Lucy graduated from Bristol in 2022 with a degree in biology. Despite planning to go straight into further study, Lucy decided to defer her Master’s in London and stay in Bristol. She currently works as a healthcare scientific support worker in a Virology lab at Southmead hospital. Keep reading to see why she made this decision, the career and personal benefits, and her advice for other students and graduates.
How I got here
While I was in sixth form, I decided that I wanted to research viruses to help develop treatments and vaccinations. Despite setting this career goal relatively early, I struggled to get experience in this field at a young age, so I worked as a sales assistant in a bakery (which I would argue was much harder work than my job now).
I currently work as a healthcare scientific support worker at Southmead Hospital in a Virology lab. However, this was not my original post-graduate plan. I was accepted onto a master’s course in Molecular Biology and the Pathology of Viruses at Imperial College London, but a few months before the end of my degree, I deferred my Master’s. I felt a massive sense of relief when I did this – I was just not ready to do it yet.
Why I deferred my Masters
Staying in Bristol
My decision was driven by a few different things, but it was mostly due to the vibrancy of Bristol itself, and the friends that I’ve made here. I spent a year living at home through COVID-19, so my time at university felt like it was cut short. To put it simply, I love Bristol and I’m not ready to leave.
Taking a break from education
After seven years of intense studying, I desperately needed a break. I could feel myself burning out. I truly believed I would never take a “gap year” of any kind as I didn’t want to delay my career, but it’s okay to take a break if you feel burnt out. It can be really beneficial for both your well-being and further education.
Having a job has brought structure back into my life, and without essay deadlines constantly looming over me, I’m in a much less stressful environment. Hopefully giving my brain this rest before another intense year of studying will improve my ability to do so.
Gaining work experience
After deferring, I started looking for laboratory-based jobs. I still needed to work full-time to earn money, and I knew that I could benefit from some more relevant work experience than my bakery role. I struck gold by finding my current job in a virology lab, as this is the exact field I’m looking to go into.
Having looked at research roles in virology labs, I knew that even with a Master’s I would need 12 months of laboratory-based experience. So, although I’m mostly taking time out from studying for non-career reasons, this year will actually help me to launch my career more rapidly after my Master’s, and prepare me for my course’s 6-month research project.
Taking time to explore other hobbies
I chose my current role rather than a higher-paying graduate scheme so that I can travel over the summer, which you can’t always do if you’re locked into a fixed-term contract. I also now have more free time and money to practice videography, a hobby I dropped when prioritising my degree.
This summer, I’m spending three months as a videography instructor in an American summer camp, so I can perfectly combine both things! I have always wanted to do this, but I never would have had the time if I hadn’t taken a year out. I don’t regret my decision at all.
Not sure what you want from your career? Our Career Ready Courses can help you move forward with your career planning, without a huge time commitment. Additionally, you can search options with your degree, find jobs on mycareer, or you can always talk to your Careers Service.
Finally, you may wish to read a related blog on the experience of another graduate, who took a year out to explore their options.