"At the time of the masters course, I was working as a frontline worker in a homeless hostel in Cardiff. I had completed a BSc in Psychology through the Open University and was keen to see how I could use further psychology study to develop my career in new directions.
Flexibility was important, as I worked full time throughout the course. As I wasn’t sure how I would use this course to develop my career, a degree of freedom to follow up my general interests through my studies was also important.
I chose to study at USW because those running the course came across as very passionate about Health Psychology. They also had a track record of research in areas that I was interested in.
I realised quite early in the course that what I was interested in was public health, particularly in developing research and influencing policy related to vulnerable adults – my career had taken in work with homelessness and substance misuse.
The breadth of the course allowed me to develop a body of work related to the health of adults experiencing substance misuse and homelessness. The statistics and research design elements of the course also allowed me to develop technical skills needed for the kind of role I was interested in.
The highlight of the MSc Health Psychology was the chance to develop and carry out a substantial original project for my dissertation. Whilst I was completing my dissertation, my current post (Information Analyst Specialist in the Substance Misuse Programme in Public Health Wales) was advertised. This post required a knowledge of research design and statistics that I had gained from my Masters; I was also able to use projects I had completed during my course in my presentation at interview.
An understanding of how to approach research – how to define a subject area, develop an understanding, communicate that understanding to others – was the most useful element of the course. It demanded a step change up from undergraduate work in terms of both working independently to develop my own projects and the academic rigour expected.
Whilst the core of my job is analysing data on substance misuse – some gathered from our own, often innovative systems, others reported though routine channels – in practice, I work on a range of subjects.
That work has included a Wales-wide seminar to explore how public health professionals, key local authority staff and police representatives can work together more effectively to improve health through influencing alcohol licensing; playing a significant role in developing a long term, innovative research study to estimate the prevalence of problem drug use in Wales and co-ordinating the creation of a communications segmentation strategy to develop the capacity of public health professionals in Wales to influence behaviour related to drug and alcohol use at a population level.
What I love most about my job is the breadth of the work, and the fact that much of it is innovative. I also enjoy the opportunity to develop and/or articulate an evidence base that can then influence policy."