If you have enjoyed your undergraduate degree, you may feel that you would like to take your studies further. You may feel that you haven’t finished yet, that you have only just scratched the surface, or that you would like to know more. You may be thinking about pursuing a PhD or a career in Glaciology or Quaternary Science.
If the above statements apply to you, then you may want to consider a Masters’ Degree. There are several options. A Taught Masters (MSc) degree will usually involve a one year programme, with a series of modules and coursework, similar to your undergraduate degree. However, it will take place over 12 months with the summer term and summer holiday devoted to your dissertation, an independent research project.
Other universities may offer Masters’ by Research, which is usually a one-year research project, sometimes with a small taught component. It is like an extra-long dissertation.
Admittance to a PhD programme (usually 3 – 4 years in the UK) will usually require an MSc degree unless you are an exceptional student. In the UK, most PhDs in the field of Glaciology, Environmental Science or Quaternary Science are funded by the NERC Doctoral Training Partnerships. These PhDs come with a stipend to live on, tuition fees, and a small grant to support your research expenses. If you are interested in a PhD, I recommend you look at the NERC DTP website and look through the options available.
The application process for a PhD is usually competitive. You will need a strong academic record, including a good undergraduate and usually a good MSc or MRes degree. It will be helpful to have had some work experience, so ask around in your department and see if any of your lecturers can help. Can you act as a field assistant on a research field trip to existing PhD students perhaps? Trying to write up your MSc Dissertation as an academic paper will be helpful. Getting involved in blogging or science communication may also strengthen your case.
Joining academic societies, such as the Quaternary Research Association, Geologists’ Association and the British Society for Geomorphology will help highlight opportunities, build your network, and strengthen your professional knowledge and skills by providing field trips and conferences. Being a member of these societies will also strengthen your CV.