I recently completed my Masters in Health Psychology at NUI Galway. Like many Psychology graduates, I left university with a Bachelors in Psychology back in 2010 not entirely sure what kind of job I could get. I think it helps to be open minded in the field of Psychology, particularly as so many Psychology graduates are interested in Clinical Psychology. But let’s face it, Assistant Psychology posts are like gold dust in the HSE and the NHS. So it was important for me and my fellow colleagues to keep an open mind, career wise. My first job post-graduation was working for Priory Healthcare, as a Support Worker for men with Autism and Challenging Behaviours. This gave me hands on experience with a client group and developed useful clinical skills, such as following behaviour plans, and promoting independence amongst vulnerable groups. After this, I held a couple of Research Assistant positions, and volunteered as a Samaritan (by the way, I’d recommend this to every Psychology student. It’s an amazing way to help in your local community, is rewarding and you’ll make good friends).
Alas I was ready to return to university, even though I vowed, after completing my undergraduate degree, to never return. Initially, I was adamant that a Masters wouldn’t really help in Psychology, and that Clinical Experience was more important. Whilst this is true in certain times, for me, having a Masters has opened doors. As well as adding to my academic profile, I have developed many more skills. For example, the thesis piece has really enhanced my Research skills (literature searches, interviewing skills, manuscript writing), and it really helps if you are keen on getting your work published, as this drives you to write many (many) drafts of your manuscript. Luckily I had a really supportive supervisor, who really inspired me to want to publish my work. I’m currently looking to submit my work to one of the Health Psychology journals.
As well as enhancing those key research skills, the Masters at NUI Galway really helped me to develop the theoretical framework for behaviour change intervention. This is a valuable skill when you’re working with client groups, or developing policies and procedures in healthcare. The course consisted of a behaviour change workshop which was held in the first Semester and delivered by a team from UCL. Additionally, we had a couple of assignments during the course which allowed us to practice developing interventions. All of these enhanced my personal statements when applying for jobs, as the course gives you a varied skill set, which you can cater when applying to certain positions. For me, it gave me the confidence to apply for an internship at the United Nations. My application was successful, and I will soon be carrying out an internship with the UN in New York. My advanced research experience at NUI, as well as understanding the theoretical framework of behaviour change, were key components of my personal statement and I was able to discuss these further at interview.
Although this story is completely particular to my interests, I just wanted to highlight and stress the value of the Masters, in providing you with new skills and opening up new avenues. The Masters is what YOU make it, and your thesis piece will be so important in developing those expert skills. So make the most of the resources available to you during the year (which really flies) and enjoy it!