Explore your career options
Psychology Graduate Destinations
Psychology Graduate Destinations
A survey of graduates 6 months after graduation reveals that Queen’s graduates from these programmes have recently gone to work in roles such as:
Support Worker (Northern Ireland Association for Mental Health), Employment Adviser (Ingeus), Councillor (Omagh District Council), Support Worker (Praxis), Assistant Clinical Psychologist (SL Volunteers), Assistant Psychologist (Western Health & Social Care Trust), Assistant Manager (Marks and Spencer), Civil Servant (Civil Service), Graduate Intern (Centre for Effective Services), Graduate Intern (Health and Social Care Trust), Support Worker (Autism Initiatives), Activity Therapist (Valley Nursing Home)
Some have gone on to further study in areas such as:
Doctorate in Educational, Child & Adolescent Psychology, MSc Atypical Child Development, MSc Applied Psychology, MSc Health Psychology, MSc Neuroscience, MSc Legal Science, MSc Foundations in Clinical Psychology and Health Studies, MSc Performance Enhancement in Sport and Health, PGCE Primary and PhD in Psychology.
As with all programmes at all universities, some graduates have not gone into graduate level work. Recent roles have included: Sales Assistant, Administrator, Bar Staff, Customer Adviser, Teaching Assistant.
There can be many reasons to explain this. For Psychology graduates it is often due to gaining relevant experience for professional Psychology work. Sometimes, however, it is due to a lack of career planning prior to graduating. Reviewing these careers resources and taking advantage of opportunities to develop your skills and experience will help to ensure that you fulfil your career potential. If you wish to book an appointment to discuss your options and plan your career you can do this through MyFuture.
The National picture: What do graduates do? is an annual report showing the national picture of graduate destinations.
- Professional Psychology
Some typical career areas:
Around 15-20% of Psychology graduates go on to become professional psychologists in fields such as Clinical, Counselling, Educational, Forensic, Health, Neuropsychology, Occupational and Sport & Exercise. The following links provide information on these routes:
- The Higher Education Academy Psychology Network have a page of very useful links including a comprehensive student employability guide that covers typical career options and CV help.
- The BPS Careers site includes profiles and advice on typical routes into becoming a professional Psychologist. You can also find more information through these job profiles (Clinical Psychologist, Counselling Psychologist, Education Psychologist, Forensic Psychologist, Occupational Psychologist, Sport and Exercise Psychologist). Relevant experience is very important for students wishing to progress into these areas. The BPS website also has slides from a conference of professional Psychologists (see Presentations 2017) which explain their jobs and the training routes.
- The job profiles above include examples of experience that is considered to be relevant for each area. See our Part-time work and Volunteering pages for opportunities.
- ClinPsy is an online forum for prospective Clinical Psychologis
- Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner/Low Intensity Therapist
Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner/Low Intensity Therapist
Psychological Wellbeing Practitioners provide high volume, low intensity interventions with clients. The opportunities mainly exist in England. You can find more information on the NHS Careers website. Use the BPS accredited course search tool to find accredited courses. They have different titles so search for Professional Category=Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner. It is recommended that interested students undertake voluntary work with vulnerable people in a support/befriending role – employers will look for evidence of how you have utilised the learning from your degree within these roles.
- Education Mental Health Practitioner
This is a very new role and currently exists in England only. Education Mental Health Practitioners will work both in education and healthcare settings to support children and young people with mental ill health. The role includes a one-year full-time education programme at one of 6 universities in England. Because of the education element, the role is advertised once per year (around September) on NHS Jobs. Find out more about the role, including the 6 participating universities on the Health Careers website.
- Allied Health
There are a number of allied health professions which may be of particular interest to Psychology students. Examples include: Dietitian, Occupational Therapist, Physiotherapist, Speech and Language Therapist. These require further study, but each has an accelerated graduate entry route.
Social workers work with vulnerable people in a variety of settings including charities, hospices, residential homes as well as local authority social service departments. You can find out more about the job via this profile (Social Worker). A qualification in Social Work is a gateway to Probation work and Education Welfare Officer roles. The DHSSPS offers an Incentive Scheme to attract people to study Social Work in Northern Ireland and there is a fast-track 2-year degree option for graduates with relevant degrees.
It is recommended that you undertake voluntary or paid work with vulnerable people which can give you some related experience and enable you to understand the network of support services available to these people. You can find voluntary opportunities via Volunteer Now and paid support work opportunities via Community NI.
- Community Development and Youth Work
Community Development and Youth Work
These roles involve working directly with people within a particular community to bring about social change and improve quality of life. It is usually expected that candidates for these jobs will have significant voluntary experience and, often, a relevant postgraduate qualification. The Social Work qualification (mentioned above) is frequently sought but there are also specific qualifications in Youth Work and Community Development Work. These job profiles (Community Development Worker, Youth Worker) will give you more information on the work involved and help you to identify a suitable course should you be interested in these areas.
- Other Community and Voluntary sector roles
Other roles within the Community and Voluntary Sector
You can find more options and more information on Social care and guidance jobs and Charity and development sector overview. Looking through some of the job adverts on Community NI can reveal other options (e.g. project worker roles) which are often quite specific to the nature of the project and not covered through other general careers information. These roles sometimes do not require an additional qualification to your degree. Also, this research - Career Pathways for graduates into the voluntary/community sector (pdf)- outlines some of the key roles within the voluntary sector, and provides advice on how to access these roles.
Employers of counsellors tend to look for a qualification that is accredited by a professional body such as the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) and you can find a list of their accredited programmes on their website. It is recommended that you would initially undertake an introductory (Certificate/Level 2) course in counselling. This would give you an understanding of the work and relevant models. It would also demonstrate your interest in the area which would add to your application for a Diploma or Masters programme. More information, links and case studies can be found on MyFuture.
Read this job profile (Counsellor) to find out more about what the work involves, entry requirements, typical employers and some related job options. It is recommended that you undertake voluntary or paid support work with a "vulnerable" client group.
- Human Resources
As HR roles exist in all types of organisations, any kind of work experience is useful. Many large organisations run graduate schemes through which graduates undertake CIPD-accredited HR qualifications. These same organisations also typically offer student internships and placement opportunities in HR.
Government and Public Sector bodies
Government and Public Sector bodies
Psychology graduates may be drawn to roles within Government and public sector bodies as they offer opportunities to shape and make a direct contribution to society. There are a number of popular graduate programmes and interesting roles within these organisations e.g. Civil Service Fast Stream, the NI Civil Service, the NGDP (graduate programme for local government) and the NHS Graduate Management Programme. The recruiters of these programmes tend to look for evidence of a commitment to contributing to the community (which can be gained through voluntary work), and strong transferable skills such as communication and problem solving, rather than degree subject or level.
There are a number of social research opportunities within both local and national government. Careers in local government research is a guide to these kinds of opportunities. The Government Social Research Service recruits through the Civil Service Fast Stream
- Criminal Justice
There are a variety of roles in organisations such as NIACRO, Victim Support Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Prison Service and the Youth Justice Agency. Voluntary experience of working with vulnerable people and strong administration skills (often gained through vacation work) can help to get graduates a first step on the ladder in these organisations.
- Consumer-related fields: Advertising, Marketing, Market Research plus PR and Communications
Consumer-related fields: Advertising, Marketing, Market Research plus PR and Communications
You can make use of the insight you have gained into human behaviour and motivations through working in areas of business such as Advertising, Marketing, PR and Communications. Prospects has some job profiles for these areas which include case studies and typical employers.
Advertising - the IPA (Institute of Practitioners in Advertising) and Creative Skillset have lots of useful information about the advertising industry and careers within it. The Advertising Association has a guide to finding a job in the advertising industry
Marketing - Getin2Marketing - a useful resource with job profiles and event listings
Market Research - find career information on the MRS (Market Research Society) website. There are a number of large Market Research organisations who recruit through graduate recruitment programmes every year e.g. IPSOS Mori, GfK, plus a number of smaller organisations who have graduate opportunities in this area.
PR and Communications - the CIPR (Chartered Institute of Public Relations) have some career information on their website. This is a very competitive area to get into. Some of the large Communications agencies run graduate recruitment programmes e.g. Ketchum, Chime Communications and Edelman.
Many companies advertise student internships in the areas of Marketing (see MyFuture). Fewer opportunities are advertised for students in the other areas mentioned above, so you may need to look beyond the main internships websites and look directly at relevant company websites or make speculative applications.
- Science Communication
Translating scientific and technical information into a style that is easy for others to understand requires specialist knowledge and strong communication skills. This job profile (Science Writer) has more details about the work, including case studies, entry requirements and typical employers. There is useful information on the website of the Association of British Science Writers, the NCTJ (National Council for the Training of Journalists) and journalism.co.uk.
With a first degree in Psychology, a qualification in journalism can be helpful to make the move to writing. See the NCTJ for accredited courses. You may find some advertised volunteering opportunities in journalism and PR, and some opportunities through The Gown. It is also worth making proactive, speculative approaches to relevant magazines and newspapers. It is important to start building a portfolio of written articles as soon as you can.
- User-centred design
There has been a growth in jobs in this area over the last decade and this is likely to continue to grow as the principles of user-centred design are applied beyond technology and products to services. A degree in Psychology can provide a particularly useful insight into this type of work especially if combined with a postgraduate degree in the area of User-Centred design, Human Computer Interaction, or Service Design and/or relevant experience. Look for jobs such as UX (user experience) Researcher or Analyst.
In Schools: A recognised teaching qualification is essential to find work in this area. The Department of Education Northern Ireland has general details about Initial Teacher Education (which includes the PGCE). The Universities and Colleges offering the training also have information on their websites which include how to apply and the closing dates e.g. Queen’s Initial Teacher Education (PGCE) information.
In Northern Ireland there are no PGCE Psychology courses and the PGCE Primary course at Ulster does not accept Psychology as relevant subject.
In the rest of the UK, there are some PGCE Psychology courses and some PGCE primary courses will accept Psychology as a relevant subject - but applicants would need to specify the amount of Science and Maths in their programme. In addition to PGCE, there are other routes into teaching in other parts of the UK including School Centred Initial Teacher Training (where you gain a teaching qualification while working in a School as an unqualified teacher). You may also wish to consider Teach First which recruits high achieving graduates to work as teachers in some of the most disadvantaged schools in England and Wales. See Get Into Teaching for more information on these options - but remember these options are not available in NI.
In Ireland, the teaching qualification is known as the Professional Masters in Education (PME). The Teaching Council set the requirements for the PME. Psychology is not recognised by the Teaching Council as a curricular subject for post-primary teaching. Psychology may be accepted for entry to the PME Primary (see the Teaching Council website for a list of providers). Irish A Level is typically an entry requirement. Funding will be an issue as the PG loan from Student Finance NI is only available for postgraduate study in the UK. There may be some funding from the provider University themselves.
PGCE courses are competitive to get into so interested students are recommended to:
Gain experience of working with young people of the age group you hope to teach – usually gained through voluntary work
Get an insight into what work as a teacher is like by trying to arrange to speak to a teacher to ask them about their job and try to get some classroom observation experience. You may also be able to arrange visits through personal contacts or with schools where you were taught. It may be possible to arrange with a local school via a speculative application.
These interview tips are useful when preparing for the course interview
The JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) Programme is an official and prestigious Japanese government scheme that sends graduates to Japan in order to promote international understanding at grass-roots level and to improve foreign language teaching in schools. Although participants teach English to school pupils, applicants for the programme can come from any degree discipline providing they hold a full UK passport. It is a tough application process that begins in the October preceding the departure the following summer.
In Colleges: Further Education Colleges will sometimes hire people to teach without teaching qualifications. These teachers will usually be expected to work towards a teaching qualification and to have other relevant (sometimes vocational) qualifications and experience to offer. Colleges list job vacancies on their own websites. You can find a list of acceptable qualifications on the Department for the Economy Northern Ireland website.
In Higher Education: University lecturers will normally be expected to have or be working towards a PhD. An Academic Career provides more information about this career route. Jobs and some PhD studentships can be found on Jobs.ac.uk. More PhD opportunities can be found on findaphd.com.
- Professional Services e.g. Accountancy, Consultancy
Professional Services e.g. Accountancy, Consultancy
Professional Services firms are some of the UK’s biggest graduate recruiters. For most of their roles they’ll hire graduates from any degree discipline and train them in a specific area of their business e.g. Accountancy, Consultancy. These employers look for transferable skills such as communication and problem solving, combined with attributes such as drive and initiative. Relevant experience – although useful - isn’t necessary, but a certain amount of commercial awareness and understanding of their business will be required.
Some of these employers offer insight programmes to level 1 students in addition to placements and summer internships to level 2 students. Any opportunities to develop your business/commercial awareness such as Insight into Management or Innovation Bootcamp would be beneficial
- Other Graduate Options
Other Graduate Options
Approximately 50% of graduate vacancies are open graduates of any subject. Some may require some additional, specialist, post-graduate training but some do not. The list is extensive but includes fields as diverse as IT, housing management and recruitment consultancy. You can get an idea of the variety of opportunities plus find year-long and summer work opportunities by looking on the graduate scheme websites.
- How do I make a decision?
How do I make a decision?
There isn’t one right way to make a career decision, but there are a few things worth doing and worth considering in order to make an informed choice:
- Don’t think you have to choose just one option – instead a shortlist of preferred options can be a useful strategy. Transferable skills can be gained from any type of work experience, so even if your work experience relates to one area, that won’t restrict you from moving into a different area.
- Think about what is important to you and look for evidence of those things when exploring your options e.g. if it is a priority for you to stay in Northern Ireland, look at the Relevant Job Websites for career areas that interest you to see how many job adverts you can find for that type of work here.
- The above are just a few of the options related to your degree area. It isn’t a comprehensive list. Spend some time exploring the Relevant Job Websites to find other job titles and areas.
- Look at LinkedIn’s alumni tool (Topic 5 on the LinkedIn for students website) to see the career paths of alumni on LinkedIn.
- Speak to company representatives at on campus events (including fairs and employer presentations). Keep an eye on MyFuture for these opportunities.
- Need more information – approach any contacts you have, or speculatively approach companies, to set-up an information interview.
- If you’ve managed to successfully make use of an information interview, you could ask for a brief period of work-shadowing, i.e. observing someone while they work. As little as a few hours of work-shadowing can give you a real insight into a job and company, and it is often easier for a company to agree to this than it would be to agree to a period of work experience.
- Still can’t decide? Sometimes you can only truly get a feel for whether a certain job is for you by trying it out. Short-term work experience for students is a great method for trying-out different jobs and companies - see "What can I do to Go Further?" to find relevant opportunities. If you are a graduate, remember, even a permanent job isn’t necessarily a job for life!
If you’d like to discuss any of this with a Careers Consultant please book an appointment through MyFuture.