Turning your passion into a career

For Louise Ellis-Barrett (MA Egyptology, 2012), pursuing a Master’s degree at Birkbeck provided her with a chance to dive into a subject she had always been passionate about.

“I said to my husband how much I missed studying, but I didn’t want to go back to the same subject I had done for my BA (Classics and Ancient History). He suggested thinking about subjects I would like to explore further. I barely hesitated before saying Egyptology. The course at Birkbeck was an evening course, so it fit well with my work as a school librarian.”

What began as an opportunity to learn more about Ancient Egypt ended up transforming Louise’s career path. After completing her dissertation, she didn’t feel ready to stop her studies and had a wealth of material for further research. “With support from my tutors at Birkbeck I set about exploring the possibility of doing a PhD. I joined various Egyptological mailing lists and came across an advertisement for a job at the British Museum. It was a six-month temporary contract for a Library Assistant role in the Department of Egypt & Sudan. I wasn’t looking for another job, I was content being a school librarian. But I applied and the rest is history (pardon the pun!).”

Louise is now undertaking a PhD in Egyptology at the University of Birmingham. “The Master’s course at Birkbeck expanded my horizons and encouraged me to undertake a PhD. It brought me into contact with the people I now work with, so I will always be grateful.”

Alongside writing her PhD part-time, Louise continues her work as a Librarian at the British Museum. “It is a privilege to be there daily. I have loved the Museum since I was a child.” In the role, her two passions come together: “What is there not to love about helping people while working with books and learning! I love learning and my role brings me into contact with so many interesting people. It is such an exciting and rewarding place to work, with so many opportunities to further my own research interests as well as other people’s.”

While she has no plans to leave the British Museum anytime soon, Louise does have her eye on moving into academia: “At some point – I would very happily teach an Egyptology course, maybe even at Birkbeck!”