Why study for a postgrad?
Graduates share the insights and experience they gained during their postgrad
Education: Carrie Archer, DCU
After my BA in humanities at DCU, I decided to do a PLC in complementary and holistic therapy, and then did a diploma in how to teach it.
Even though PLCs are often seen as a fallback option, I saw first-hand how transformative further education and training (FET) can be, especially for people who may not have succeeded as they wanted in mainstream education. In 2013, I did a two-year, part-time MSc in education in training (e-learning) in DCU. The course focused on using different learning management systems and using online learning environments. I was particularly interested in the leadership focus.
In the second year of my MSc, I looked at the visibility of LGBT+ people in FET, including teacher attitudes and their comfort around creating a culture of inclusion. This has led me to run a few national workshops for the FET sector.
I wanted to keep learning so I then did a postgraduate cert in 21st century teaching and learning in Trinity College. More recently, a graduate diploma in inclusion, learning support and special education teaching in DCU; this helped me to be more informed in how I engaged with my own classes.
My postgrads have helped me look at education through an inclusion lens: I can use evidence-based, informed approaches to reach the most marginalised learners, and that in turn has helped me to support teachers.
Last year, I was appointed as the professional development co-ordinator for the City of Dublin ETB, and while this means I’m no longer teaching, I’m getting the opportunity to work with my peers and help them to support their students.
Business: Pauric Mahony, WIT
As I approached the end of my undergraduate course, I was in limbo as to where I wanted to go next. I’d done a block of work placement with one of the top firms in Ireland and there was a position ready or me. In the middle of my final exams, I broke my leg. This put county hurling for Waterford on hold but did open up the opportunity to focus on more study as I did my rehab.
In 2015, I decided to do a postgraduate MBS in management at WIT; I didn’t have a fixed or clear career path so the course allowed me to think about where I was going in my career.
I’ve been playing for the country since I was 18 so I was quite experienced in balancing sport, work and personal life. I did a little bit of coaching in local schools to keep me ticking over but my primary focus was my study.
There was a lot of project work, group activity and simulation of a real work environment on the course; I learned a lot but I was challenged, too.
I was only 23 or 24 when I finished up, and I wanted to see where the opportunities were. I started working in supply chain as a junior buyer before progressing to supply chain planner and then I made the jump into sales. Because the masters had such a broad base, it allowed me to hit the ground running.
Arts: Avril Whelehan, NUI Galway
I taught English for almost ten years before making the decision to try something new. I was 22 when I qualified as a secondary teacher and I felt it was time to explore other interests for a while. My main interests are in literature and writing, and I’d completed a publishing internship a few years back, so the MA in Literature and Publishing at NUI Galway caught my eye. The course offers a good mix of business and literary modules, so it was the perfect balance of learning the practical side of publishing and getting to indulge my literary interests, too.
When I graduated from NUIG, I knew I wanted to remain in Galway but as there aren’t any traditional publishing houses in the city, I started looking into the area of digital publishing. Luckily, I got a job as a content writer with The Knot Worldwide, a US wedding platform that has a base in Galway city.
It was a really tough decision to leave teaching at the time, but now I see it not as having left a career behind, but rather having had the chance to expand my skills and experience - and if I do return to the profession I think I’d be a better teacher for it.
Computing: Cian Vaughan, National College of Ireland
I studied physics and astrophysics at UCC. After college, I moved to Dublin to work for Digital Skills Global. I was working to produce and edit their content. One of the companies we worked with was an Irish sign language app and I got a machine to learn ISL gestures and see if it could predict what word would be said next. I became more interested in artificial intelligence and machine learning.
I looked around at courses and NCI’s data analytics programme jumped out at me. There’s a huge shortage of data scientists at a time when almost every industry is drowning in data that they need someone to interpret for them.
I particularly liked covering areas like front and back end visualisation. We had work placement options which were really helpful. When I did the masters, a lot of my classmates were researching Bitcoin; this year, I suspect more of them are looking at how to statistically model Covid-19.
I’m really glad i did it and it wasn’t too onerous because the course was two years part-time. I don’t think I’d have the job I have now without this postgrad: we’ve formed a new data science team at the BNY Mellon and we’re always working on new ideas.”
Engineering: Sinéad Barton, Maynooth University
I get up at 5am to deliver my classes live - it’s important to see the body language and faces of the students because a lot of the topics including English language words that may not be in their vocabulary.
In the fourth year of my engineering undergraduate at Maynooth, one of my lecturers was setting up a new biomedical engineering research group, and he wanted students who would work with him in this area. I secured PhD funding to work with him on the project, and my brief was to help design software optimisation procedures for better and less invasive cancer diagnostics.
Being able to help people attracted me to the topic, and there are major advances being made in this area of research.
With every PhD, you get the second year blues: it’s a sharp learning curve especially if you are specialising in any way or looking at niche areas or bleeding edge technologies. But once you get past this, I liked looking myself up on Google and seeing my publications on Google Scholar!
There’s a love-hate relationship with your PhD regardless of the topic, and it does require a lot of drive and dedication. There’s a stereotype of engineers not being great at communication but getting your research out there means working with colleagues and speaking at conferences. I don’t know what will happen at the end of this contract but I feel I have a lot of options and opportunities.”