Struggling financially to gain experience?

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Struggling financially to gain experience?

Post by Psypassion » Thu Apr 06, 2017 3:41 pm

How do those of you who are gaining experience prior to the doctorate application cope financially?

I completed my Bachelor's nearly three years ago now, have since done a Master's in research and am now currently gaining 'clinical experience'. I'm working as a mental health support worker on a dementia assessment unit (inpatients). It's really tough work, and we pretty much do the role of a qualified nurse. There's a lot more physical health than I bargained for (did my first resuscitation last week too!).

It feels like good experience for the doctorate (as I'm completely immersed around mental health on all the wards at my hospital), and more importantly- it feels so meaningful nursing the patients- but my god- the pay is horrendous! After tax, national insurance, pension contribution and paying back the student loan, I earn a measly £4.80 per hour. 12.5 hour long days and I take home £55 for the day.

I'm almost 25. Still living with my mother. Crave to own my own home, grow up and create my own life.

Sorry, think this has turned into more of a rant than anything else!
Am considering research assistant roles purely for the wage increase, but will miss my patient contact.

So what's the trick? How do you all get by pre Doctorate?

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Re: Struggling financially to gain experience?

Post by Esuma » Thu Apr 06, 2017 9:33 pm

Unfortunately care roles are notoriously poorly paid!! I used to be the Senior for a supported living home where I was essentially in charge of the daily running of the home - making Rotas, supervising staff, on call, doing medication - a lot of responsibility essentially and I was paid about 15.5k - nothing really for the responsibility! I moved to a health care assistant role in a forensic setting with much less responsibility but I suddenly earns 3k more?! Extremely bizarre! I think due to the setting the pay is much better - so maybe a forensic role could help financially? I'm lucky to live with my partner but in my previous roles there's no way I could have supported myself realistically - now I'm much better off. Most AP roles start around the salary I'm ok now (though one post I interviewed for offered 15k, pretty poor really for a graduate role!)

It's tough when you see people you went to uni with already earning our ideal post doc salary but we'll get there!

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Re: Struggling financially to gain experience?

Post by lakeland » Thu Apr 06, 2017 9:58 pm

Research Assistant roles are great experience, and many involve contact with clinical populations too. I'm assuming you're applying for Assistant Psychologist posts?

My first job was Band 3 in London, and I managed because of the enhancements you earn from shift work. A lot of people did bank work too. It's up to you whether you'd need time or money. A lot of NAs I work with now are 'proper' adults with families and mortgages, so people can make it work financially, though I know I would struggle too.

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Re: Struggling financially to gain experience?

Post by lingua_franca » Thu Apr 06, 2017 10:24 pm

Are you sure your tax code is correct? The taxable income threshold is £11,500 and you shouldn't be paying much tax at all on a healthcare assistant's salary unless you've been put onto emergency tax for some reason. Similarly, the threshold for repaying the student loan is £21,000, so I don't understand why you would be making any repayments on a HCA salary unless HMRC have made some clerical mistake. I know these jobs are horribly underpaid, but even so it seems to me that your take-home pay should be better than what you're getting.

As for missing your clients if you go into something that's better financially, there are RA roles that involve quite a high level of patient contact. A couple of years ago I was shortlisted for an RA post in an NHS dementia service that would have involved doing lots of interviews and focus groups with people with dementia and their relatives and carers, so have a look round and see what you can find. You might end up with the best of both worlds. :)
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Re: Struggling financially to gain experience?

Post by maven » Fri Apr 07, 2017 12:12 am

Psypassion wrote:the pay is horrendous! After tax, national insurance, pension contribution and paying back the student loan, I earn a measly £4.80 per hour. 12.5 hour long days and I take home £55 for the day.
From your description of having completed your degree more than 3 years ago, I am guessing you are not under 21, and the normal minimum wage applies. That just rose from £7.20 to £7.50 per hour, and equates to £14,625 per year gross salary for 37.5 hours per week. So whilst I am sympathetic about the low paying jobs that are typical of the early stages in the profession, I need to put that in context.

Millions of people all over the UK are in zero hours jobs, or scraping by in self-employment or on the minimum wage, so if you are on minimum wage with reliable full time work you can count yourself in with 21% of working adults who earn £14,600 per year or less - except that you have the advantage of free/cheap housing and no dependents (and maybe even free meals whilst on shift). That is, more than a fifth of the population who work earn less than you do (plus everyone who survives on benefits) and most of them have to pay market rent from it.

Plus your figures are really misrepresenting the deductions applicable. Nobody compares net pay as if that is your hourly rate, and as lingua_franca says, you'd only pay tax of 20% on the part of your salary over £11,500 (so on a salary of £14,625 you'd pay £600 of tax per year) and student loan payments are not applicable. Pensions are a voluntary investment in your future that you are still the beneficiary of (along with employer contributions that functionally add to your earnings), so the only compulsory deduction is £870 per year for national insurance - your contribution to the state pension and benefits pot in case you cannot work at some future point and/or want to claim income in retirement - which again are supplemented by your employer. Finally, whilst I wouldn't enjoy such a long working day, 12.5 hour long days either means that you earn more by doing more than 37.5 hours per week, or that you have more time off.

A salary of £14,625 per annum for 37.5 hours per week takes home £6.73 per hour net after all deductions. Check my figures here and here. So I think you need to take another look at your figures.

That isn't to say you shouldn't be applying for other jobs, as it sounds like you could easily get similar work which is slightly better paid or has more convenient hours, and if you put in good quality applications you might be able to secure interviews for AP, RA or other slightly better paid jobs. I'm just mentioning that you can also change your mindset to see your cup as half full, and be grateful for this being a temporary stage in your life, and one in which you can live in with family and after the minimum wage has been significantly raised.

PS I also spent several years on low wages and self-funded my masters from them, so I've been in your shoes. But it gets better :)

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Re: Struggling financially to gain experience?

Post by stephenkingfan » Tue Apr 25, 2017 10:58 pm

It's really tough and I have no idea how people with children and other dependents get by on so little money. I work for a substance misuse service and when clients tell me they are better off when receiving benefits than working I can see what they mean. The wages some of my previous clients received are low, and that coupled with owing various debts, working zero hour contracts etc mean they would have a more stable income on benefits (if they don't get sanctioned for some silly reason that is!).

It's a hard world we live in.

Like maven said, I would try to take the outlook of the cut half full. I took a huge paycut to take an AP role, which involved giving up my flat, moving back home etc. It was a nightmare living in a full family house after living on my own (4 adults, an 8 year old, 2 dogs, 3 cats and multiple chickens!) but it was the best thing I did for my career. I used to work as a band 3 HCA doing shifts in a medium secure unit an hours drive away. Pretty sure I spent most of my wages on petrol just to get to work! It was all worth it in the end for the experience, and living with little money does help you become much more resourceful! I am also very mindful of budgeting now.

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Re: Struggling financially to gain experience?

Post by Ppepper25 » Thu Apr 27, 2017 7:06 pm

Hey Psypassion.
I think the answer to your question is people cope financially in whichever way the can, and for some they may feel like they aren't coping.

Having pursued a route different to clinical psychology (initially through IAPT), fortunately, I haven't been in a position as tough as you, although I did for a few years work in roles that were paid well below what my friends were in, and also had to live at home.

I think the most important thing I would emphasise, and the common theme from many posts, is that it may be a long journey, therefore you've got to make it an enjoyable one, and do things that aren't just because 'it will look good for my application'. but because you want to, or because it will improve your situation financially.

Therefore I think in this situation, you've got to weight up whether you want to enjoy the clinical contact, or possibly move into a role with more money and potentially less clinical contact. I would work out whether the RA role would make that much of a difference in salary so that you can, for example, move out.

Could you take the RA role and do a few shifts on bank where you are now? I assume the RA work would be more contained hours, and shorter shifts?

I think Maven's post could potentially come across as quite hard, however I think they are trying to just help you see it from the perspective of 'maybe it's not as bad as you think'. I know I really appreciated being able to live with my family, and I know many don't have that option as there isn't relevant work nearby.

It's worth noting you can opt out of your pension contributions, or reduce them. Some people have the attitude 'why save all this for the future when I can't afford to live in the present'. Changing your contributions, I think, will change what your employer puts in, so worth checking out.

I hope the journey gets easier, just try and make the most of it :)

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Re: Struggling financially to gain experience?

Post by beeny » Fri Apr 28, 2017 10:36 am

Yes its really tough. Spent many a year juggling different jobs to get by but ultimately Ive been lucky that my partners salary is decent (financial dependence doesn't sit well with me at all but hope it will pay off eventually... :| )

Some other options you might consider:
- Go part time and get a better paying part time role to boost it up a bit. This might be tricky logistically but the other role could still be an opportunity to get related experience that isnt traditional clinical or research and may be better paid- e.g. at systems level, commissioning, think tanks, market research (admin, secretarial, project management etc.)
- Look for jobs in private/charity - whilst many are not be better paid, there may be more room for salary negotiation
- Work through an agency (although this is less stable it can sometimes bring in a better day rate)
- RA roles like others have said

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Re: Struggling financially to gain experience?

Post by workingmama » Wed May 03, 2017 7:58 pm

At risk of being monumentally unhelpful, I think it's helpful to get away from the mindset that only specific jobs such as lower paid care jobs are the only way to access the doctorate. After a couple of lower paid project worker roles, I didn't work for a low wage (nothing under 28k), and managed house and kids things (like I said, risking being very unhelpful). I wonder if people get anxious that the only route in is direct work in a care setting, or being an AP rather than having a bit of that important experience, plus lots of other work (management of care settings, training in psychology, lecturing, setting up businesses relating to supporting others, research in spare time round paid jobs, etc). Hope this is more useful than it reads back. Typing one fingered on a pad. :roll:
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