Katherine Baldwin

Current employer: University of Plymouth

Current job title: Postgraduate student / teaching assistant

Current location: Plymouth

"The opportunity to visit Africa and Europe is a great aspect of the undergraduate course. I found that helping and volunteering in countries across these continents was an eye-opening experience: we met so many interesting people."

Tell us about your career path since graduation.

At the start of the third year of my undergraduate degree I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in psychology, which meant that I would need to apply for the MSc conversion course. To do this, I needed additional credits in a psychology module; so I undertook Year 2 psychology modules with Open University alongside my third year study.

Since being on the MSc course I am even more determined to apply for a doctorate in educational psychology. Having learnt more about the psychological discipline, I am confident that I have made the right choice to pursue a career in something I find fascinating. It’s really motivational to think that I can make a difference to children’s lives.

How has your degree helped/influenced your career path?

Having a degree in early childhood studies can lead into a variety of career paths. My undergraduate study was so useful in providing opportunities to learn about varied interest areas and different theorists, which stimulated my passion for psychology. My lecturers were also really helpful and encouraging during my third year when I decided to take up an additional degree course.

What is the best, most exciting or fun thing that you have done in your career?

I was really pleased that I managed to carry on working part-time during my undergraduate and postgraduate studies. I worked as a supply teaching assistant in a school for children and young adults with severe, profound and/or multiple learning difficulties. I have worked with children from a number of backgrounds and with a range of special educational needs. I have always enjoyed the variety in my job, which has meant that I am able to learn from other practitioners as I observe them working with children of different ages and with different disabilities. I love my job because I love making a difference to children's lives and seeing them learn and develop is really special.

What, if anything, would you do differently if you could?

Nothing. I have been in my role as a supply teaching assistant since 2011 and learned a lot since then. My professional development is very important and my experience is relevant to my future career. I have been fortunate enough to maintain this job during my undergraduate and postgraduate studies, and this has only been possible by staying at Plymouth: I am from the surrounding area and first started working at the school during my year out before university.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get in to the same line of work?

Get as much experience as you can and if you want to work in a particular field like special needs try and get some contacts whilst you are at university so you can volunteer in your spare time. Although NVQs aren’t always needed, these are also really helpful if you want to apply for bank work in a nursery setting (which you are able to do in the last two years on the course).

How did studying at Plymouth help you?

It meant that I was able to stay in my part-time jobs and use my experience when it was relevant to assignments or placements.

What lessons/skills did you gain from your course?

I gained a thorough understanding in the early development of infants. I also learnt a lot about theorists and the psychology underpinning early childhood development. The course also allowed me to pursue my own interests in optional modules which focused more on additional needs.

What is your favourite memory of studying at Plymouth?

I really like Plymouth as it is a very convenient city with some of the most beautiful surrounding areas, which are only a short walk away. The University also has some amazing facilities, which I have been fortunate enough to use for my postgraduate research. The opportunity to visit Africa and Europe is a great aspect of the undergraduate course. I found that helping and volunteering in countries across these continents was an eye-opening experience: we met so many interesting people.

Do you stay in touch with other University alumni or lecturers?

Yes, I am still in contact with the course leader, Rod Parker-Rees, who I catch up with from time to time and I am also still in contact with most of my friends from the undergraduate course.

Would you recommend undertaking a course with the University, and why?

Yes, I think Plymouth has a lot to offer people, regardless of background. The facilities in my faculty are excellent and, as a whole, Plymouth is a very open city with easy access to Cornwall and the rest of Devon where some of the most beautiful places are not that far away. If you like the outdoors, Plymouth is for you.

*Please note that students on the BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies course can now achieve the 60 credits of psychology required for entry to the MSc Psychology by taking options available on the programme so do not need to take additional credits.

Research with Plymouth Institute of Education