From a Bachelor of Arts to a Master of Science

Hey! My name is Rowan and am a Masters student studying MSc Audio and Music Technology. As an undergraduate, I studied BA Music at a different university.

I’ve gone from spending all my time composing music and writing about it, to doing audio programming and digital signal processing.

Now, you might be thinking – he’s done something related to music in both his undergraduate and now his Masters – so what is the difference? The main difference for me now is that my undergraduate degree was a Bachelor of Art, and I am now doing a Masters of Science. To make this difference even clearer – my first degree was within a music department, I am now situated in an electronic engineering department.

From a Bachelor of Arts to a Master of Science - Me composing music at home
Me composing music at home

Why move from Arts to Science?

Making this shift might seem a little counterintuitive to some. Surely, if I had done another Arts degree I would be more comfortable? Plus would be able to easily transfer all the skills I’d learnt.

Well, I am the type of person who always likes to be learning new things. And as an extension to that, to step out of my comfort zone. I also wanted to learn a new set of skills which might have been harder to gain within an arts degree.

In the end, making the change was a personal choice. I decided it was the right thing for me to do at the time (and I still think it was the right choice now). But if you are thinking of making a shift you should think about what your personal and professional needs are. In other words: what you want to achieve.

How do my UG and Masters degrees differ?

I was lucky that studying Music at undergraduate allowed me to explore a range of different disciplines. There was a lot of different areas I had the opportunity to focus on. I focused mainly on composition, which, as you can imagine, was highly creative. A lot of the rest of the time involved writing essays, which involved lots of time researching in the library.

In comparison, for my Masters, I have spent a lot less time reading books to learn, and more time spent learning practically. One big difference has been the number of contact hours I have – they have increased for my Masters degree. This is mainly due to the large number of labs I have timetabled for my programming and other learning. I have enjoyed this shift in learning and found it rewarding in a different way to the more research-focused undergraduate projects I undertook. In some ways, the labs are quite similar to the independent composition work I did.

What have I learnt?

I have learnt a few things from my slight change in direction in degree type. Most importantly that it is never too late to change what you want to do. While you might not be able to go from fine art to medicine (if you can, I’d like to be proved wrong!), a shift into another degree area is much more possible than you might think!

In this respect, you should know that you aren’t locked in by your undergrad. While you might have learnt a load of specialist knowledge, you will also have gained tons of transferable skills in the process. This principle doesn’t just apply for doing masters, it can apply when looking for jobs also.

From a Bachelor of Arts to a Master of Science - the coding software I use on my course
Xcode – coding software I use on my course

I’ve also found that having an Arts background has been useful in some areas. While I spend a lot of time programming now, I can still apply some of my more creative skills. For example, a lot of the principles I learnt studying composition have come in useful when creating a musical iPhone app.

So this change has a lot of different challenges and surprises to it, but it is something I am glad I undertook. I encourage you to look further than your current specialism also.

Read more student stories about Masters study

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I'm Rowan, a MSc Audio and Music Technology student at the University of York.

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