Case study

Teaching technician — Charlotte Jones

Charlotte works at a university supporting the teaching of anatomy classes, and looks after the anatomical specimens used for educational purposes

How did you get your job?

I studied at the University of Bristol and had done a lot of my work experience there, so I knew that I would enjoy the working environment. I used to check the university job list every week to see what was available. This is how I found out about the teaching technician job, recognised a few people I used to work with previously, and decided to go for it. Until I saw the advert, I didn't know this job even existed!

What are your main work activities?

My day starts at 8am, when we set up rooms for the classes scheduled for that day. Most of the classes begin at 9am, so we need to make sure everything is ready for then. A large part of my job is to ensure that cleanliness and health and safety standards are maintained at all times.

In the afternoon, we start to prepare for the following day's classes. Preserved specimens need to be washed out to ensure that students aren't exposed to unnecessarily high amounts of preserving substance, such as formaldehyde.

We also maintain and look after all the specimens, as well as create new ones. For example, at the moment I'm reconstructing an owl skull.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I think my favourite thing is learning all the anatomy. I've always enjoyed studying, so it's nice to have a job where I can learn as I go along. There's something new to learn every day.

What are the challenges?

This is very similar - I think it's learning all the correct specimens, to be able to find them quickly. There are a lot of things in your body, such as nerves, vessels and bones, and a large part of the job is learning to tell them apart.

Is your degree relevant?

Although my job is entry level, so a degree isn't required, I would say my degree in neuroscience was definitely helpful. The information I learned on the course helps me know exactly what the academics are asking for. For example, there were a lot of classes focusing on the brain, and in my current role I have to provide a specific part of the brain to be shown to students.

University studies are also great at helping you develop time management skills, which are essential for this role. Because I work with academics to ensure classes run smoothly, communication skills - being confident in talking to academics in particular - are crucial, and I feel that my degree gave me an advantage.

What are your career ambitions?

There are opportunities to get involved in demonstrations in anatomy classes, providing that you have the necessary knowledge. However, I'm not sure yet whether this will be something for me. I've only been here three months and so far I'm really enjoying the practical aspects of the job, as well as the variety which my current job offers.

Any words of advice for someone wanting to get into this job?

  • Organisation and timekeeping are crucial for this job, so be prepared to demonstrate that you have these skills.
  • You'll also need to be a confident communicator and team player. We do everything in a team, from heavy lifting to double checking that rooms are set to plan. My advice would be to get involved in activities that enhance your team-working skills.
  • Also, be aware that if you're thinking about getting work experience, there are certain tasks you won't be able to take on until you're fully vaccinated against hepatitis B, which takes six months.

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