Heather Taylor-mann & Cherry Hardiman: Volunteering while studying enhances your learning

Starting your postgraduate studies can be daunting. Academic expectations are higher than at undergraduate study and the time frame of which your studies start and finish is relatively short, with an abundance of lectures, reading and assignments to engage your time with. There is one main question on everyone’s mind though, what next?

Deciding on a career path if you haven’t already and implementing the necessary steps to achieve your goals is something that is at the forefront of all of our minds at this stage of our academic journey. This is why it is so important to take advantage of every opportunity that is placed in front of you. Volunteering as a research assistant at the university is an excellent way of combining your studies and interests, whilst gaining that valuable experience that employees and academic institutes are looking for to set you apart from the rest.

Early on into our MSc in Applied Psychology we were fortunate enough to be told about a PhD study being carried out at the university by David Tate into The Development and Feasibility Trial of a Cognitive Behavioural Social Competence Therapeutic Intervention for Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder without an Intellectual Disability (SCTI-A). Two research assistants were needed to assist in the analysis and recording of data. As the subject matter was one that interested us both, we jumped at the chance and expressed our interest. I had also carried out a similar position during my undergraduate studies so I was aware of how the practical application of being part of a study enhanced your learning and provided you with a wealth of experience to transfer to job applications.

Balancing time is always a concern, but this is also a skill that needs to be learned for the world of work. We never felt that our time volunteering impeded our ability to study nor did we feel that our time was being stretched to far. We enjoyed being a part of the study and seeing the commitment and dedication that goes into completing a PhD. So if you have the opportunity to volunteer, go for it! 

There is something special about being able to be a part to of something that potentially could
change lives for the better, we found that ourselves, especially with the research coming from a
fellow peer at the university we also attend. The general hum of The University of Salford hive
comes from a sense of collectiveness, that we can all have our own part in what the University
and its students can achieve. You’ll also never know when you your studies might need the
extra help to make it the best it can be, so volunteer and give yourself the chance to make a