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Strathclyde Business School

Make a change: from nursing to HR career with an MSc

By Rebecca MacKinnon - Posted on 16 February 2023

Originally having a career as a nurse, Rebecca MacKinnon used the MSc International Human Resource Management course to pivot to a job in HR she secured before even graduating.

Before beginning my career in HR, I lived and breathed nursing. I had worked as a personal carer from the age of 19 and this had led me to what I thought would be a lifelong career in healthcare. I worked in the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow, as a surgical HDU nurse. It was an equal struggle between enjoyment and the strain the job and lifestyle that nursing brought. I loved being there for my patients but found the long hours and fast pace of critical care tough. After making it through Covid ITU for a spell, I realised I was no longer happy and needed to make a change. Which was tough to say the least. But I knew that I had skills I wasn’t using, there had to be something that suited me better. So, after the guilt of leaving passed and I had time to reflect, I started to look at new horizons.

The easiest way to describe it, is like a comic book thought bubble appearing “maybe I could do HR”. To this day I can’t tell you what made me think of it, but I’m so glad I did. One week later I was accepted into the MSc.

I’m not sure what expectations I had, but nothing could have prepared me for the year ahead. In all honestly, it was intense and at times pretty stressful, but I realised I was experiencing something I never had in my nursing degree, fun. I was enjoying it, even when it was stressful, and I loved what I was learning. I had originally applied to the non-international course and had been redirected onto the International Human Resource Management course and am so thankful for it! I got to learn about human rights issues from all around the world. The course is set up to teach HR in a particular way, where you learn by comparing and contrasting. What new information you can see by looking at two different countries ideas about the same work issues. It was truly fascinating and gave a whole new technical skill set on top of teaching me great content.

Through the course I got to go on placement with a HR consultancy called The TCM Group. I got to work with them on my dissertation project, which led me to win a first-place prize for it. But not only that, it led to employment. There I was, an ex-nurse with no HR job on my CV with a job for a HR company that did the aspirational HR we were reading about in the textbooks (but wasn’t even sure existed in the real world). All before the course had even finished.

I think the confidence the course gave me (along with the skills and knowledge) 100% helped me to argue my case and start my career off on such strong footing.

Credit also has to go to nursing. The people and communication skills it gave me. The determination, stamina and resilience have helped tremendously. It wasn’t until I was prepping for the job interview I realised how many transferable skills I had and what a unique skill set at that.

So, I can wholeheartedly recommend to anyone looking for a change, that it is definitely worth it. I’m a firm believer in you get out what you put in, so I would say go all in and just aim to do your best. Whatever that might be, you can be satisfied with what you achieve. I joked about winning the dissertation prize with my supervisor, forgot about it and focused on working hard while never forgetting to enjoy it, and it paid off [Rebecca was awarded first prize – the Professor John Gennard Award – for the highest marked Integrated Dissertation and Reflective Research Report 2021/22.]

Speaking of supervisors, make use of them and the lecturers, the number of times I would be writing an essay and would realise the article I was quoting had been written by my lecturer speaks volumes to the quality of the teaching and content offered. Use it. And lastly, don’t be worried about a varied CV and a mixed bag of skills and experiences, use it to stand out and you never know where it may take you. Be bold.

Contact details

 Undergraduate admissions
 +44 (0)141 548 4114

 Postgraduate admissions
 +44(0)141 553 6118 / 6119


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University of Strathclyde
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