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Applying for Psychology Degrees

If you're considering applying for a psychology degree at university, our subject application guide can help you decide if it's the right decision for you.

Why study psychology at university?

Psychology is quickly becoming one of the most popular degree courses to take, and this is largely because of the fact that it is something that relates to every single person in the world, in many different ways.

You may be wondering why you should study psychology at university, and a key reason to do this is if you hold an interest in the subject. You may have studied it at GCSE and A Level, and found the things you learn to be incredibly interesting.

Not only this, but thanks to the fact that you learn so much on a psychology degree, you are employable in a number of different sectors, even some that might not seem to relate to the actual subject that you have studied.

A psychology degree provides a very broad education in many different areas, so even if you don’t go on to further study within the field of psychology itself, you will still have gained lots of skills that you can take forward into your career, whatever that turns out to be. This alone makes it an incredibly popular subject choice.

Which universities offer psychology?

Unlike some other subjects, you will find that the majority of universities offer a psychology course. However, the actual topics that are covered will vary, so it is important that you read through the prospectus before you apply for the course to make sure you’re happy with the units of study that will be offered.

If you know that you would like to work in the field of psychology when you graduate then it is important that you study a course that is accredited by the British Psychological Society, as this will give you basis for membership upon graduation, which can in turn vastly improve your chances of gaining employment within the sector.

There will be key modules that you need to study on an accredited course, but in the later years of your degree there will be some element of choice available. If you don’t want to work within the sector, and you find the modules offered in a non-accredited course to be more interesting to you, then you may wish to opt for these instead.

What will I learn?

The list of things that are learned on a psychology degree is vast – and it is much more rounded than you might get with other courses. When people think of psychology, they think that they will be learning about why we do what we do, and what makes us “tick”. While this is true, and there is indeed an element of this, there is much deeper level to psychology involving biochemistry, mathematics and research methods.

With regards to research methods, you will find that research is taught quite heavily within a psychology degree environment. You will learn the different research methods, and how to statistically analyse your results and interpret your findings.

Not only will you learn a lot academically from a psychology degree, but you will also learn a lot which will help you to develop as a person. For example, time management and teamwork are key when completing research projects, and you will also be asked to make presentations and attend other events, which is a great way to work on your confidence.

Also, the way that you think will be addressed – and you should leave your degree being capable of a more critical level of thinking than you were when you started it. These skills are hugely important, no matter what kind of workplace you apply to when you graduate, and the skills that you learn should never be underestimated.

What are the entry requirements?

Thanks to the fact that the majority of universities offer psychology, there are also a range of requirements – meaning that so long as you have three A Levels of at least grade C standard, you will have a chance of finding a place on a course.

Requirements may be lower than this depending on your personal circumstances, for example if you already have experience in the field.

Some courses may require you to have either a maths or a science A Level, so you will need to think about this before you make your final decisions and attend open days.

Also, some universities will accept psychology itself as a science, whereas others won’t – so if you’re unsure about the entrance requirements you should get in touch and ask for clarification.

How do I write a psychology personal statement?

Writing a personal statement for your psychology degree doesn't have to be an uphill struggle.

As with all personal statements for UCAS, the best way to start is by jotting down some notes about you and why you want to study psychology at university.

Think about the following:

  • What subjects are you currently studying at school/college? What interests you most about them and how does this relate to wanting to study a psychology degree?
  • How might any work experience you have completed or about to undertake in the future help you be a successful student on the course? Think about any skills and knowledge you have gained from it and how it could be of benefit during your university studies.
  • What extracurricular activities do you take part in that have taught you valuable skills, e.g. teamwork, communication, problem-solving? How might these prove useful in your degree?
  • What do you plan to do once you have graduated from university, and what sort of role do you hope your psychology degree will help you achieve? Even if you don't have any specific plans or ideas just yet, try to show that you have at least thought about your future.

As you write down your notes on all the points above, remember to back everything up with at least one example. The important idea behind your personal statement that applicants can sometimes forget is to show, not tell. Admissions tutors want to see evidence of what you have done and how it will make you an enthusiastic, motivated individual on their course.

These notes can then be used to put together a rough first draft, starting with an engaging opening, a solid middle, and a succinct conclusion to round it off. Once you have done this, you can then ask friends, family and teachers for feedback, which you can incorporate (or choose not to if you don't feel the suggestion improves the flow of the statement), and then ask for another round of opinions.

It's a good idea to go through at least several rounds of this if possible, so that the final draft is as polished as it can be and everything that needs to be included is there. It also needs to be 4,000 characers or under in total, otherwise you won't be able to fit it all into the UCAS form.

When you have a final draft in place, don't just rely on a spellchecker to look for spelling and grammaer errors, as it may not pick everything up. Read through it yourself a few times, and ask at least one other person to check it too.

For more information and advice on writing your psychology personal statement, take a look at the following resources:

What can I do after I graduate?

There are many things that you will be able to do once you graduate with a degree in psychology. Lots of students decide that they would like to go on to further study, by enrolling in a masters or PhD course.

This is good if you have an interest in a specific area of the subject that you would like to further develop, or if you are looking to get a job with strict academic requirements, such as working as a psychiatrist. You also have the option of training as a teacher, which is a popular choice.

If you would like to enter into the workplace, then there are two major choices. You can either try and enroll onto a graduate scheme, or apply for a job that appeals to you.

Remember that it doesn’t matter whether the job in question is related specifically to psychology – because the skills that you have learned while on your degree are helpful in a number of different ways.

Research assistant jobs are quite popular for graduates who wish to gain more experience alongside professionals, and universities are a great place to start looking if this is something that you may be interested in.

The most important thing to do is to be patient – you may not find your ideal job right away, but people rarely do. Try to build your experience and consider your options, and you should find that a degree in psychology is a great starting point for this.

Further information and resources

The British Psychological Society

The Complete University Guide