Here are some questions and answers which we think will help prospective students to understand what studying Psychology at undergraduate level might involve and lead to.
1. In the study of psychology, you learn to influence individuals or groups to control their behaviour.
Psychology students do learn what factors make people susceptible to being manipulated by others. However the goal of psychologists is not to control the behaviour of others. Professional psychologists may try to change the behaviour of people who need help, but this is through professional assistance, advice and support.
2. In the study of psychology, you learn to conduct therapy sessions.
Even if you cover the theory of different types of therapy, you do not learn at university to conduct therapy sessions yourself. This is the content of additional training in psychotherapy.
3. For the study of psychology, intuition is more important than logic.
Psychology is taught as an empirical science, which gains its findings from systematic investigations, such as experiments or questionnaire studies. This empirical approach requires a logical approach to the subject. Intuition is less important in the study of psychology.
4. For the study of psychology one needs special mathematical skills.
You do need to have basic mathematical skills (C in GCSE Maths). Some students are put off by the thought of having to study anything that involves numbers but unless you have an absolute block about doing anything mathematical, the course should be well within your grasp. All aspects of statistics are taught in a friendly, supportive environment.
5. For the study of psychology no specific prior training is required.
Psychology occupies a position between the natural and social sciences, therefore we accept that people from a variety of backgrounds will be fascinated by psychology and we do not require any particular subject background. You will usually be studying psychology alongside fellow students from both Arts and Science backgrounds.
6. In the study of psychology one gets to know the symptoms of different mental disorders.
In addition to studying why people behave the way they do, psychology students learn about areas of mental illness, their symptoms and treatments. As you progress through the undergraduate course you have the opportunity to specialise in modules that cover aspects of mental illness in more depth.
7. The planning, implementation and evaluation of scientific studies is part of a psychology degree.
Throughout your degree you learn many aspects of the design and implementation of studies to find answers to psychological questions. In your second year you undertake an empirical project with other members of your tutor group and in your final year you undertake your thesis – a major piece of individual research.
8. Students in psychology should have fixed ideas about their future profession.
Some students do come into the degree course with a firm idea of the career they wish to pursue but often their ideas change as they progress through the degree course. Psychology is a very diverse discipline and often students are not aware of the full range of career options when they embark on the course.
9. The study of psychology prepares you primarily for work as a psychotherapist.
The study of psychology does provide you with some of the basic theory that underpins the work of psychotherapists but the transition to working as a professional requires further postgraduate training and a great deal of practical experience. Your undergraduate degree aims to give you a broad basis in many aspects of psychology and is not geared specifically for any particular career specialisation.
10. Psychologists seeking a career as an academic most commonly follow their first psychology degree with a research doctorate (PhD).
Academic psychologists are expected to pursue active research careers and the commonest place to begin acquiring the necessary skills and experience is by completing a research PhD. Some psychologists who have followed a professional training path as a clinical or educational psychologist may also spend a time as academics in universities.
11. Every psychology graduate works as a psychologist.
Although a wide range of professional careers in psychology are available to graduates of psychology, many of our former students have ended up working in graduate jobs in other areas.
12. Graduates of psychology end up in a very wide variety of careers.
Because of the arguably unique set of communication and numeracy skills possessed by psychology graduates, they are attractive to a very wide range of employers. For example, psychology graduates from Queen’s have gone onto a wide variety of careers including journalism, human resources, teaching, social work, accountancy, and research. Our graduates work for organisations as diverse as Deloitte LLP, the Irish Times, Ulster Bank Limited, Northern Irish Civil Service, and BAA Airports Limited.