Complex Career Conundrums

Oh yes… even I, a lowly peasant and fairly useless linguist, can use alliteration…

So I am sat once more at my desk in my Southampton home, which for the most part is covered in books, computers, and an awful lot of rubbish, in fact my entire room has undergone some form of layman’s entropy since my return from Tenerife, but that’s another issue. I am currently considering my options with respect to my next year and a half in academia, whilst enrolled on this four year undergraduate masters degree at Southampton, I have found that the more studying one does here, the more you realise how “Oil and Mineral Exploration” centric the degree is. By the time you get to your third year, you are very lucky if you study a single module that is not at some point about finding one of these two things and making a lot of money from them, however for most geology students that’s what they signed up for… I however… did not.

I study geology because I find it to be jolly interesting despite my absolute hatred of the “oil industry” because of the result it (and our cars) are having our only planet, and I really want to study it further; especially Palaeontology, the study of ancient life and most particularly the vertebrata (that’s animals with Backbones to you and me). This leaves me in a bit of a quandary because my university whilst having one of the best Earth Sciences departments around, still only runs three palaeontological units, and nothing in the vein of comparative anatomy or ecology that geology students can study to better themselves in this area. This is not to mention the distinct lack of non-industry representatives at the careers and alumni events – not even an in-house academic to talk about academia!!! I am therefore, left with the question of do I stay here at southampton to continue the MGeol to completion? or do I graduate this year and move to a MSc Palaeobiology at Bristol – touted as the best palaeo course this side of the atlantic?

I’ve spoken to the one vertebrate palaeontologist at the uni, and he has said that I would be better off staying put and concentrating on sedimentology until i’m ready to move to a PhD, which seems like sound advice considering his connection to the MSc Palaeobio. Apparantly that course is somewhat oversubscribed and thus could be considered less valuable, and Palaeontologists with a strong Sedimentology background do rather well… but I guess we’ll see.

I’m waiting on several palaeontologists, from David Norman and Simon Conway-Morris at Cambridge to David Unwin at Leicester, whom I have emailled to ask their opinion of the two courses and which I ought to run with, and I will be sending out some more emails to museums and such soon enough.

Then again, would an MSci (undergraduate) be considered to be as good as an MSc (post-graduate), and will the people who matter recognise it? As there are those in industry who don’t, and it really annoys people both within and without the uni, afterall we spend £12,000+ on the degree, so we definitely want people to recognise the comparable effort we put in!

Still, this remains a quandary and indeed a conundrum at present, I can only hope that the academics can provide me with some useful advice and keep their biases out of the equation… like they are taught to as scientists…

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