Psychology

Psychology looks at the ways people think, act, react, and interact. It is the study of human (and animal) behaviour, and the thoughts and emotions that influence behaviour.
Relevant to

Studying psychology at degree-level enables you to explore the social, developmental, cognitive, and biological aspects of behaviour, and learn how psychology can help with mental and physical health conditions. You can also specialise in topics such as health psychology, clinical psychology, brain and cognition, social psychology, and psychology for addictive behaviour. Courses can include a greater focus on research and laboratory-based work, or on applied psychology, putting the theories and findings from research to practical use.

Why I chose psychology
This first year psychology student talks about why she chose to study this subject and what the first year has been like.
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A week in the life of a psychology student

A week in the life of a psychology student | Cardiff University Psychology
Ten days in the life of a second year psychology student at Cardiff University. Video provided by Cardiff University Psychology.
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Mature psychology student

Mature psychology student | Salford HSC
Claire Oconnor discusses her experiences at the health and social care faculty at Salford University. Video provided by Salford HSC.
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Key stats

Over 75,000 students were studying this subject in 2014/15.

  • 92% UK
  • 8% international
  • 73% full-time
  • 27% part-time
72% of graduates went directly into employment.

 Top graduate destinations:

  1. Human health and social work
  2. Education
  3. Retail/administrative and support
  4. Legal, social, and welfare professions
  5. Business, HR, and finance
  6. Marketing, PR, and sales

A degree in psychology offers not only a pathway to becoming a psychologist, but also the knowledge and skills that you can apply in a wide range of careers."

Professor Ann Colley, CPsychol Chief Executive, The British Psychological Society


What courses are available?

Psychology is one of the most popular subjects to study at degree level. Many degree courses are accredited and follow the professional body guidelines, set out by the British Psychological Society. This is important if you want to pursue a career as a practicing psychologist with chartered status. Courses can focus on scientific research and/or applied psychology. Many course providers will therefore offer research facilities for studying perception, developmental psychology, cognition, and behavioural neuroscience, as well as for the applied side, such as studying neurorehabilitation, education, and health.

Universities and colleges in the UK offer a wide range of courses, including in specialist areas such as:

Course options include:

  • single, joint, and multiple subject combinations
  • full-time, part-time, and distance learning, as well as some courses with a placement (sandwich courses)
  • qualifications ranging from BSc (Hons) and BA (Hons) degrees, to Foundation Certificates, as well as master's

Subject combinations:

Psychology is offered in combination with a very wide range of subjects, including:

  • Criminology, criminal investigation, forensic science
  • Sociology, social anthropology, social care, philosophy
  • Biology, zoology, animal behaviour, environmental science
  • Education, childhood studies, child development, counselling
  • Accounting, finance, HR management, advertising, business, economics, entrepreneurship, marketing
  • Archaeology, architectural design, art and design history, Celtic studies
  • Computer science, computing, digital media and information, film and media studies
  • English, creative writing, journalism, publishing, drama and theatre studies, dance, music
  • Philosophy, politics, law, international relations
  • Social history, European studies, tourism, geography, religious studies
  • Mathematics, sport/sports studies

Find courses at UK universities and colleges


Entry requirements

A levels – While you don’t need to have all three sciences at A level for a psychology degree, most universities prefer at least one out of chemistry, physics, biology, or maths. 

Overall, a combination of good, academic A level subjects is required. Psychology A level is desirable, but not usually required. Other preferred subjects include sociology, geography, anthropology, economics, politics, philosophy, and history. Literature A levels can be helpful because of the report writing you will inevitably be doing, and maths/statistics will help with the analytical component of the degree. General studies is usually not considered appropriate.

Competition for places on UK psychology courses is intense, as the subject is very popular. Therefore, it is not uncommon for admissions tutors to request high grades or UCAS Tariff points. Check each course provider's entry requirements carefully. Tutors may also take GCSE grades into account as another way to filter the growing number of straight A students.


Apprenticeships

There are some advanced, higher, and degree-level apprenticeships offered in related career areas and industries, including:

Find out more about apprenticeships


Selection

You may be invited to attend an open day, or interview which can include a small group exercise led by academic staff, at which you will be asked to talk about a topic relevant to the course, and discuss it with other members of the group.


Personal statement

Universities and colleges will be looking for a well-written and structured statement, with evidence that you're well-informed about the subject and have a strong interest and motivation. This could be demonstrated by:

  • informed but personal insights into the subject
  • how you have pursued the subject outside of school or college
  • related career ambitions, relevant work experience, or voluntary work
  • additional reading and research of relevant topics, key issues, and content of the course


Where can I find out more?

Visit the websites of the following professional bodies to find out more about courses and careers in psychology.