- Psychology & the public
- What we do
- Member networks
- Careers, education & training
Undergraduate and postgraduate psychology
Why study psychology?
Choosing the right subject to study is just as important as choosing the right career. An accredited degree in psychology can be the first step towards becoming a psychologist, but it will also give you valuable skills that can be used in a variety of sectors such as education, business, health and the media.
On completing an accredited psychology programme students will be able to:
- Communicate effectively, both face-to-face or in writing.
- Understand, analyse and use complex data.
- Retrieve and organise information from different sources.
- Handle primary source material critically.
- Engage in effective team work.
- Solve problems and reason scientifically to consider alternative approaches and solutions.
- Make critical judgements and evaluations to gain different perspectives on a question.
- Be sensitive to contextual and interpersonal factors, including behaviour and social interaction.
- Use personal planning and project management skills to become more independent and pragmatic.
- Be computer literate.
The latest graduate research from the Higher Education Careers Services Unit (2010) shows that psychology graduates are highly regarded by employers and have a good chance of finding employment. This is because the skills they acquire are transferable across many careers.
What will I study on a psychology degree course?
Degrees in psychology can be taken as a single, joint or combined honours course.
As psychology is the scientific study of the human mind and behaviour, you will cover a variety of content in these areas. The exact content of psychology degree courses varies from university to university, but all courses accredited by the Society will include:
- Biological psychology - how the brain influences behaviour, the effects of hormones, how it can be affected by drugs.
- Cognitive psychology - how we remember, learn, think, reason, perceive, speak and understand.
- Developmental psychology - how humans develop physically, mentally and socially during childhood and adolescence and their life span.
- Social psychology - how human behaviour and experience are affected by social context such as in groups and relationships.
- Conceptual and historical issues - how psychological explanations have changed over time and key debates which shape its future.
- Individual differences - why people have different personalities, how we can measure intelligence, how we treat mental disorders
- Research methods - how to conduct quantitative and qualitative methods, research design, data collection, analysis and interpretation.
Many degrees allow students to select their own modules in addition to core content. All will include some form of independent project and practical work.
For information regarding specific course content, contact universities directly.
What qualifications do I need to get onto a psychology degree course?
Anyone interested in psychology - without any qualifications - can take advantage of the many benefits of belonging by subscribing to the Society. If you haven't already, create a free web account and apply online. Alternatively, you can simply complete and return an application form.
Psychology is a very popular subject at university. The number of students wishing to study psychology has risen dramatically over the last few years, which means that good A Level or Scottish Higher grades are usually required to get on a course.
A or AS Level or equivalent psychology is not normally required for entry to a psychology degree course, but you may find that having GCSE, A Level or equivalent in psychology gives you a head start when you begin your degree.
Applicants also normally need to demonstrate good numeracy and literacy skills, as well as the ability to handle scientific concepts.
The Times Good University Guide reveals that many institutions require at least one science A Level. This is supported by a recent survey by our Psychology Education Board (PEB) which confirmed that 25% of accredited courses now require or prefer a science A Level.
Check university prospectuses or contact institutions directly for information about specific entry requirements.
Which course should I choose?
As a professional body we are unable to recommend specific degree courses. There are numerous websites that can help you choose your university and course, but the final decision is up to you.
The National Student Survey provides valuable information for prospective students, and help universities and colleges to improve the education that they provide. For more details on the survey, visit the Unistats website.
However, to keep your options open we strongly recommend that you take an accredited psychology degree that gives you eligibility for Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership (GBC). This is the case even if you have no plans at the moment to become a qualified psychologist or are not sure what you want to do later.
GBC is required to gain entrance to Society accredited postgraduate courses and training programmes that lead to becoming a Chartered Psychologist.
If your degree course is modular, it may be necessary to choose certain modules to qualify for GBC. So check with the course organisers to ensure that your choices will lead to an accredited psychology degree.
Visit the UCAS website for further details about applying to universities. If your undergraduate degree course is not accredited by the Society, you can still obtain eligibility for GBC by completing an accredited one year full-time or two year part-time conversion course (which will be an MSc, MA, Med or Diploma).
Will I need work experience?
Work experience is a great way to gain a practical insight into psychology careers and can give you the opportunity to find out whether it’s for you?
Many postgraduate training programmes will require you to have significant relevant work experience in order to gain a course place. Work experience demonstrates that you are a dedicated candidate with applied psychological knowledge and it can help your application by make you stand out from the crowd.
It is a good idea to build up work experience as soon as you can. In most cases you will have to gain experience on a voluntary basis before you can apply for a paid position. Consider what type of people you want to work with and contact relevant local organisations and charities.
Information on the few vacancies open to students before completing their degree is normally sent to university psychology departments rather than to the Society. Unfortunately the Society cannot directly help you to find posts or work experience.
You may find it difficult to find placements working directly with psychologists until you have a completed your degree. You can try contacting those working in your area by searching the Directory of Chartered Psychologists.
There are also a number of websites that can help you identify local volunteering opportunities:
See Types of Psychologist for more information on the work experience and qualifications required for particular areas of psychology training.
Useful links - what to do with a degree in psychology
- Use your head: psychology may be a clever career starter (Times Online)
- Careers for psychology graduates (Higher Education Academy Psychology Network)
- Psychology: Your skills (Prospects)