Postgraduates seek expert advice: Cormac Tierney

Careers clinic: Finding the right career advice can be crucial. We connected prospective postgrad students with career experts to help answer their questions

Cormac Tierney (22) graduated from a three-year BSc in architecture degree at UCD in 2017. He took a year out to see if he enjoyed the professional side of the discipline before deciding on whether to commit to a Master's programme and, he says, he's glad he did so as he now feels that he doesn't want to work as an architect. So, what are his options?

We put Cormac in touch with Marie McManamon, an independent careers consultant and qualified guidance counsellor with over 30 years of experience in industry and education, and the founder of Clear-cut Careers and Consulting.

Cormac Tierney: There are many aspects of the profession that appeal to me however I feel the work load is far too arduous and demanding for the relative average salary in the industry. Architecture is quite vocational in that sense and you do it for the love and romance of building and design, not to get an easy pay day.

In my year out I have worked on a few small building projects such as designing the layout of a small clinic in Galway and fitting out new apartments in Swords and Dún Laoghaire. As well as this, I have worked as a CAD technician with a brilliant plumbing and drainage company in Wicklow that specialise in large-scale projects, such as the Trinity Business School. This has allowed me to see first-hand the intricacies of the construction process from foundations to light switches.


My time spent out of college following my degree has definitely reinforced my opinion that architecture is not for me, and that I will not be returning for Masters. What I have also learned, however, is that there are in fact many aspects of the profession that do interest me and that I would be interested in pursuing further, such as: property development, project management or possibly another aspect of the building industry. Would it make sense to follow through with the master’s in architecture, gain a further qualification, and then look to specialise?

Marie McManamon: One of the routes to becoming an architect in Ireland is to complete a prescribed degree course in architecture which takes five years of full-time study. Sometimes the five years of study are split into a three-year course followed by a two-year course, such as in your own situation, with the master's in architecture being the final step towards qualification. But you say that you have made a decision that you do not want to become an architect.

Postgraduate studies are challenging and time consuming even with a definite end goal of entering a particular profession. So, I would suggest that if you are clear in your mind that this is not the career for you, then perhaps this is not the best option since completing the course would be difficult for you in terms of maintaining interest and motivation. Whatever you choose, a master’s needs to be leading you to a career you will enjoy.

Cormac Tierney: I have been educated in Ireland my whole life, would studying a master's abroad give me an advantage when applying for jobs?

Marie McManamon: Studying abroad can offer many benefits, from experiencing new cultures and potentially enhancing language skills, to accessing educational and professional opportunities on a much broader scale. In addition, you could target studying in a global hub for your chosen area of expertise, once you have made a decision on your career direction. This would certainly make you an attractive candidate in the graduate market. That said, studying abroad is not essential to securing graduate employment and graduates of Irish colleges and universities are consistently in high demand at home or abroad, wherever their skills are required in domestic or international labour markets.

Cormac Tierney: Is a master's degree necessary for the line of work I want to pursue, or would further industry experience be more useful?

Marie McManamon: This very much depends on what you want to do. Through your industry experience you have discovered a number of interests but in our longer correspondence, you have indicated that you are not yet sure enough about any particular option to know which direction to take in terms of further study and this is totally understandable. When working with clients in similar situations, I always recommend taking a step back to allow time to do some research in order to (a) build up a picture of what the ideal job might look like for you and (b) ascertain what the requirements for such a role, whether academic, professional or both.

To get clarity, you might want to start by speaking to people already working in the different career areas you have identified, eg construction, property development and project management. You could also seek an appointment with your careers service to get some advice about accessing a range of free online resources that will help you in your career planning and decision making. And you may also want to consider attending a graduate careers fair, where you can meet and chat with employers currently recruiting graduates.

Cormac Tierney: Is a high second-class honours or a first-class honours degree required for some master's courses?

Marie McManamon: Entry requirements vary. However, where there is a high level of demand for a particular course and/or where intake numbers are low, the process can be very competitive. On the other hand, many programmes welcome applications from graduates with 2.2H degrees as well as from individuals who have significant industry experience, but who may not meet the academic requirements. If you have concerns about entry requirements and eligibility, it is helpful to speak with the postgraduate admissions team or seek a meeting with the programme director.

Cormac Tierney: If I were to enter a master's degree in a different field to that of my undergraduate degree, would I be at a disadvantage?

Marie McManamon: Many people pursue postgraduate studies in areas unrelated to their primary degrees and choose add on qualifications as they progress through their careers, although some courses require an undergraduate degree in a cognate or related discipline. This is to ensure that the student has sufficient foundation in the subject area to complete the course successfully.

There are also increasing numbers of conversion courses available for graduates considering postgraduate study but seeking to change direction from their undergraduate degree. There are too many options to list here but details of conversion courses currently available may be seen on Qualifax (

I understand from our longer correspondence that your design experience in your architectural studies has led to an interest in advertising. For this reason, you may wish to explore the MSc in Advertising at the Dublin Institute of Technology which is a conversion course with strong industry links and both an executive and creative stream.

Cormac Tierney: Are there any graduate recruitment programmes available for people looking to get into the building or property sector?

Marie McManamon: The GradIreland website advertises many graduate programmes and if you haven't done so, I recommend registering with the site to ensure you get regular updates on vacancies in your targeted sectors. Attending graduate careers fairs will also help you to identify potential employers but bear in mind that smaller companies may also offer interesting opportunities for graduates. Talking to your contacts can help you to identify a range of potential employers in this category.

These conversations have been edited for space. Postgraduate applications are made through the Postgraduate Applications Centre which can be found at