The conundrum between pursuing a masters and interning: views from an intern


By Andrew Hall, ACDI NRF intern 2016

After graduation a lot of graduates are at a loss of what is the next best thing to do, particularly after completing an Honours degree and specializing in a specific field. After all the years of hard work, assignments, tutorials, and endless nights of studying, the average graduate expects to leave university and walk into a high paid job in a well-recognised company.

Sadly based on my own experience, and those of others I have studied with over the years, this is almost never the case. Faced with this dilemma myself, upon completing an Honours degree nearly a year ago, I realised that I had two choices: pursuing a master’s degree or interning. Each choice has its fair share of pros and cons that should be weighed up accordingly based on the individuals’ circumstances.

Pursuing a Master’s degree

This is usually the first thought that goes through one’s educated head when you haven’t been offered any form of employment by the time of graduating, but sometimes this isn’t the smartest choice, especially if one does not know what career path to pursue after graduating or what area of research to specialize in. A lot of unemployed graduates are likely to accept whatever Master’s projects any supervisor would offer them, just to not have to face the embarrassment of going home to a million questions from your mother as to why you are still unemployed even though you have studied and gone to university, never mind your disenchantment when being compared to former high school mates who have a matric certificate and who are now doing much better than yourself. Advice that is always given to final year Honours students by professors and lecturers is to leave the safe world of the campus and go into the adult world, gain experience, and then return for a Master’s degree. However, in a job market flooded with graduates this is easier said than done.

To intern or not to intern: That is the question

In nearly all films interns are generically portrayed as young, confused individuals in outdated clip-on neck ties, running around with stacks of files and having poorly made coffee returned to them in a prompt and violent manner. They are the guys who spend endless nights doing meaningless tasks to please someone who has yet to remember their name. However, this is not always the case. An internship can provide you with a break from student life and provide valuable work place experience that all those years of studying could not offer you. The benefit of an internship is that it requires no experience, unlike other junior/ entry level positions that surprisingly require you to have quite a number of years of experience in your field.

A lot of graduates (myself included) are not prepared to go directly into a ‘real job’, and an internship provides you with a lot of tools relevant to your current planned career path that will help you in your future endeavours, whether it be furthering your studies or skilling- up for your next job.

My experience as an intern at the African Climate & Development Initiative

After what I assumed was a failed Skype interview, due to going blank half the time, stumbling over my words and not having the slightest clue what Skype was at the time, I was offered an internship at the ACDI. Coming from a hydrology background to a multi-disciplinary research initiative obsessed with climate change, needed quite a bit of getting used to but has allowed me to come to the realization that all aspects of science are linked whether it be natural sciences or social sciences, and has given me the ability to participate in any science conversation. Over the past couple of months, I would like to think that I have improved both professionally and as an individual through the mentorship of the staff at the ACDI. What’s more, I am proud to say that I have only been asked to make coffee twice, (the secret benefit of this task is you get to devour a couple of Romany Creams during the walk from the kitchen to the meeting room).


Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his private capacity

Image credits: Career FAQs and