Dear Olivia – Do I Pursue a Masters Degree?

Every Monday, the Editors of the Attic on Eighth answer your questions. To ask for their advice, send us an email to or an anon to our tumblr

This week, Olivia addresses a case of academic uncertainty. 

Dear Olivia,

First of all hi ! And thank you for your blog, it’s always honestly such a pleasure to read ! And here is my question. I am currently studying in art history (along with a certificate in archivism but I am studying that at distance). After a tumultuous academic path, I started in architectural design but after one year and a half of it being way too stressful for me, I had an anxiety-related breakdown and spent a year following only a few classes, as to not put too much stress on myself and take the time to decide what I really wanted to do. 

And now, I finally only have one year left of my undergrad degree in art history and I really dont know what I should do next. I keep thinking that I want to take a break from academia and find a job, but I am also thinking about maybe pursuing a Masters degree. I feel like the closer the end is coming, the more confusing my options are. So whatever advice you would have for me would be very welcome and thank you in advance ! 


Hi Nadjah,

Thank you for writing to me! How exciting to be near the end of your degree after going through hardship! I wish you many congratulations. 

I'm afraid your question is one that only you can definitely answer. I do however have some advice to give. if you "keep thinking" that what you want to do is "take a break from academia" and you aren't sure that you want to do a Masters degree, then you know what you need to do. Grad school isn't something that you should ever go into half-heartedly, even if it is to a shorter degree like a Masters and not to stay on the academic path for the long term. Masters degrees are a huge amount of work and can be extremely mentally, emotionally, and physically draining. If you aren't absolutely certain that you need to do one, either because you can't imagine yourself being at peace with yourself unless you keep studying what you love or because getting a Masters degree will open up new doors for you on a path away from academia, then you're not ready for it.

Taking a year or however long you need out between degrees is never a bad thing. In fact, students who take time off between degrees are often looked upon favorably. You can gain real world experiences, and distance from academia can help you to tackle your own uncertainty. Do you miss learning? Do you want to come back? Do you need more intellectual challenge in your life? Do you have a burning need to come back?

Only you can answer these questions, but time away can always help you make up your mind. 

Wishing you all the best,