Aaron Gallagher - Graduate of MA in Social Media Communications
Why I chose the MA in Social Media Communications?
During my undergraduate degree I had a keen interest in how people develop media habits, especially in relation to how they watch sport, consume news, absorb information and learn about the world.
To me social media seemed like the defining aspect of modern society, so I jumped at the chance to learn more when I was told about the MA in Social Media Communications programme at DCU.
I wanted to learn about the underlying theories and critical concepts that underpin platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, but also to investigate institutional, technical and social factors shaping social media policy and practices.
My biggest passions in life are sport and media, so I also wanted to learn more about the relationship between sporting institutions, sports media and social platforms.
How has the MA in Social Media Communications made a difference to me?
I learned a great deal during my Master’s and it definitely gave me a massive boost during the early stages of my career.
I completed my undergraduate with a BA in Journalism and worked for almost three years as a sports journalist. However, I was motivated to broaden my horizons and seek a slightly different path in the worlds of communications, marketing and public relations.
Thanks to the skills I learned during my MA, I was hired by Ryanair to be their Digital Executive last year. In this role I have had the pleasure to travel across Europe to countries like Georgia, Armenia, Italy and the UK on a number of digital content campaigns.
For this work I have recently been nominated for ’Rising Star’ at the 2020 Irish Content Marketing Awards. I feel that having the MA in Social Media Communications in my pocket made a huge difference when it came to taking on more senior positions at big companies like Ryanair.
Thanks to my work as a sports journalist and Ryanair over the past few years, I have also recently been awarded a PhD scholarship.
What are your key takeaways from your postgraduate experience with DCU?
I found both my undergraduate and postgraduate experiences at DCU to be overwhelmingly positive, but for very different reasons. During my Bachelor’s degree I became heavily involved with student clubs and societies, which was a fantastic way to make friends and have fun. However during my Master’s I was also working full-time as a sports journalist so I had to stay solely focused on course work and attending lectures and tutorials.
Going into my postgraduate studies, I knew my priorities were to develop myself professionally, gain as much experience as possible and to strengthen myself from a career perspective.
I found DCU was a great environment for postgraduate study. My fellow students were also very career-orientated and our lecturers gave us the best chance to enter the workplace with modern, up-to-date skills to impress prospective employers.
What did you find beneficial or challenging?
I really enjoyed the flexibility the MA in Social Media Communications offered during my studies. As students, each of us came from a number of different professional backgrounds whether it be journalism, sport, languages, public relations, business and politics. The degree gave us the opportunity to pursue assignments and research interests that fitted what we wanted to get out of the programme.
For this reason, many of my research interests during my MA focused on sports media, meaning I could tailor the degree in terms of what I wanted to achieve from a career perspective. Speaking with fellow graduates from our class, we are all now working in a number of different professional environments all over Europe.
I found this MA extremely beneficial as it allowed each of us, from all different backgrounds and nationalities, to pursue a specific area of social media practice and specialise in it.
Was it challenging to juggle the MA with your life/work?
Working full-time while completing my Master’s was definitely a big challenge, but one I was happy to take on board. Much of what I was learning in my lectures and the skills I learned during workshops and tutorials directly related to my day-to-day job working in sports media, so the two went together hand-in-hand.
Working and studying often meant being on the go seven days a week, but I knew this would only be for one year and that it would definitely be worth it in the long run.
Time management and staying motivated were crucial trying to balance both work and college simultaneously, but because I really enjoyed my job and my studies it never felt overwhelming.
How did you stay motivated?
A good piece of advice I received before starting college was to study something I was genuinely passionate about. On the face of it, this is a very simple instruction but it’s one I have really taken to heart over the years.
Whether it’s your BA, MA or a PhD, you need to be absolutely invested in what you’re studying. If you aren’t, you will question yourself time and time again why you’re putting yourself through all this work and effort.
I’ve always known my passion was in the areas of media, communications and sport, so I had no real issue staying motivated because I knew completing this MA programme would help me and my career in the long-term.
I loved what I was studying, so all those long hours at lectures, studying in the library, and completing my dissertation were genuinely enjoyable.
My Advice to Incoming Students
My experience of postgraduate study was excellent both from a personal and professional perspective, so I would definitely encourage anyone who’s motivated and interested to consider pursuing a Master’s programme if they want to up-skill and improve their career prospects.
Jobs in media and communications are very competitive at the moment and it’s crucial to make yourself stand out from the crowd. Pursuing a Master’s degree shows employers that you are ambitious, determined and motivated and, in my experience, can make all the difference if you’re aiming for more senior positions at big companies.
The School of Communications is filled with experts in the fields of social media, journalism and public relations and I found it very beneficial to avail of their knowledge and advice.