Postgrad Interview #2: Shane (32), Masters in Civil Engineering

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This is the second post in the ‘Postgraduate Study’ category which explores the merits of postgraduate education. Interviewing eight people in their 30’s about their postgraduate experiences for my book ‘1000 Years of Career Advice’, I was struck by how different people’s answers were about their own postgraduate experiences.

Interview #2: Shane, 32, Mechanical Engineer, Engineering Consulting Firm, Masters in Civil Engineering
Were you paid any more than a person at your level who didn’t have a masters in civil engineering?

No, I received the same graduate entry level pay in my first job as any other graduate taken on in that year (2010)

With hindsight, would you do a masters after uni or get a job and why?

I only did the masters in civil engineering because I could not get a job. If the job market was good when I finished my undergrad I would have jumped at a job but the construction industry had collapsed in Ireland 2008-2009. I went back to uni thinking it would all blow over in a year and I would get an extra qualification in the mean time.

Would you have been able to get your first job without a masters in civil engineering?

No, the only reason I got the my first job in that particular department was the fact that i had a post graduate qualification.

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What were three good things, and three bad things about your masters in civil engineering?

1. There was a lot more focus on project work and less on memorising info and regurgitating it at exam time.

2. A lot of the guys doing the masters in civil engineeringwere at least 5-6 years older then me and had worked out in industry. They came back to uni as a result of being laid off. It was good to chat to them and see what they were doing in their first few years as engineers, etc.

3. The sheer amount of presentations where you would get challenged on your project work – either as a individual, or as part of the team. I learned a lot getting quizzed by lecturers over why you followed a certain route or what your thoughts were on statements you had made.


1. The masters degree was only in its second year and was still finding its feet. Some lecturers were a bit confused over what they were meant to be covering in some modules.

2. It was too varied – we had 3 massive modules in one year covering Bio Engineering/Power generation/Computer Simulation/Programming. It was very broad brush and was trying to provide something for every one, there was no real specialising. The university was probably trying to get as many people to do the course as possible to get more cash.

3. It did not come with any accreditation from a professional body

How did it compare to your undergrad i.e. hours, fun, people, etc

It was a night-time masters so I used to go into the uni at 2pm to do the project work as I was unemployed at the time. Lectures would usually kick off at 5 or 6pm and run until 9pm four nights a week so you kind of felt detached from the fun that you had in your undergrad. It was not a fun year, it was just keep your head down and get on with it year. The hours were less lecture-wise but the project work took a lot of time to do.

Would you advise a young person to get a job first and then do a masters in civil engineering, or vice versa?

Yes, in hindsight I think it would be best to do a masters in civil engineering after a few years out working so you understand how everything works and what you are interested in and what you aren’t. It’s a waste doing a masters in civil engineering straight after university as you don’t understand what kind of work you want to be doing yet.

If you are still unsure as to whether to do a masters in marketing, or any masters for that matter, please do leave a comment or contact me using the contact section, I’d be more than happy to help. You can also check out my other posts on postgraduate study:

Should I get a job or do a postgraduate degree?


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