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Rachael Chambers

MA Medieval History

Having completed a BA in Drama and Theatre Arts at Goldsmiths in 2007, Rachael Chambers (aged 27 at time of interview) spent a few years working in a bar and enjoying living in London while she thought about her future career.

She says: ‘I found I was reading a lot of historical biographies and particularly medieval history. I had enjoyed history at school, but at 18 an academic choice wasn’t so appealing. However, with a degree in drama, I knew I needed to carry on studying, and an MA in something I was really interested in was the next step.’

‘I also knew I could only afford to do an MA if I worked at the same time. Birkbeck was great - it gives you that opportunity because you can work full time. I was determined to have no loans and no debt from doing this degree, and I knew that if I got the MA it would be a great stepping stone to working in a history-related field.’

Rachael got her first proper office job, as an administrator at a sports betting software company, to fit in with that aim. She started an MA in Medieval History at Birkbeck a year or so later, in October 2011.

She says: ‘Working while studying led to me getting my current job. After the software company I went to work for a football club as a PA, where I learned great skills for my CV and gained more experience in an administrative environment.’

‘I am now assistant to the director of the V&A Museum of Childhood – a job I love! I had to have a history degree to do the job, and I really enjoy working with people who are interested in culture, who read books and who are interested generally in the same things as me.’

Being an MA student at Birkbeck was a “fantastic experience”.  Rachael adds: ‘As a Master’s student you have to take responsibility for your own reading and don’t expect to be led by the hand, but the support was always there. I have great respect for my tutors, and really enjoyed the modules and lectures.  I sometimes found it difficult to balance work and study when writing essays and doing my dissertation – but I got there!’

‘I am on the first rung of my career now. I applied about 20 times for jobs like this previously, but I found the museum culture impossible to get into without a history degree. My MA helped me get my foot in the door.’

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'Birkbeck was great – working while studying for my Master’s led to me getting a job I love at the V&A Museum of Childhood.'