Why it's never too late to study a postgraduate course

Want to change careers and do something new but feel like you've missed the boat? Don't worry: you haven't. It's never too late to pursue a profession you truly love. In fact, some of the most famous creatives came to their chosen career late in the day.

Kat Miles, MA Character Animation, Central Saint Martins

Kat Miles, MA Character Animation, Central Saint Martins

Celebrity chef Julia Child worked in advertising before writing her first cookbook at the age of 50. World-renowned designer Vera Wang was a figure skater and journalist before entering the fashion industry at 40. Housekeeper Anna Mary Robertson Moses, aka Grandma Moses, began her painting career at 78; her work now sells for millions. And the list goes on.

But how do you go about shifting gears to a new career? A postgraduate course can help you develop the skills you need to succeed and give you a fresh new start. And that's just what Kat Miles has done.

She recently brought her career as a secondary school geography teacher in London to a close and is now taking an MA in character animation at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London (UAL). Read on to find out why she made the leap and how you can follow in her footsteps.

Pursuing a passion

The first thing to note is that Kat didn't leave teaching because she dislikes it. "I enjoy being in the classroom," she says. "But lord alive, teaching is a draining profession! I took the leap to leave to try and pursue something that I will love doing most of the time, where I can use work as a creative outlet."

That big passion is animation. "I specialise in 2D animation, and my preferred style is hand-drawn work," she explains.

Kat chose to study for a postgraduate to give herself a strong foundation in her new career. "I'd only ever previously used art and animation as a hobby, so was keen to learn the skill formally," she says.

Kat Miles, MA Character Animation, Central Saint Martins

Kat Miles, MA Character Animation, Central Saint Martins

Embracing the learning curve

One of her biggest projects as a postgrad has been directing and animating a short sting for the London International Animation Festival, which you can view below.

"I chose to do the entire thing on paper," Kat explains. "And this basically meant doing the whole animation twice. Once using software, and then afterwards, tracing over that work with traditional materials.

"In hindsight, I don't think that I'd choose to animate this way again," she says. "The frame rate was 24 frames per second, so I have a stack of about 2,000 sheets of paper at home from this short!"

Valuing the staff

Throughout her creative journey, the teaching staff at UAL have been invaluable, Kat says. "I'd recommend that all students take advantage of staff time whilst you're here," she stresses. "Easily half of the contact time I've with lecturers has been from booking out one-to-one sessions, to learn more about a specific skill or software. And I've been really grateful for the knowledge of specialist staff."

Kat is due to graduate this year and, due to the lockdown, is currently completing her studies at home. "Typically, I start my working day around 10am," she explains. "I'm working on my final film at the moment, which is about a fish named Gertie, who dreams of gaining legs to compete in beauty pageants. I'll have a shot in mind that I need to work on or clean up, so I will crack on with that.

"Once a week, we have critiques of progress on final films, so I may log in to get some feedback. If I'm stuck on how to get a shot working, I can always book a call with a staff member. I usually clock off around six or seven. I tutor in the evenings and work as a supply teacher part-time around the course, so I need to make sure I have lesson materials prepped, too."

Overall, it's been a challenge but a rewarding one. "I'd only really doodled a few animations before starting on the course, so I've had a really steep learning curve," Kat explains. "But now feel quite confident in 2D and 3D animation, and hopefully have a solid foundation to start out in the animation industry."

Change your life with a postgrad at UAL

Want to change your life by pursuing your passion and finding a job you truly love? University of the Arts London (UAL) is a great place to start.

UAL offers a wide range of postgraduate courses, covering areas including 3D and product design; animation, film and sound; architecture, spatial and interior design; communication and graphic design; fine art and illustration; design for theatre and screen; fashion design, textiles and materials; photography, and more.

Check out the complete list of postgraduate courses here.

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