Aimee – Health researcher

Hi, my name’s Aimee, and I’m a researcher.   I haven’t always been involved in this kind of work though. Let me tell you about how I made my way to this career.

When I was still at college, doing my A’ Levels and having three gap years after that, I couldn’t decide if I wanted to go to university; as a working class student, I was scared of the debt I could end up with and I wasn’t sure if I would even pass. So, I worked in two supermarkets, a cinema, and a chain of corner shops, often with several jobs at a time.  After a few years of this, I saw an advert to train on the job to become a paramedic.  It sounded interesting, varied and it paid pretty well without having to go to uni first.

I got through all of the tests and then had my interview: they told me I didn’t have enough (or any, in fact!) healthcare experience, and that I should go away for a few years and do a healthcare job before applying again. At this point I found out about a local organisation who had residential care homes for Autistic people with (excuse me whilst I vomit) “challenging behaviour”, who were almost always recruiting (due to relatively low pay and high staff turnover).  I worked in a few of their care homes for Autistic adults and children over the next six years, including during my university holidays.

Whilst in that role, I realised that the hanging out with people part of the job was quite energy intensive for me (hello, Autism calling!); I was more suited to sitting quietly in the office and getting through the mountain of paperwork required of care homes.

So I bit the bullet and went to university; I finally settled on Social Policy and Criminology as my degree.  Towards the end of university, where a large quantity of sports and alcohol had made me highly sociable, I decided I definitely didn’t want to be tied down to a full-time job.  I applied for a place on teacher training and to do a PhD – a research qualification – in social policy.  I got offers for both and chose the PhD as the pay was better.  With hindsight, this was a lucky choice: I’m definitely not well suited to spending my days with the amount of noise you find when teaching a classroom of 30+ teenagers!

From my PhD, I was desperate to start earning an income as I had no savings; there was no time available to rest afterwards.  Initially I took on 3 part time jobs adding up to about 6.5 days a week for 6 months.  After this, I got a job with a charity as a research and policy officer and was finally able to relax into a role that was due to last for two years.  After less than a year, however, an NHS contact told me about the permanent research roles that were coming in her department.  Aged 30 I got my first full time permanent research role, and was finally able to buy a home of my own and meet one of my life goals of having a dog.

From the NHS, I moved back into a university to take a job with more autonomy over research direction whilst continuing to work for one of Consultants in Public Health.