Reflecting on my master’s degree one year later

It’s been just over a year since Katie Hill graduated from The University of Manchester with a master’s in Forensic Psychology and Mental Health. After recently securing a job with Greater Manchester Police (GMP), Katie reflects on her time on the course and discusses how it has helped her to forge a successful start to her career…

Why Forensic Psychology and Mental health

Following the completion of a forensic module during my undergraduate degree in Psychology, I knew that I wanted to specialise in the forensic aspect of psychology. I found the idea of criminal behaviour fascinating, and sought a career working with offenders to understand their offending behaviour and to help prevent future recidivism.

Upon completing my undergraduate degree I took a year out to do some travelling and to research career and study options in the field of forensic psychology. I gained some work experience as an Operational Support Grade in a local men’s prison which allowed me to gain insight into the daily processes of prisons and provided me with first-hand experience of working in a prison environment.

Through this role, I was able to meet the Psychology team who explained the stages towards becoming a Forensic Psychologist. I found this experience very useful and when it came to completing the master’s, I was able to relate the teaching to the experiences I had gained through this employment.

The decision to do my master’s at The University of Manchester was because of the mental health element of the course. This is unique to Manchester, and meant that the skills and knowledge gained through the course are applicable to both forensic and clinical settings.

How I found the course

I loved the course and would recommend it to anyone looking to pursue a career in Forensic Psychology. The modules are interesting, and are directly relevant to Stage 2 allowing for the development of the skills required to complete Stage 2 if this is the route you wish to take. We received interesting sessions from guest lecturers on topics such as counter-terrorism which allowed me to consider additional career options following the MSc which I had not previously known of.

The staff were very supportive throughout lectures and assignments, and it was evident that they wanted the best for you out of the course. The small class sizes allowed for in depth discussion and the formation of close friendships within the cohort.

As part of the degree, you are assigned academic advisor and dissertation supervisor for additional one-on-one support. The course staff also provided invaluable support when it came to applying for jobs, both in preparing applications and considering interview questions.

My career path a year since graduating

On completing the MSc I was offered a role to work as a Research Assistant within the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health at The University of Manchester. The first project I was involved in looked at the future of virtual reality technologies and implications for online child sexual abuse and exploitation.

Within this role it was my responsibility to search for, collate and summarise literature to draw together a synthesis of the relevant material on this topic. I was able to draw upon the skills acquired through the MSc in this role due to having designed and carried out research for the Dissertation module. I also had to support in presenting the research findings to the funders, which I found comfortable doing thanks to the experience of presenting work during the MSc.

Following the completion of the project I was able to support in the production of journal articles based on the review, which has provided me with invaluable experience of the publication process. Through the completion of this initial project I was then able to provide guidance to another team of researchers in the completion of a systematic review. We worked together to devise a system to gather literature for a review of the mental health needs and suicide risk of prisoners in low- and middle-income countries.

My role within this project was to select relevant material from electronic databases to inform a review for the Global Challenges Research Fund. This role has given me the opportunity to implement the research skills developed on the MSc into a job role. I have gained fantastic experience through working with experienced researchers from several disciplines who were able to guide me through my first Research Assistant role and offer insight from their own experiences in the field and in research.

Swapping FBMH for GMP

I have recently secured a new job with Greater Manchester Police where I will be working as a Crime Reduction Assistant in the Crime Prevention Team. This is a research-based role aiming to provide evidence-based information to underpin crime reduction initiatives. I will be required to research trends in crime and provide problem-solving solutions to emerging threat, risk and harm affecting the Greater Manchester community.

This will involve visiting areas and conducting research into how best to target the types of crime being faced there. My experience of conducting academic research within the MSc and Research Assistant post will help me to carry out the duties of this role, including producing reports and giving presentations as well as searching for and collating evidence-based literature.

I believe that the MSc consolidated and expanded my knowledge surrounding Forensic Psychology and offending behaviour, and equipped me with the skills required to pursue a career in this field.

Future plans and words of advice

I would like to see where my role with GMP will take me, and I look forward to meeting other police staff who may be able to advise me on career progression in the force. In the future I would like to complete Stage 2 and become a Forensic Psychologist, however I look forward to expanding my experience before then in both research and clinical settings.

My advice to prospective students would be to get as much experience as you can before and during the MSc. I thoroughly enjoyed the voluntary role I undertook alongside my MSc studies with a local mental health charity, and would advise students to consider volunteering if this is something that they have time for.

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