Part-Timing the MSc – My Experience

Dear Prospective Part-time MSc student,

As a part-time student, I wanted to share my experience and how I’ve gone about it then it might give you a clearer idea of the feasibility?

Background: 

I live in West London, not quite as far as Gloucestershire, but it’s still a 2 hour drive on a good day, so we’re looking at a minimum of 4 hours drive time total. I chose Brighton because I believed 100% it was the right place for me with the best staff and facilities for my personal interest in clinical environmental physiology and because I’d fallen in love with Eastbourne during my undergraduate days. I work a ‘typical’ office full-time (~40 hour) job in Berkshire and have maintained this all through my MSc, which I actually began in 2016 and am due to finish this September 2019 with the submission of my final project. As you can probably imagine, this has definitely created some interesting issues whilst working towards my masters.

MSc

Initially, my plan was to complete within 2 years, however I quickly realised that with everything else going on it was unrealistic so Jeanne Dekerle (Course Leader) and I worked together to figure out what would work for me. What that ended up looking like was the following (The module titles are shortened and what I studied, I believe some have since changed):

Year Semester 1 Semester 2
1 Lab Skills*
Exercise Tolerance
Issues and Innovations
2 Professional Development
Critical Insights
Professional Development
Environmental Physiology
3 Final Project Final Project

*The 5 working day taught module across the first two weeks of the programme.

To fit this in, I agreed with work that for one day a week I would work remotely to make up the hours (7-8 that I missed due to attending university) and take additional days as holiday should I require them (e.g. the first module when I spent two weeks down in Eastbourne).

I arranged with Jeanne to complete modules that were held on the same day to minimise travel time and should I require lab time, I would ensure it was either on the same day (if possible) or directly either side of the day I had pre-planned for university. This was difficult for some modules because of short notice for lab requirements, or staff changes, but these were not a common place as quite often everything would be pre-scheduled. For modules that I knew would be lab heavy (e.g. Environmental Physiology) I planned around that and ensured that I worked in a group whereby if there was a day I couldn’t make it to the lab I would make up for it by doing a lot of the data analysis, results or general research and it seemed to work well, transparency was always key. Of course, sometimes things were just out of control either at the uni, work or personal side, but there was/is a lot of understanding providing communication happens.

For the final project there are some taught days spread across terms (something like November, January and March) where they’re in a bundle (e.g. Monday-Wednesday) and that’s easy enough to manage if you take a similar approach to the lab time and things. For me personally, that journey’s been different as a PhD student and I teamed up and have been working to a different deadline than the programme, but it’s still been very effective and tutorials with relevant staff has helped greatly. You will find with the final project that plenty of lab time will be necessary so if you take a similar route to me it could be worthwhile trying to do physical testing in blocks of a couple of weeks and just stay down – this has been my approach and is working well.

I would always ensure that I would book as much as possible into the days that I traveled down to ensure maximal efficiency, something I still do to this day be that tutorials, lectures, seminars, lab time and some down time. After all that driving, I like to have a run along the seafront or hit the pool just to take a breather instead of feeling like I’m constantly on the move.

Feedback

Overall the three year structure has really worked for me. In the first year, bar the lab skills, I was predominantly at uni on a Wednesday and for the second year it was a Tuesday. This year it varies depending on testing and due to the nature of our testing I’ll try and do 2-2.5 day blocks so as not to interfere with my work too much (there is still some disruption). I found that driving at anti-social hours was very helpful, I often leave mine at 5am, get to Eastbourne for 7am and relax with a run or some work until lecture. I’d then leave after Eastbourne’s rush hour, getting home between 8:30-10:30, making it a very long day but because I made it routine I found it quite easy to cope with.

The travel time is something to strongly consider, there have been times when I’ve struggled with it, especially in poor conditions because my route involves partially unlit roads (A27, M23) and it’s obviously impacted my work and social life. It’s also worth considering the feasibility of staying in Eastbourne for a couple days/weeks at a time depending on what you need to sort – is this something you can do easily? For me it wasn’t so bad because I’d previously lived in Eastbourne and have friends I can stay with, but other people I know used to just book an air b’n’b, so it’s all very doable.

The extra time I needed to spend at uni outside ‘regular’ time was quite difficult to organise if I was waiting on other people to make decisions or was needed at work, but again if you plan enough it’s doable and I seem to have it to an art form now.

I did underestimate the course demand initially, but you do adapt quite easily and I’d say on a part-time basis it’s actually quite manageable if you’re efficient with the time you do have. I do a lot of my work in the evenings and weekends plus when I’m in Eastbourne I can usually find some time to sit and chip away too – again it’s just planning.

Summary

I’m not saying it’s easy, even as a part-timer, but it’s definitely improved my organisation, time efficiency and communication skills and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the process, even if sometimes it gets frustrating. I’ve known from the time I started planning my MSc that this was the course for me, the place for me and that it was exactly what I wanted. If this is the course you really want, I’m sure you’ll make it work and just know that Jeanne and the other staff are incredible providing you just talk to them and don’t leave things to the last minute if it can be helped. The biggest thing I’ve found with that is being able to have tutorials outside staff’s prescribed times because they understand the need for time management and living outside of the area.

It’s hard doing full time work and studying, but it is definitely doable if you’re willing to take it on and so rewarding. I think you need to ask yourself the following:

  • Are you okay with early morning/late night solo drives?
  • How do you feel about staying in Eastbourne on occasion to make use of labs/tutorials etc.?
  • Is the course/uni the absolute one you want to do?
  • Can you feasibly fit it in around your current position?

I’d also really recommend coming down to the uni to visit/see the area. If you like it, speak to current students and the staff, they will help a lot.

If I’m brutally honest with myself, I’d still do it all over again, despite the random challenges it sometimes throws up.

Best wishes,

Chanel Coppard

(MSc Applied Exercise Physiology student)

Word of appreciation

“After a fantastic three years studying Sport Science at the University of Brighton for my undergrad I took a year out before continuing with my postgrad studies in Applied Sports Physiology (MSc). A fantastic course, well run and one I would recommend to anyone looking to pursue a career in this field, be that with elite athletes or research based!

The past year has been a brilliant 12 months for me, not without difficulties of course. However, I gained much more knowledge than I thought I would have, especially through the nature of my final project into non-localised muscular fatigue alongside PhD student Aaron Greenhouse-Tucknott. It will be an honour to represent the department at the BASES Student Conference in the new year as I submit my work for the MSc Dissertation of the Year Award.

The professional enquiry module offered a fantastic opportunity to grow in both a professional manner via placements and personally through self-reflection, of which I took with both hands. An area I feel added to the course strongly outside of pure scientific research.

Thank you to Jeanne and the academic staff for the support across both undergrad and postgrad studies providing me a platform to develop before moving into the field of high performance strength and conditioning.”

Mitch Raynsford BSc MSc – Strength & Conditioning Intern, University of Warwick

[Mitch secured a position at the University of Warwick a few months before finishing his MSc]

Hannah Fletcher – Clinical Respiratory Physiologist at The Royal Brompton Hospital in London

Course title: MSc Applied Sport Physiology

Why did you choose this particular course and why the University of Brighton?

I undertook this course because I had researched the requirements needed for a career within physiology and the course at Brighton fulfilled these. The University of Brighton had a strong research and teaching focus and this encouraged my decision to study here.

What did you enjoy most about the course?

The amount of hands on experience I gained during practicals and my own study for assignments. This was extremely valuable for my career.

What difference has the course made to your future and your career?

This course made a large difference to my future by allowing me to gain the important skills within physiological testing. This then allowed me to apply this to a clinical setting, of respiratory physiology.

What would you say to anyone thinking about applying for your course?

I would recommend this course to anyone who is thinking of applying, due to the standard of education and support you will gain from completion. I would also suggest however, to investigate the end goal you would like to achieve from this course, so that you can tailor your learning.

How did you find studying in Eastbourne, the place and the people?

I enjoyed studying in Eastbourne! I enjoyed the South Downs and the seafront and made many friends throughout my time in Eastbourne.

What were the teaching and support staff like?

The teaching and support staff were excellent and demonstrated motivation and enthusiasm for their topic areas. I benefited largely from the support I gained from the staff.

What have you been up to since graduation? If you are working can you tell us about your new role?

I have recently started my new role as a Clinical Respiratory Physiologist at The Royal Brompton Hospital in London. This hospital is home to Europe’s largest centre for the treatment and management of cystic fibrosis, asthma and chronic lung conditions. I perform an extensive range of specialised and complex lung function and related physiological tests.

Any other information you’d like to share?

To get involved with the course as much as you can, so that you make the most out of your learning.

Some comments from our students (2014-2015) – to the question “Most enjoyable/interesting on course”

  • “The applied aspect of the course, and working in the labs has helped me improve this skill set”
  • L”earning a variety of new skills, interesting content of the modules. Lovely group of students also”
  • “Opportunities given to me, once I have shown enthusiasm”
  • “The first module – laboratory skills for sports physiology – which was a practical module, provided an excellent opportunity to use and gain experience on all of the equipment”.
  • “The freedom to design own studies”
  • “the reflective learning practice is in hindsight the most enjoyable and useful. Dealing and interacting with such high profile researchers which provide a clear insight into elite sport has been fascinating”

Testimony from John Feeney (Applied Exercise Physiology; Merit)

Sport and Exercise Science BSc – University of Portsmouth (2013)

Applied Exercise Physiology MSc – University of Brighton (2015)

12042757_10154220647385558_4692209488873425174_n“It must have been about 10 years ago that I began to think about changing my career path. At the time, I was employed by an international Private Bank and was carving out a very good career for myself. However, I could not see myself working in this type of role for another 25 plus years and so I decided to do something about it! I had always been interested in sport and had just starting to train for my first London Marathon. I began to look a bit deeper into the science behind endurance training and taught myself some of the basics. After completing my first marathon, I decided to take the leap and study sport science on a part-time basis at the University of Portsmouth. Eight years later, I successfully graduated with a good degree.

I still felt that something was missing and so I decided to go on an complete my MSc. I chose Brighton on the recommendation of several friends of mine who were ex-students and because I knew the study group would be relatively small and I would gain some good hands-on experience. In fact, this practical experience has proved to be invaluable. I have learnt so much about lab and field based physiological testing, including working with athletes in the swimming pool. The links the University has with other organisations such as the English Institute of Sport are invaluable for students as they strive to make themselves known in a very competitive and over-resourced job market. The academic staff, technical instructors, technicians and fellow students have all provided a great deal of support which has proved invaluable during my dissertation testing and write-up period. I am sure that I will maintain my links with the University over the coming years.”

Testimony from Emma Mitchell (MSc Applied Sport Physiology; Distinction)

Emma’s Journey:

  • Sport and Exercise Science BSc – University of Bath (2014)
  • Applied Sport Physiology MSc – University of Brighton (2015)
  • Awarded a PhD studentship at the University of Loughborough (2015-)

“The MSc Applied Sports Physiology course at The University of Brighton was an invaluable experience for me. Right from the start we gained significant opportunities to utilise the excellent laboratory facilities available. The small class sizes and heavy involvement from the lecturers, who throughout the course were always happy to give up their time to assist with any queries, meant that we were able to develop skills and competence in a wide range of laboratory techniques. The applied nature of the course was a key motivator for me to undertake the course at Brighton and the requirement to get involved in a professional placement was an excellent opportunity to further develop my employability. I gained the fantastic opportunity to undertake research in collaboration with the EIS to develop aerobic fitness assessments for the GB Boxing squad, giving me further experience in undertaking research and the opportunity to meet with industry professionals working with elite athletes.

The skills, assistance and experience I achieved during my time upon the masters really opened up opportunities for me, and ultimately led me to secure a funded PhD position.”

A student’s answer to the question “How is the second semester for you Jamie? Enjoying the course so far?”

Jamie’s answer – 2014-2015 cohort

“I’m really enjoying it all, and so far I think its just been so well rounded and extensive that I really don’t see how many things could be made better. I’m particularly enjoying the sessions that Clare and Helen are doing [Professional Enquiry module based on professional and personal development through work experience], as the more I am helping out my partner with her graduate schemes the more I am seeing the importance of the stuff I am learning. It’s all very relevant to when you actually go out into the “big world”!

Also the new lab sessions are great! Feel like I am really getting  alot out of my time doing my Masters and its blown my undergrad out of the water!”