Written by Lauren Bishop
MSc Public Health
Postgraduate study can be a fantastic stepping stone or even an essential step in making a career change. If you’re thinking about using postgraduate study to change your career but are anxious or unsure about this, read on for some tips and inspiration!
Changing your career is a huge decision, and not one to be taken lightly. Similarly, taking up postgraduate study is also a big decision, so doing both at once can be very daunting! However, it can be helpful to think in terms of progression rather than change per se. More often than not, you’ll be able to use skills and knowledge from previous endeavours in your new role. This is true even in the most seemingly radical changes: an example that springs to mind is a friend of mine who started out in an engineering career then decided she wanted to be a teacher. This seems like a huge leap from one thing to another, but she uses her mathematical knowledge from the engineering training to teach maths.
In my case, I have a background in psychology and have been working in mental health for the last couple of years. I spent quite a while being absolutely convinced that I wanted to be a clinical psychologist – it was a natural progression from my undergrad studies in psychology, and I thought it would enable me to use my passion for mental health to improve services. After a while I realised that it was actually quite a regimented career path, and began to see myself as more of an activist for change who would feel restrained by the requirements of the job.
This was a liberating realisation, but at the same time daunting because I didn’t have any idea what my next step would be. I knew I wanted to study further and that doing a Master’s would enhance my career prospects. I set about searching for a course that would match my passion for wellbeing, and stumbled upon BU’s Master’s in Public Health. It’s something I’d never have chosen off the top of my head, but I soon realised the concept of public health matched with my passion for making changes on a big scale.
The more I study, the more I feel that I’ve made a great decision. I’m learning about a new discipline while having the autonomy to follow my already existing interests. This means I’m broadening and deepening my knowledge, as well as coming across new ways to apply my psychology and mental health skills. In fact, I’ve just bagged my first public health job. I’ll be working as a Wellness Coach for a service that was recently commissioned by Public Health Dorset to bring together smoking cessation, alcohol, physical activity and weight management services. This means I’ll be using my knowledge of the psychology of behaviour change alongside health promotion and tackling inequalities in health, which I’ve come to value more through my current studies.
With my own experiences in mind, I’d say if you’re not happy with your current career, take the plunge and make the change! Of course it’s important to be fairly sure you’re doing the right thing (although measured risks can be good!), but be sure to follow your passions, think outside the box and be open minded. Taking on postgraduate studies to alter my career path is one of the best things I’ve ever done – it’s given me some amazing learning and networking opportunities and opened lots of doors I didn’t even know existed. I hope it can do the same for you!
By Lauren Bishop