Case study

Student support administrator and special constable — Jamie

Jamie has a busy and varied career working in both higher education and policing. Find out how his degree in criminology has helped him achieve this exciting combination of work

How did you get your jobs?

I have three jobs: one paid, the other two volunteering. In my paid job I work as a student support administrator at the University of Portsmouth, where I recently completed a BSc Hons Criminology and Forensic Studies. I'm also a volunteer special constable and cadet leader.

I got the job of student support administrator through a normal application form, with a shortlisting process and then an interview with a mini test. During my degree, I got involved with the university by joining societies and clubs run by the students' union, and was a course and faculty representative for a short period. I worked a few jobs at the university, as an open day guide and working in student housing and in halls of residence, which all gave me vital skills that I can apply towards my current work life.

The application process for becoming a special constable was long and thorough. I first attended an information evening to see what the job is like and chat to the recruitment team and current serving special constables.

I was shortlisted to attend an assessment day, which consisted of an interview, PowerPoint presentation and two tests. I was successful in this and got invited to do law training, which I had to pass an exam for. I then completed training with regards to personal safety, learnt how to use personal protective equipment (PPE) and so forth, and then passed more exams to become fully attested as a special constable.

How relevant is your degree?

Doing a degree has given me an understanding of the higher education environment. I use what I learned on a daily basis, and if I hadn't done a degree in criminology I doubt I would be here now in the jobs I love doing.

I found the practical elements particularly useful. Most of the teachers have come from a public service background, such as policing or forensics criminal investigation department (CID), which made lectures really helpful and interesting.

What's a typical working day like?

In my paid position at the university I do all sorts of administration-related jobs that support students, ranging from reception cover to assessment and attendance tracking.

As a special constable I have the same powers as a normal police officer and get sent to the same jobs they would attend. As a cadet leader, I look after a group of teens and teach them policing and law skills, help them achieve Duke of Edinburgh awards and help them develop life skills.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

You never know what's going to come through the door or what you might get called to. I like this a lot as I can't stand a structured job that's the same day in, day out. I like being kept on my toes.

What are the challenges?

This is a hard one to answer as there are always going to be challenges, no matter what you do in life. My advice to anyone is that if you're in doubt, seek support.

Where do you hope to be in five years?

In the future, I plan to do a criminal justice Masters. My aim is to either become a manager of a university department or to join the regular police force and work towards a sergeant position.

What's your advice to other students?

  • Enjoy every moment as a student. If I could go back and redo my degree again, I certainly would. However, always make time for university work - never leave it to the last minute.
  • Get involved with your students' union. This is one of the best things I ever did, even getting elected to a sabbatical position.
  • Don't give up if you don't succeed first time. It took me three times to get into the police but I finally got in and haven't looked back since.
  • Get help from your university careers service as they are amazing at what they do.