How to find the right course

More than half of all undergraduates now go on to postgraduate study and there are plenty of courses to choose from

Tue, Mar 11, 2014, 06:00

Exploring what’s available
It can be difficult for students to navigate the array of courses on offer at graduate level. Dr Tara McMorrow and Dr David O’Connell, lecturers at UCD’s school of biomolecular and biomedical science, direct the MSc in biotechnology and the MSc in business and biotechnology jointly with the Smurfit Business School. Both courses are popular and are always oversubscribed.

McMorrow offers some tips for choosing a taught graduate course. “Many final year science students are now planning their careers with a view to pursuing graduate studies,” she says.

“We set up these courses at UCD in consultation with industry to broaden graduates’ knowledge and understanding of the current technologies and processes in the pharmabiotech industry and to prepare them for a career in industry or business. The overall aim of the programmes is to significantly increase the employability of science graduates in the expanding biotechnology industry worldwide.

“I would recommend students investigate the sectors they want to work in and the types of skills employers are looking for. The IDA Ireland website, for example, gives a great overview of the pharmaceutical, pharmabiotech and medical technologies companies in Ireland, and the job websites detail the types of qualifications and experience companies are looking for.

“Graduate taught courses that enhance your skill set and employability are key. In our master’s courses students gain first-hand experience of some of the practical and business aspects of bioprocessing technology, regulatory affairs and the design and management of clinical trials. These are topics they may not have covered in their undergraduate degrees.”

It can be difficult for a science graduate to get a foot on the ladder because of the competition for jobs in certain areas, she says.

“I advise our final-year students to look for graduate courses that include an internship or some experience working in a business environment. For example, the MSc in biotechnology includes a four-month internship where some students spend time working for biotechnology companies such as Pfizer and Genzyme, as well as regulatory authorities such as the Food Safety Authority.”

For graduates considering setting up on their own, the business and biotechnology MSc students complete a business plan with a biotechnology company.

Graduates of both courses work in pharmabiotech companies such as Kerry Group, Medtronic, Pfizer, Genzyme, Mylan, DuPont and Quintiles, and venture capital companies such as Seroba Kernel.

“The roles are varied from research scientists and investment analysts, to pharmacovigilance and regulatory affairs specialists. Our graduates have commented that their experiences of both the biotechnology and the biotechnology and business MSc programmes have enabled them to acquire additional facets of the science and business of biomedical research, making them very employable in the expanding pharmabiotech industry in Ireland and worldwide.”

More information on these courses is at ucd.ie/biotech.


How do you go about selecting which course to apply to?
The first question you have to address is the type of programme you wish to follow: research or taught. You might also look at the many conversion courses on offer through the Government springboard programme or directly by the 92 colleges around Ireland offering postgraduate courses.


Taught programmes
Taught postgraduate courses can be a continuation of your undergraduate studies or in an entirely new area. For example, arts or science graduates may choose a postgraduate business course or vice-versa. Taught courses usually result in a certificate, diploma or master’s. Certificate courses are normally shorter than diploma and master’s courses.

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