Case study

MSc student — Laura Robinson

After completing a degree in zoology, Laura went on to do a Masters in global ecology and conservation. Find out more about what she plans to do next and how her course has prepared her for a career in conservation

What degree did you study?

I studied BSc Zoology at Aberystwyth University and graduated in the summer of 2020. I am now studying an MSc in Global Ecology and Conservation at Cardiff University.

How did you get onto your course?

I applied to the MSc course with a 2:1 degree in zoology and experience in ecological surveying, most of which I had obtained during the tropical biology field course in my second year at Aber.

I didn't need work experience to get on to the course, but if you have any, I would mention it when applying for postgraduate courses.

What does your course involve?

The course lasts one year full time and is a combination of taught modules and a research project. For my research, I have been analysing urban peregrine falcon behaviour.

How relevant is your degree?

My degree was essential as you need a degree in a relevant subject such as zoology to get a place on the course.

What do you enjoy about your course?

I really enjoy the wildlife conservation part of my course, which focuses mainly on the illegal wildlife trade and public communication of conservation action plans. We were lucky enough to take part in a four-day workshop with two members of the conservation organisation Durrell, which was an amazing opportunity.

What are the challenges?

My workload increased a little, but I felt well prepared to cope with this change. I also had to use a new statistical software, which was complicated at first. However, I was well supported and am now using this software in most of my research.

Coping during Covid-19 was tough, but having a smaller cohort of postgraduate students meant that we were able to support one another throughout the course and through tricky assignments.

What are your top tips for choosing a Masters degree?

  • Make sure you do your research thoroughly. When searching for a taught Masters degree that was suited to me, I read through all the module information related to a particular course. I was then able to choose a course where a number of modules really sparked excitement in me.
  • Pay attention to the assessment styles. I figured out that I prefer research assignments over exams, so I found a course with zero exams.

What career do you plan to go into?

I plan to follow the wildlife conservation side of my course and find a job involving the mitigation and prevention of illegal wildlife exploitation. This could be with an established wildlife charity or conservation organisation. When Covid allows, I would like to look further afield than the UK into areas of South America or Southern Africa.

Do you also need work experience?

Work experience is important for this area of work. My Masters degree had a module that required you to find and carry out a work placement for a week, which will be invaluable in the long run.

At the minute, I am looking for any kind of work experience I can get my hands on. It is great to interact with my faculty as they often have their own projects that require extra help (often from postgraduate students), which is a brilliant opportunity for work experience.

What advice can you give to others?

  • Back yourself. Have confidence when applying for a postgraduate course. Don't forget, you got yourself through your undergraduate course, you did the research, you did the revision, you passed your exams and assignments, no one else.
  • Follow your interests. Don't just opt for what you 'think' would be a good career option. You need to love your subject area to put your all into it and to truly benefit from the outcomes.
  • Take time for yourself. A postgraduate course involves more working hours, so like any job you need to take days off to decompress. My supervisors encouraged this throughout my MSc degree, which helped when I really needed to focus to carry out my research projects.

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