Why I Picked My Masters: Megan O’Hanlon

What is your current area of study?

MSc Applied Economics at University College Dublin

What previous qualifications have you obtained?
First Class Honours in BSc Finance with a Year in Industry at Queen’s University Belfast

What made you decide to pursue a postgraduate course?

For me, Masters study has always been a part of the plan! Even when I was studying for my A-Levels, I knew it was something that I wanted to undertake. One benefit to going into a Masters directly after my degree was that I didn’t have the stress of the graduate application season during my final year.  I applied to two options for my Masters and that was that! I think that with graduate jobs becoming increasingly competitive, having a Masters can really set you apart, particularly if you haven’t quite achieved the marks you would have liked at undergraduate. For me, my Masters course has given me the opportunity to pursue a field adjacent to Finance that I was really interested in, to broaden my learning and understanding.

Megan completed the Applied Economics MSc in UCD.

Did you take time out to work or go straight into your postgraduate course following your undergraduate degree and why?

Both of my parents hold Masters degrees in their fields, and my Dad did his part-time while working with a young family – his advice was that while it was definitely possible to do a Masters part-time, it was very difficult! Luckily, I have a very supportive family that have made it possible to be a full-time student for another year, so there was no real reason for me to undertake study part-time. Additionally, in Finance it is common to undertake professional qualifications, so it may have seemed more attractive to simply embark on those studies rather than a part-time Masters if I had entered the work force directly.

What factors did you take into consideration when selecting which course to pursue?

Course

I have been told that I have studied in reverse, as it is much more common for an Economics undergraduate student to undertake a Masters in Finance, rather than the other way about! However, as mentioned above, my choice to do a Masters was about broadening my learning, and I really enjoyed my Economics classes in undergrad so chose to pursue this area of study at Masters level. Additionally, a lot of the financial and economic commentary I follow online originates from people who have an excellent understanding of the macroeconomy – another reason why I chose Economics. I also wanted a real challenge at the time, and switching disciplines certainly offers that – I probably would have had an easier time studying some variation of Finance.

University

I undertook a placement year with KPMG in Dublin as part of my undergraduate degree and was very eager to return to Dublin for my postgraduate study, as I saw myself starting my career in the city. UCD has an excellent reputation for economics, and as I was also interested in Behavioural Economics, of which UCD is a pioneering university in Ireland, so that naturally drew me to the university. There is the option to undertake a Behavioural Economics Masters at UCD, but I felt the Applied route offered me more flexibility. In fact, I think for module choice and potential specialisms, the Applied Economics Masters at UCD is the best course of all those I researched. Additionally, I had the option to pursue an internship instead of a thesis in the summer trimester, which was extremely appealing to me. I briefly considered London universities, but I felt the living costs coupled with the tuition costs were just too high. I am very happy with my decision!

Did your course meet your expectations and why?

With Covid-19, the entire course is now online. I think this works very well for subjects like Economics, and while you don’t have the social interaction you would from everyone being in a lecture theatre together, I don’t think the teaching quality of tuition has been negatively impacted (Wifi issues notwithstanding!). Also, I’m able to live at home this year, as many of us are – and not having to pay for Dublin rent has definitely been a bonus!
At Masters level, we’ve had our traditional university experience already, and a number of my classmates have returned to study, so it has a different feel to undergrad. Everyone is more mature and very supportive of each other, and we have regular study zoom calls to get together and go over tutorial questions, which I highly recommend.

I have learned so much more than I thought I would already, and have even learned a good deal about myself. Undertaking a Masters degree has also given me the opportunity to get involved in the University’s Student Managed Fund. I led a similar Fund society during my final year at Queen’s, and am now the Chief Economist for the UCD SMF. Through this, I have had the opportunity to work with like-minded peers and connect with UCD alumni. I have also made friends through my course that I am looking forward to meeting in person, once Covid allows.

What role do you hope to go into once you complete your postgraduate course? (How has this course helped your career prospects?)
I am staying with my finance roots and joining Davy on their Graduate Program this September in Dublin. I am very much looking forward to this; it’s a rotational program so I am really excited about getting to know different areas of the business and finding out which suits me the best.

What advice would you give to someone unsure as to what they should study at postgraduate level?
I think it’s really important to pin down why you want to study at Masters level and carefully consider what you’ll get out of it at the end. I mainly chose to pursue my Masters to broaden my qualification base and out of personal interest in the subject, but there are many other reasons and even then, it may not be the right path for everyone. I also think it’s very important to weigh up the costs of tuition, the course content and research if the alumni of the course and University have been able to obtain roles similar to what you are interested in. Also, make sure you are interested in the specific course content – module outlines are your best friend for trying to determine this! My top recommendation though, is to get in contact with someone who is currently in the course. I reached out to course alumni on LinkedIn and it was so useful to gain a real sense of what the course was like.

Megan O’Hanlon

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