Back to Education: A Mature Student's Guide

Returning to education can be a very daunting thing to do. After all, as a mature adult you may have spent the last few years working and trying to build up your career. Now you might be wanting something more and gaining new knowledge from an industry relevant qualification may seem like the next best step towards enhancing your career.

The average age of a university student is changing; we are starting to see more people come to study at later stages in life because they’re either looking to tie all of their work experience together through a degree, discover a new set of skills or advance their existing ones in a specific sector.

In this article we highlight some of the most important points you should know before making your decision.

Studying doesn’t have to interfere with your work life 

Long gone are the days of being commitment free. Now there’s a full-time job to think about, perhaps even a family, and finding the time to study just doesn’t seem do-able. None of these commitments can be put on hold to go back and study.

At Northumbria University London we understand those life commitments which is why we offer part-time Masters programmes that run from 14-18 weekends (depending on the programme) over 2 years.

Darren Meade is 51 years’ old and chose to do a Masters in Project Management to pursue his career goal of opening up his own martial arts academy. “Life does get in the way and there are other things you need to attend to. For example, I have got two children so I need to make sure they’re looked after, but I’ve spoken with my children and they understand what I’m doing and they’re very supportive of that. I have had to make sacrifices, but two years isn’t a long time at all. So, I would strongly advise anyone who is around my age to just go and do it why you can because in a blink of an eye, the programme will have come to an end.”

You don’t have to try and fund the programme yourself 

One of the biggest concerns you may face as a mature learner is the price of a course. If you already have big financial commitments such as a mortgage or any other types of credit, we understand that the last thing you may want to do is commit yourself any further.

Well, luckily you don’t have to. The UK Government introduced a Postgraduate Loan back in the summer of 2016 to help students fund their full-time or part-time Masters programmes. The amount you can borrow is up to £10,000+, and you have to be a UK or EU citizen in order to be eligible (terms and conditions do also apply). Find out more information here.

Another financing option may be your employer. We have quite a few students join our part-time Masters programmes through employer sponsorship. If you can prove to them that doing this course will be beneficial to their organisation, they may want to fund it either in part or in full.

Stephen Sampana, one of our mature learners had this employer sponsor his programme in full. “I have been really lucky with the funding because the company I work for encourages and sponsors people to pursue their educational growth. They have covered my expenses so that I could study here in Northumbria.”

An undergraduate degree isn’t essential for our Masters

When we think of Masters degrees, we automatically assume that we would need an undergraduate degree to get onto one. In this instance, it’s not true. We have students that join our programmes who have never been to university. We do highlight an undergraduate degree as an academic requirement, but if you’ve been working in a relevant industry to the programme you’re applying for, we will take your work experience into consideration.

By not having an undergraduate degree and a foundation level of knowledge at university, you might be worrying that you’d struggle with a Masters. We wouldn’t worry too much as your years of work experience will actually work in favour to your course as you’ll be able to apply your industry knowledge to assignments. You’ll also be able to apply your new academic knowledge into your role.

Our Cyber Security part-time student, Michael Coulling-Green, Citrix Technologist and Training Learner Manager at QA Ltd says, “I didn’t believe I would qualify for the course initially, as the prerequisite for a Masters generally requires an undergraduate degree. I was unsure what to expect and was nervous and out of my comfort zone. I was surprised at the difference between work and academic education. It took me a while to realise that the free-flowing, lightly structured format of the modules was typical of academic programmes and intended to promote self-study and critical analysis. There is a blend of people attending the course; people who have just finished their undergraduate degrees and others like me with an IT background and doing this course alongside their full-time job.”

A Masters will broaden your career prospects

Our mature learners choose to study a part-time Masters with us for many different reasons. Some are aiming to enhance their existing careers by having a relevant qualification to their industry behind them, others may simply be looking for a new career path and choose a Masters to give them the boost they need in the job market.

Stefan Kend, another one of our part-time Cyber students explained his reasons: “The reason I chose to do a Masters is because I felt it summed up a lot of different experiences I’ve had in my working career in various industries, where often there were a lot of technical requirements to be understood in order to coherently present commercial solutions. I thought the Cyber Security programme would link my CV together more tightly as I’ve touched upon aspects such as information governance, cloud security, encryption, etc. within different companies.”

You’ll be there because you want to be there

Unlike coming straight to university from school, having years of work experience behind you will give you a better perspective as to what you’re trying to achieve from the course. You’ll know exactly why you’re here and make the most out of it to reach your career goals.

The part-time Masters programmes we offer are:

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