27 January, 2022 | Posted by Marguerita Magennis

Four Reasons Why Completing an MA in Early Childhood Studies Brings About Change

Four Reasons Why Completing an MA in Early Childhood Studies Brings About Change

Recently I was researching information for an article, and I read that currently in Ireland, only 1% of the early years workforce hold a Level 9. This got me thinking, how can we encourage our students to become part of the 1%?

I am sure many of you have asked that question, what next? Just completed your bachelor’s degree, or perhaps you have completed it some time ago, and are now thinking about your next move in your career, perhaps even considering a change in your career; but have you thought about the fact that there are numerous areas within the sector in which you can gain employment with your expertise, rather than walking away from the profession you love?

For some, the challenge of returning to study seems a little daunting, but consider what you are missing if you don’t return to master’s study? 

For some of you, there is a niggling feeling, of why bother? – I can do my job with what I have but consider these questions – can you bring the most you could bring to that role, can you help bring about change and make the sector a better place to work, can you help others gain recognition for their knowledge and abilities, have you the qualifications to move in a different direction within the sector? 

The way forward for change is to engage with research, draw attention to the issues and concerns, and help be one of the 1% working towards making the Early Education Sector the best it can be.

I have been pondering this for a while and considered not least my own pathway into Early Education and psychology. 

Many years ago, I returned to study as an adult, having taken the notion to change my career. 

It wasn’t long before I had been smitten with what I call the study bug – and I often tell my students, this will happen, this craving for more knowledge. 

But on further consideration, completing my own MA and PhD has done much more than satisfy this craving for information, it has served to make me one of those people who is helping bring about a graduate and quality led sector in Early Education. 

Pondering this further I find myself considering the changes I have been privy to, the introduction to standardised education and regulations, the move from being a sector which minded children or “changed nappies”, to a sector which is recognised for the quality of education we bring to young children’s lives, the skills and concepts which ensure that our children are ready to take that next step into formal education. 

This is a valuable and important role and one which while I appreciate it doesn’t get the recognition it deserves, has come a long way from where it was 20 years ago, even 10 years ago.   

It is engagement with higher education, which is bringing about this change, research, sharing our views, engaging with government, and voicing our opinions about what is needed. 

To me that is what your MA is about, helping to bring about that change, it isn’t about the salary, the job, the career pathway – although these do help, you can’t help bring about the badly needed change, if you step out of the Early Education Sector and take your knowledge and experience with you– stay and make the sector what it needs to be, from whichever career you decide.

I remember reading years ago while studying for my PhD, a book by a controversial figure – Dave Hill, he spoke at a conference I was at, along with Michael Apple, another great advocate to bringing about change in education. And the one thing that struck me was when he told us (the students) that he saw his role as bringing about change from the inside, he saw himself as an advocate for improving education – change starts with educating yourself, knowing all you can know about the sector you are working in, bringing the concerns to the government bodies, and researching with your peers, making your students/parents/peers aware of what needs to be done to make the sector a better place for everyone. 

That talk has stayed with me for many years, and I do believe that knowledge is the way to bring about change from within.  

Below are some reasons why completing an MA can help bring about change. 

Become an expert in your field 

Furthering your study to Postgrad level means that you can extend your knowledge on the subject you have chosen at Undergrad, or even move your career into a new and interesting focus. Expanding your knowledge means that you will become an expert in the field, and you will have the advantage over peers in terms of applying for promotion or branching into different avenues of the sector. You can become an advocate for the sector and help share the knowledge you have gained. Engaging with research means that you can independently develop your own thoughts and views in the field that you love, gaining real experiences to help improve your career prospects. Studying at the Postgrad level helps you to refine your interests and become more focused and informed about particular aspects of your chosen field, and area of study.  

Networking will help progress your career

I hear some of you saying, I met lots of people during my undergrad, made connections and have friends who understand me, but at the Masters level the connection is different, you will be engaging with students who, like yourself are thinking about better careers, becoming a specialist in the field, engaging with research, gaining publications, and working towards a graduate profession. Consider the value and importance of meeting and working with established researchers and authors, people you only read about at the undergrad level.  Imagine attending seminars and conferences and being in a position to discuss your own research and ask questions of the people who lead the way before you. During your Masters, you will be supported and offered opportunities to build this network, with tutor and academic support in place you will be encouraged to present at seminars, share your own research, attend conferences, and share poster presentations, all helping to build and develop your professional network and open doors to new and exciting career prospects in early education

Personal Development 

At postgrad level, you will find that students must give that little bit more of themselves. Engaging in this way helps to develop new personal and professional skills, transferrable skills, which aid with confidence in communication, independence, time management and self-motivation.  Communicating with professionals of different nationalities helps to heighten awareness of different perspectives and cultures, helping you gain new life skills and further enhance your career.  

Change or Accelerate Your Career 

Perhaps you are considering a change in career and moving in a different direction within the sector. One of the best ways to enhance one’s career is to embark on Postgrad level study.  Think about the area you wish to move towards, and specialise in that area for your research thesis, for example, Special Needs, Leadership, curriculum design, policy development etc.  

Engagement with further knowledge can help enhance and accelerate your career, moving you from among all others with undergrad qualifications to a person who has specialised in a particular area.  If you are considering going for a promotion or advancing your career in a different avenue in the sector, you can open numerous avenues by completing study at postgrad level, for example, Lecturing, Consultancy and advocacy roles, Government departmental roles including DCYA, Pobal, Tusla, Ombudsman for Children etc.

About the Author

Marguerita Magennis Ph.D. MA. BA Hons, Course Coordinator Masters in Early Childhood Studies & Lead Lecturer BA Hons degree Early Childhood Studies at Portobello Institute. Read more on Dr M's Thought's blog here.

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