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Q&A: Psychology alumnus

Wondering where a degree in psychology might take you? Dani Simpson, one of our Bachelor of Social Science (Psychology) alumni tells us about her life after university.

Where are you working?

I’m a behavioural therapist for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) at a company called Autism Partnership. I’m based in our North Melbourne centre but the company has centres throughout Australia and also works with adolescents and adults with ASD in home and school-based settings. I was lucky enough to land this amazing role while I was still studying - about 6 months before I completed my degree.

How did you get the job?

While the interview process was comprehensive, my psychology degree was crucial in my success with getting the job. Autism Partnership is a psychological organisation so the fact that I was studying psychology in combination with my diverse work history was an enormous benefit.

Why did you decide to study Psychology?

I actually started studying many years ago, in 2007. I had always been interested in child psychology and working with children with additional needs so I initially enrolled in the Bachelor of Psychology on-campus. I was just over two years through the degree when I became very unwell and that process towards healing took many, many years. There were times during those first couple of years of my degree when I had drop back to part-time or withdraw from subjects completely. Ultimately, a combination of medical advice and feeling like I wasn’t performing to the best of my ability led me to take a break from my degree.

What did you do instead?

Anything and everything! My work was often based around my health and what I was physically able to manage at the time but I worked in fashion retail, fashion marketing, social media management, training and development, copywriting, sub-editing and nannying. I was in my mid-twenties so it was the perfect time to explore career options and discover what I was (and wasn’t!) truly passionate about.

Once I knew what I didn’t want to do, it was much easier to see what I did want to do and which aspects of certain roles appealed to me. With this knowledge, I enrolled to finish my Bachelor of Psychology online. It was a huge and slightly terrifying decision to make, especially after being out of ‘study mode’ for six years, but every day I’m in my current role reminds me that I made the right choice. 

How did you find studying online?

I found the format of studying online extremely beneficial and particularly helpful for managing my medical conditions. It gave me the flexibility to study at the times that worked best for my energy levels and concentration, as well as allowing me to continue to work and support myself financially. It also gave me the opportunity to take a break when I wasn’t feeling well and I didn’t have to worry about missing a lecture if I needed to attend a medical appointment.

I was very happy that my course was available online and I was lucky to have many subjects credited for recognition of prior learning because I had previously studied with Swinburne University of Technology.

What now?

Now I’m full-time in my current role and I absolutely love it. The company is amazing; they are incredibly supportive and focused on staff development so I am always learning from very talented mentors. The work is interesting, challenging and rewarding – I am so happy I went back to university, finished my degree and made a change in my life.

I’m thrilled to have achieved the role I was aiming for when I first started studying. I’m grateful every day that this was the job I applied for and landed. I was even considering potentially becoming a teacher at one stage but now I work with children in a different capacity and one that is much more in line with my interests and passions. I love it so much and with so many opportunities to learn and progress within the field, I’m always moving forward. 

How did you find online study compared with on-campus?

I personally found studying online to be really straightforward and stress-free. The flexible and accessible nature of the online format means that motivation all comes down to what you’re hoping to achieve from the experience and how you go about tackling that. It definitely helps to have an inherent interest in learning – that’s a built-in motivator! 

All of my eLearning Advisers (eLAs) were absolutely fantastic and very supportive so that was a huge help. It was easy to absorb the material when the people guiding me were so passionate about their subjects. They were always willing to go the extra mile to explain concepts, provide examples and facilitate helpful discussions.

I also found that online study wasn’t at all isolating - I formed relationships online with a couple of fellow students as study buddies and I found that really helpful. To be able to log on and have a sounding board to discuss and work through specific concepts or assignments was really useful. We even shared the load when it came to writing revision notes for exams which meant less time preparing to revise and more time actually revising! 

How did you find studying Psychology in particular?

There wasn’t a single subject that I didn’t find interesting. Even with subjects that at face value I thought I wouldn’t be interested in, once I got stuck into the content there were always fascinating concepts, studies and theories that quickly piqued my interest. It was definitely a bit of a hurdle going into third-year statistics subjects after a six-year break but the support of my study buddies and eLAs helped me refresh my skills in no time.

All the course content felt relevant and when I began working in my current role, I was able to connect that theory to practice. It’s amazing to see the real-world application of concepts and theories you read about in a text-book!