Graduate stories: Deferring my biology Master’s to stay in Bristol.

An image of a girl smiling into the camera whilst wearing her graduation gown.

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.

“take a break if you feel burnt out. It can be really beneficial”

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.

Lucy sat outside of Primrose Café, Bristol.

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.

“this year will actually help me to launch my career more rapidly”

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.

For information on suspending your studies, see this page. You can also find information about your further study options, and get application help here.

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.