Getting a graduate degree in one field, but want job in another?
July 4, 2016 5:03 PM   Subscribe

I've applied to and been accepted for a MA Graduate Degree programme overseas, initially for a design field that I was looking forward to. But in the last few weeks, I've started having some doubts - then today -major doubts- whether this was/is the right decision for me.

I've worked for 14 yrs previously as a regular print/branding designer and did well in that profession, but due to the digital/interactive explosion, I had to convert over 5 yrs ago to web. My last job was purely web/UX/IX and even though I enjoyed it at times - there was also a lot of politics, stress, limitations that my previous work didn't have. I feel I have resentments in this new field than in my old one, where designing logos, working on type/composition and helping clients brand their company or material was so much fun and had something in passion for. Regardless -- Is it stupid to think that I can still work as a Branding Creative *after* I finish my Grad school, and just chalk up my Interactive degree to, "I did the work so I know how to do digital skills just incase (or to cover my butt)"?

I feel the answer to this is dumb - obviously I should follow my heart and go with what I want. But given these days that there are far fewer lead/creative jobs in that field, and far more openings, opportunities in interactive/web, I feel I cannot chance just staying in print or branding. Then there's been that huge adage, "branding is dead"... which I personally don't feel it is, however... design has certainly taken a downfall with user experience and things are definitely headed in that direction. I don't know if this looks like the path of least resistance, since Interactive work, IMO is harder than just Branding/Print as it involves a lot more coding/technical skills and a LOT more politics/stress on the job. It's also far more financially stable and rewarding/pays well, whereas as a Branding Designer, I may get paid lower and/or have to wait longer to make the same amount as a UX/IXD designer. Would love to get any working professionals' thoughts on this and if you ended up doing something you loved? Thank you!
posted by sam3cat to Work & Money (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Ps. I forgot to mention - I decided to go back to school as I haven't been able to acquire a new job in the UX/IXD field in the last year since getting laid-off and am competing against 20-somethings w/ MA/MSc jobs when I only have a BFA in Graphic Design and am nearly 40. My web portfolio from my last job was more a production job and not at all impressive for a longer-standing creative UX/UXD position from feedback that I've received.
posted by sam3cat at 5:19 PM on July 4, 2016

Are you paying (either up front or via loans) for this new MA?
posted by une_heure_pleine at 6:23 PM on July 4, 2016

I would first take a step back and make really sure that the degree is going to make you more attractive for the jobs you're going after. If you're losing out to 20-somethings with MA/MScs is the problem that they have MAs or just that they're 20-something (i.e. either straight-up age discrimination, or that younger people are generally cheaper to hire than mid-career professionals, or that they're coming out of uni with more coding skills, or whatever)?

Getting an MA seems like overkill if what you want is job-specific coding and technical skills. If it's cheap/free and you've got nothing better to do with your time, I guess there's not harm in it. But make sure you're learning stuff that will actually be useful for you in your career, since it's not a program that you'd be interested in otherwise.
posted by mskyle at 6:34 PM on July 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Whatever you're doing the MA in, it will make you better at everything you need to do to succeed, even if it provides none of the technical skills training that you might need. This is because graduate degree work, whether in design, engineering, science, humanities, etc. isn't actually about specific technical skills like coding (even though you do learn those sorts of things along the way) but about becoming better at organizing, synthesizing, sorting, finding, managing, and communicating information, techniques, and practices in relation to particular questions, goals, projects, etc. If your degree program is funded and you're not sure what else to do, it can only help you to go and complete it and see where that process takes you. My broader advice would always be to follow what excites and interests you, because whatever work follows from that will always be something you actually enjoy. Fit the work into you, not yourself into the work.
posted by jardinier at 8:10 PM on July 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I do not have the formal education in current UX/IXD field I feel, that has shown up in some of my work or projects within my portfolio is the reason why I've decided to pursue a MA. That, and I did try a well-known Bootcamp school (General Assembly) and was royally screwed by their staff members bullying me, so I refuse to attend another one of those "bootcamps." I feel those schools are scammers eeking students out of a lot of money; they do teach skills, but not much on theory or design. And certainly no on business values, ethics or protocol. Anyway...

All FAFSA loans, unfortunately. And Grad loans, for those who may not be familiar, are unsubsidized and start accruing interest upon disbursement to my account. At the end of all this, with tuition+living costs+expenses = close to $80k USD (*after interest). This is to attend a 1.5 yr MA in London.

However, if I was to study this in a reputable/respectable school in the US, I'd most likely be paying somewhere btwn $100-120k.
posted by sam3cat at 9:11 PM on July 4, 2016

That sounds like an awful lot to spend on something that you're so lukewarm about and that you're already trying to come up with ways to backpedal/downplay when you're in future job interviews.

How many years of living expenses is $80,000 for you? You could take a lot of low-paying, low-security jobs for $80,000. You could take a lot of individual design theory classes for grad or undergrad credit at the university level for $80,000.

I disagree that an MA is always worthwhile; I have a professional masters degree where I really only got anything out of maybe three or four of the 12 (or maybe it was 14?) classes I took. I already had excellent general skills from a great undergrad program and years in the workforce.

FWIW I am also a bootcamp grad, and it happened to work out really well for me, but I fully acknowledge that there are a lot of shitty programs and that even the good ones aren't for everyone. I'm especially suspicious of the design and project management programs. You're probably making the right decision in avoiding bootcamps in the future.

Absolutely follow your heart in this instance, not least because not following your heart sounds really expensive. Don't believe that just because something is difficult or financially crippling, it's worthwhile.
posted by mskyle at 6:53 AM on July 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

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