Kaitlin Reeve, a student from the USA, recently came to to the end of her MSc in Forensic Psychology and Mental Health at Manchester. Here, she talks about what the course has been like and her plans for the future...
Why I chose the course
Forensic psychology has always been a passion of mine. I have a huge interest in forensics and I’m a bit of crime junkie! I found the Manchester MSc to be really rare, in that it was one of the only programmes around that combined forensic psychology with mental health. Other forensic programmes felt more law-driven, whereas this one felt like it would bring psychology more into it, which is why I chose this course specifically.
Also, education is my comfort zone and I actually want to come back and do a doctorate eventually! The competition for jobs in psychology is so high, I feel like you need more than just an undergraduate degree to stand out from the crowd.
What the course is like
The lecturers made everything really interesting and they brought the forensic side of things right to the forefront, which was great, because we all learned about psychology during our undergrad courses, so the emphasis on forensics improved our skillset and knowledge base massively. Also, we had some guest lecturers who just had everyone on the edge of their seats.
I think the course exceeded my expectations. I feel like I really took the initiative to be outspoken in lectures, which I found a lot easier due to how small the course is. You really get to know everyone on your course a lot better because of this, and also create a better relationship with your lecturers. I now have a network of professionals who I can call on for help or advice if I need it, which I never expected to get coming into the course.
Polly Turner, for example, will go above and beyond to help and support you with whatever you need.
What I found challenging
I’m pretty good at time management, but I found this side of things difficult. It’s pretty full on with assignments and your dissertation running alongside one another. However, at the end I found myself two weeks away from the dissertation deadline, and was all finished, so maybe I could have focused more on the assignments earlier in the year and used that time at the end to focus on finalising my dissertation.
My dissertation is on the link between childhood trauma and how and why that then leads victims to commit crimes later in life. I loved the topic, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to talk directly to offenders, due to time and ethical constraints.
The work load outside of lectures
Luckily, we were never asked to do much prep/reading, so it is manageable. There was also suggested reading, which was a lot more full on, but I tried to keep on top of that, too. To me, it’s something you have to do.
If you’re trying to get a job but you’re only learning what is gone through in lectures, then I think you’ll struggle. You need to do the extra research to get ahead.
Getting work experience
I went straight from undergrad to postgrad study without any full-time paid work in between, due to visa complications. However, I’ve made sure to get work experience in voluntary roles in the hope that this won’t go against me when it comes to applying for jobs.
My husband is in the military and we actually moved to Kenya for a short period, so I used that time to volunteer to get some experience under my belt.
What I’m doing next
I’m currently working as a support worker, and I’m hoping to get a job as an Assistant Psychologist. Unfortunately, that’s what every psychology graduate wants too! Even having a master’s may not be enough, because these types of job roles are looking for a master’s as a minimum, but also years of experience, so it’s difficult.
Looking way into the future, I want to do a doctorate at some point, but for that I need to have experience as an Assistant Psychologist first.
My advice for prospective students
- Figure out your time management.
- Do extensive research before each assignment. I noticed that my assignments got a lot better during the COVID lockdown, because I had nothing else to do other than research.
- Make time for the suggested/extra reading.
- Make sure you get involved in discussions, as you’re surrounded by likeminded people, and everyone wants to hear your opinion.