Student Advice: Life after Graduation
I’m Elanor and I am a psychology graduate (x2!) from the University of Hertfordshire. My journey into psychology began in 2015, when I began studying for my BSc Psychology degree. Six years and a master’s degree later, I’m now working as a senior research assistant psychologist.
Life post-graduation (so far!)
Since finishing my postgraduate degree, I have worked at St. Andrew’s Healthcare, a secure forensic mental health hospital. My first position was a research assistant role, working within the research centre across a large range of projects, from virtual reality to risk assessment. After twelve months in that position, I moved internally within the organisation, and am currently working as a senior research assistant psychologist on the developmental and complex trauma research programme.
The main activities of my role include developing research protocols, writing research papers for journal publication, supervising the involvement of volunteers and students, and presenting at national and international conferences. Outside of this position, I have also recently begun a voluntary role with Staffordshire university as a professional mentor for psychology students wanting to pursue a career in the clinical and research field.
In regards to what’s next for me, I will be beginning my part-time PhD in September. The flexibility of university studies means that I can continue in my current research position, fitting my studies around this. Eventually, a little further into the future, I’d love to return to university, although in a teaching role rather than as a student. A key part of my current job which I particularly enjoy is being able to support other’s in their own development, and having supportive and passionate lecturers was definitely a big factor in my own success within my university studies.
How my studies have shaped my career pathway
Both my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees were essential stepping stones in my journey to where I am now and the opportunities that I’ve had along the way.
The applied clinical focus of my postgraduate degree and the emphasis on research skills undoubtedly helped shape a path for me into a research career within a mental health setting. The data handling and analysis skills that I learnt in both my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees are one’s which I use daily, constructing databases and analysing results (I never did get to escape from SPSS!). The more practical clinical skills that I learnt on my postgraduate course are also one’s which I utilise in my role, both in my interactions with patients and also fellow colleagues; mental health can be a challenging environment to work in, and sharing empathy and compassion with those working alongside you is hugely important.
The academic and scientific writing style that I developed consistently throughout all aspects of my degrees, from essay writing, research labs, and dissertation projects, has been so important to my success in publishing journal papers. The dreaded research vivas, while an experience I did not enjoy at the time, have been pivotal in developing my confidence in speaking and presenting at conferences post-graduation. And the list goes on.
While I did fall into a job within psychology, I am also confident that the knowledge and skills that I have developed from my studies would also prepare me well for a job outside of this sphere. A psychology degree is one of the most versatile qualifications on offer in terms of the transferable skills that you gain. Psychology is a popular area of study, but it is the minority of graduates who go on to pursue a career within the field. Since graduating from Herts, my friends and fellow graduates have gone on to pursue a whole range of different roles across so many different industries, including human resources and recruitment, teaching and education, marketing and sales, and policing.
There is no doubt that it is a degree which, with the combination of hard work, can open doors – and a lot of them too!