Case study

Preschool room leader/research assistant — Lucie Hamilton

Lucie has two jobs and enjoys both working with children and carrying out research. Find out more about how her degree in early childhood studies helps her in both roles

What degree did you study?

I graduated with a BA (Hons) Early Childhood Professional Studies from Anglia Ruskin University in 2018, before going on to do an MA Early Childhood Education at the same university, graduating in 2019.

How did you get your job?

For the room leader position, I began as a part-time practitioner during my undergraduate degree, having found an advert on an online job search engine. I initially worked a few days per week, but when I graduated I increased my hours and was subsequently offered a promotion to room leader.

I was contacted by one of my professors at the university and told about the position of research assistant. I applied via the university's campus employment bureau and was successful.

How relevant is your degree?

My degrees are incredibly relevant for both jobs. As a room leader, I use my knowledge on child development, observations, leadership, safeguarding, policy, activity development, health and wellbeing, and setting expectations on a day-to-day basis.

I use the more technical knowledge from my degrees in my research job, such as research methods, ethics, children's rights, policy and a general understanding of the industry.

What's a typical working day like?

As a room leader at a busy pre-school, my day begins by preparing tasks for the day's sessions (morning and afternoon) for both the children as a whole group and my own keyworker group. We operate a free-flow system and predominantly work around free play, so my role is to plan activities to promote child development and to plan 'in the moment' to take advantage of any child led/initiated activities too.

I manage the group of staff members in my room so my role also includes ensuring they're happy. I also monitor their performance throughout the sessions and offer help where needed.

I get one session a week 'non-contact', which means I use the office to do my room leader admin. This includes staff evaluations, whole group activities and long-term room planning.

As a research assistant, my days are predominantly on the computer searching for specific resources, articles and information. I have online meetings with my line manager and participate in online seminars via video call.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love seeing the impact I can have on improving the lives and experiences of children, both on a day-to-day basis and in the long term through research.

What are the challenges?

Challenges include days where you have planned things but they don't go to plan. Sometimes, it can also be difficult when the guidelines, policies or expectations change and you have to keep up with them.

Where do you hope to be in five years?

I hope to be doing more work for higher education. I love working directly with children and it has given me insights and skills that I don't think I could have gained otherwise. However, my passion is to work towards creating changes on a larger scale - at policy level - so I hope to increase my experience within research.

What advice can you give to others?

  • Always keep learning - whether it's more qualifications, CPD certificates, conferences or online training. Grab everything you can that will help give you a more holistic understanding of the area you want to go into.
  • Enjoy the ride - you will be working for many years in the career you choose so enjoy the journey along the way as much as the achievements. It will make for a much happier working life.
  • Network - it's just as important to meet others and network as it is to complete coursework/your job. Networking will give you the chance to explore new ideas and meet new people. It could even introduce you to a new job opportunity.

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