Let’s get right into it. Why get a publishing degree? They cost a lot of money, and it is extra time in education when you could be putting yourself out there in the job market. It’s a difficult decision - probably one of the hardest you’ll have to make. Considering going into further education depends on a lot of factors. For example, you might think you already know which sector you want to work in, or you might think you can’t balance being a student with full, or part time work. Before you make your decision more concrete, take some time to read through this article to get a real sense of what a publishing degree can offer you.
The conversation below is taken from Portmanteau’s Instagram Live session where we talked about everything from running a small business, to illustration, to publishing degree. In this section, three newly graduated MA Publishing students from University College London discuss the values of a postgraduate degree.
R: Ruby Walker - Founder and Editor-in-Chief (@rubylizonwalker)
S: Shona Henderson - Marketing and Communications (@_shonahenderson)
M: Manon Wright - Illustrator for Issue 1 (@_ManonWright_)
R: I do see a lot of people on the Facebook Publishing Hopefuls Group and on Twitter saying, “What is the value in a publishing degree?” Personally, I find mine incredibly valuable all the time. I am constantly recalling things that I’ve learnt, and I am using them all the time. How about you, Manon and Shona?
S: Yes - is my answer! Personally, I just love learning, and love researching, and finding new knowledge. Coming from an English Literature background, I was like, “Well, where do I take my degree into something that is employable, that I’m going to end up getting a job from. I knew I wasn’t interested in going the PhD research route. So, it was about how to transfer my English degree into something that was maybe more useful for the job market. I was like, “I really like books. That is just a fact. I love them.” I wanted to know more about the process about how books come about. Apart from jumping into a completely new industry and revelling in how much knowledge you can acquire, I think it was the most beneficial thing about this degree was meeting so many like-minded people. People you can have so many great conversations with , and you don’t think about it because you’re friends, and you get on, and you socialise, but you’re all the time making connections. Even if it’s just with your immediate publishing cohort, your year, you’re still making thirty, sixty odd connections, whilst you’re becoming friends and having these interesting conversations. So, I think that’s the thing I most got out of it was meeting people that had similar interests as I did.
M: I completely agree with Shona. For me, I knew I enjoyed publishing illustration and design, but I didn’t really understand the whole process of publishing. The course really gave me that insight into how it’s all connected. It gave me the opportunity to be able to dip my toes into parts of publishing that I never would have done before, like editing, or business management, things that I think are actually quite useful in general in life. Understanding how business management works is something I would have learnt from just my art degree. It was just such a holistic course that taught me a lot of things that I just wouldn’t have known otherwise. Also, I agree with the idea of making connections; I think that’s one of the most valuable parts of university.
S: For sure. I think the good thing about the UCL course that we were on, I mean I’m not really sure about other publishing courses, they probably have similar things that you learn but, it wasn’t just theory, and knowledge, it was also practical skills about how to write a marketing report, how to write a business plan. Those sorts of things that you can point towards like this might be a practical thing that I might have to do in a job. Especially if you’re going into marketing like I hope to do, being able to write a marketing plan, and budget, and have an idea about how much things cost, like advertising, that was a really invaluable thing to learn. So, it wasn’t just about the theory, it was about the skills that you acquire during the degree.
R: It’s quite difficult. The mentality behind a master’s degree is that it costs a lot of money. You don’t get funding. Essentially, I got my course fees funded, but everything else, all the living costs, I was working a thirty-six hour job alongside the master’s the whole way through. It’s not easy, and obviously, having money does make it a simpler process, but it’s still totally doable to do while working. It teaches you time management, and it teaches you self-control, and it helps you to come out into a world where to get a job you’ve got to push yourself to do it - to run a business, you’ve got to push yourself. So, I think that even though you are at a slight disadvantage by working through it, it is totally possible, and if anything you learn more by having to juggle a degree with a full-time job than you would if you didn’t have that extra responsibility. So, for anyone who is watching, wondering if a master’s degree is for them, then yes it is! You can do it, you’ve just got to power through. It’s only a year, in some cases two, but it’s such a short part of your life and you gain so much afterwards.
S: It goes so quickly as well.
R: Tell me about it.
S: You’re sitting in your first class, and you’re like, “I don’t know any of these people. It’s so new.” And then, next thing you know, you’re really close and you’re going to all these fun events, and then, you’re graduating. It goes like that.
R: It was incredibly quick. The really good thing about it being a really short snippet of time was that everything you do, you were forced to go into it head first, which again is a really useful skill for afterwards. Unlike with a three year degree, and knowing that the first year grade doesn’t actually count for anything, you take it easy, you mess around, you’re making friends, and going out, and that’s important, but with a master’s it’s very job-centric. Everything that you would possibly need to learn and learn, maybe you get the base knowledge from your undergraduate degree, but then your postgraduate degree gives you the actual practical skills, and the discipline to go on and do it in the real world.
M: Yes. I don’t know if I have very much to add to that, but I agree that it really makes you be focused and prioritise the things that you know will be important to you during the course, while also giving you the opportunity to branch out a little bit. It’s good to go into a master’s with a plan, and knowing what you’re aiming to achieve, so you can make the most out of your time there.
R: That makes sense. I’ll tell you what, I do remember the very first week of our publishing degree, they said, “Right, hands up, who wants to go into editorial?” And pretty much everyone was like, “Me!”
M: Except for me.
S: And, except for me.
R: But, I think the really good thing is that, once you learn the reality of the industry, you know it’s not what you see on the surface, it’s so much more than that. It’s layered, and if you’re an editor, what sort of editor do you want to be? If you’re in marketing, what do you want to be marketing? That in-depth knowledge you gain from your master’s degree. I didn’t do a publishing undergraduate degree, so I don’t know if that’s the sort of information you’re given, but I can say for certain that a master’s degree is that platform to boost you forwards.
S: Yes, I think most people, when they go to plan to do a master’s they have some idea of what they’re going into. You would have done a bit of research, or you would have been a toes into the publishing industry online, or whatever. At least, in your interview for the course, you’d be able to talk about things that you’ve seen - that’s why you’re interested. But, it definitely pushes you beyond, and uncovers that you didn’t even know you needed to know. It uncovers everything, even if you thought you already knew quite a bit about the publishing industry and how book production works, or whatever you’re interested in, you learn more than you expect to learn.
R: This is true. I see we’ve just had a question come in, and while we are covering the topic of master’s degrees, it’s probably good to go over this. So, did you still get to collaborate with other creatives in such a short time for master’s? That’s a really good question actually. I know Manon has recently had some commissioned work that came about as a result of the master’s degree.
M: Yes. One of my tutors reached out because of the work I had done on the Publishers’ Prize. Dan is here, actually, thank you for the commission! That was an opportunity that I got through doing the degree and being able to show my production, slash, graphic design skills. Like you said, doing the course allows you to have the opportunity, and pushes you further than the skills you might initially think that you need. Other than that, for working with creatives, I think it has just gotten me more engaged on the course, with Twitter as well. I was totally alien to that area of social media. I always posted on Instagram and that has given me the opportunity to connect more verbally with other creatives because it’s much more of a talking platform than Instagram is, where you just put your work there. I’m hoping that can develop into more work that’s collaborative with other people that you meet online because that is all we can really do now in Covid.
S: I can’t really think of instances where I’ve collaborated with other creatives, but on the master’s I got to manage the Twitter account for the course, and doing that I was encouraging my fellow students to get on Twitter and voice their opinions, and look at these really cool events we could go to, as well as facilitating discussions with people already established in the industry. When we had guest lectures who came in for the course, we had quite a few of those, and that was really interesting to hear directly from people who were in the industry already, and who we hoped to be - it was inspiring to watch. But, through my role on the Twitter, I got to interact with the industry professionals, and the people who came in, and got to recap what we learnt, and build that relationship that we had in person in that lecture, but also online, saying, “Thank you for coming. Thank you for teaching us this, and that.” So, the course definitely made you connect more with the people behind the whole industry, and opened you up to different perspectives, and people that were in different sectors as well.
R: Yes, for sure. And like, you have said, the course was how the three of us met. So, before the course if I wanted to start something like this, I really wouldn’t have known that many people. Through my creative writing undergraduate, I know a lot of people who are writers, which is great for this, but no one who would have the drive and who would want to be part of a project like this. So, through the master’s you make that community, and then once you all move on you’re still connected by that degree, even if you’ve only had a year to get to know each other, and that lasts forever.
If you have enjoyed reading these perspectives on postgraduate degrees, you can find more conversations from the Portmanteau Instagram Live session in other blogs on our website www.portmanteauldn.com. Have a question about something we’ve discussed in our Instagram Live session? Send us a message either via our email portmanteauldn.gmail.com or on one of our many social media platforms where we are @portmanteauldn (except on Facebook where we are @PTMN.TEAU).
Also, we plan to have more Portmanteau Live sessions in the near future. If you missed the first one, you should follow our social media channels to make sure you catch the next. Stay tuned!