price per year for a Masters is approximately £3,400, and then you need your living costs. Hard to afford when a full time job is not an option, and, let’s be honest, part time jobs don’t exactly grow on trees. To do this, I would have to give up a job that I interned for a year to get – which might not be available to me at the end of the course. If I am doing a Masters, I want to be able to dedicate my time to it, not be compromising the quality of my work to run off to a job. Secondly, organisations such as Masterclass at The Theatre Royal Haymarket and Battersea Arts Centre (BAC) have numerous workshops with industry professionals that you can attend. BAC’s new Homegrown workshops are only £4 a session, and Masterclass is free. You won’t get a degree for attending, but you will be able to continue your education for a fraction of the price.
I am not suggesting that doing an internship or going to workshops are in anyway comparable to doing a Masters, but they are viable alternatives. For actors and directors, I can see the benefits of honing your craft with further studies, but with producing I am starting to think there is nothing better then trial and error and meeting as many people as possible. But maybe you’re doing a Masters and have found a way to make it really work, finances included, or you’ve managed to get your dream job without any further education at all. I would love to know. Universities and degrees have certainly been getting a lot of press at the moment, and with fees having the potential to sky rocket, will people even do undergraduate degrees let alone Masters? So the question is Masters or no Masters? Let the debate begin.
Image by Paul Lowry