Ok, so you got your psychology degree or your just about to, now what do you do? What are your options? What direction should you go? So many questions but at times it can be difficult to know what is best without a doubt!
Well, there are a number of options, but often it can be really confusing and challenging to know what to do.
My own experiences
I know the feeling many have all too well. I struggled often to know what I was going to do with my degree. At first, I did an undergraduate degree in social sciences that I struggled my way through.
I just managed to get enough grades in high school to get onto the degree, but when I had finished, I really didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do.
I was lucky enough to have had a couple of psychology modules through my first degree that were really the only ones I enjoyed. Also, after completing my degree in social sciences I conducted a therapy course that started me on my path to psychology and counselling psychology in particular.
I was fortunate because when I started my next degree which was a graduate diploma in psychology, I knew what I wanted to do, I had the goal of one day becoming a counselling psychologist
I had a purpose and direction, but I know not everyone has this. Even when people finish their degrees, things can still seem blurry and uncertain.
With a broad degree like psychology, it can be even harder to know what to do next.
With this live understanding and coming to the end of my training, I have some understanding and some personal experience that might help people get some direction after completing their psychology degree.
What options are there?
So, first question first, what exactly are the options?
Well, I’m sure you are aware that there is a very low percentage of people that go into professional psychology after their degree
Why is that though?
I think one of the biggest things is that if you want to pursue a career in psychology then further studies are required.
This can be difficult to accept for people that have just come through a four-year degree, realising that they could have a minimum of another three years fo university studies ahead of them to become a psychologist can be a daunting prospect.
I also think the issue and difficulty is a little bigger than this too. We still as a society are unsure as to what psychology is really all about. I think there is still this abstract nature or abstract understanding about psychology, both by graduates and the general public.
If we don’t fully understand it then we are more likely to just ignore it or not pursue it. We need to change this!
What if you don’t want a career in psychology?
There are of course numerous options still available for those with a psychology degree that don’t want to pursue a career in psychology
One of the most sought after jobs is teaching
Psychology is still a brilliant degree to take you onto teacher training and can be a really desirable degree for employers and educational bodies.
Your understanding of people and the ability to work with them will result from your psychology degree, and teaching wants more people like that.
HR work is also a good option for those that don’t want to pursue a career in psychology.
Human resources often look for people with psychology backgrounds, much like those employing teachers.
Your ability to understand, relate to and Interact with people will be evident through your psychology degree.
I think this really speaks to the overall value of a psychology degree. A psychology degree is more than just learning theory or understanding models, its actually learning about human behaviour, peoples mindsets and gives you unique abilities to relate to and work with people.
You should always remember this when going for any job with your psychology degree. I very much believe that psychology graduates are in a valuable and unique position with this.
There are of course other profession options available for psychology graduates
Things such as working in health care, working in the police or even advocacy work and politics.
What if you want a career in psychology?
However, what if you do want to develop your career in psychology though? What do you do next?
Well first you need to think about what type of psychology you want to do and why
Counselling, educational, clinical, occupations, health sports and exercise. There are so many different forms of psychology.
The real question that you need to ask yourself is, what is it that drives you to any of these professions?
For me, it’s the one to one in-depth work that got me into counselling psychology. That and the idea of one day working on a more private basis. All of these factors contributed to me going down the counselling psychology path.
There are some things I would flag up here when thinking about what form of psychology you want to pursue though.
Be careful of only going for the money and paid courses.
Of course, I get the struggle but just be aware. It’s important to put your ideology and passion first.
What you need to be thinking of next
Experience, experience, experience!!!
Go out and volunteer!
Develop experience in caring roles, roles where you will be helping and working with others.
Look at positions like health care work, support worker (in particular), even assistant psychologist roles.
Network and see where you can add value. This is a vital next step in developing your career in psychology and knowing where you want to take your psychology degree.
One of the biggest issues with people getting ahead in psychology after their degree is that they think things are just going to fall in place.
You need to do the groundwork during and after you graduate.
Create those opportunities for yourself because at the end of the day there will be loads of people in the same position as you. This is actually something I have spoken about at conferences before to psychology graduates. Click here to check out my talk.
Think about researcher roles also.
Don’t count these out!
They can be a great way in the door of academia and working with some psychologists. Universities are always looking for willing researchers so it a line of employment that always has opportunities and can be really rewarding.
I got my researcher job off the back of seeing a job advert that I didn’t fit and phoning the guy up and he gave me another job to do psychology research for him.
Key points to consider
It’s ok to not go into psychology after your undergraduate degree. It’s still a brilliant and wide-ranging degree to have.
Don’t be scared of going into a profession in psychology.
Some extra work will be needed, but we need psychologists now more than ever.
The opportunities are so huge for those willing to invest.
Think about the type of psychology you want to undertake and why.
What are the reasons for this form of psychology? Why not others?
Before I begin I want to say that there will be numerous people that disagree with me and that’s totally ok. I love psychology, obviously, but there are numerous issues in the field today overall that I have felt are prevalent in psychology and that I think need discussing.
The first thing that I feel is important to highlight is the emphasis and focus given only to empirical literature in psychology.
No, we need empirical lit, don’t get me wrong. We need research backing in everything we do. As a psychologist, you are also a scientist and must use empirically backed information. Furthermore, this isn’t an attempt by me to say that we should stop the process of empirical literature, not by any means.
I want to ensure I am being clear and that my point is not misconstrued here.
My question is though, do we focus on empirical literature too much in psychology, to the detriment of other mediums of communicating psychological information and findings?
I am a great believer in psychologists and those working in the mental health profession being more in the public awareness and in public domains. One of the main questions I ask here is, are psychologists not focusing enough on where the public is?
I’ve spoken about this a lot recently, and it was actually one of the things that led me to create GetPsyched in the first place.
We as psychologists, trainees and mental health practitioners, need to be in the mainstream where the people are.
The public doesn’t read empirical literature often. Yes, they feel the impact of it when psychologists utilise empirical principles, but they don’t absorb the content directly. We need psychologists to be on social media, on YouTube, on blogs, in the mainstream where people actually absorb content on a regular basis.
For example, name one publically recognisable psychologist. Name a recent study in psychology that grabbed the public attention. It’s difficult, nearly impossible, to see where psychology is branching from vital empirical literature and communicating it to the masses, where it needs to be absorbed and understood. We need psychologists to be in mediums where their work and what they do is recognised and appreciated.
Processes of getting published, and the value this has for professionals
This kind of leads me to my next point
The actual process of getting published is very challenging, again rightly so. This means that we get the most robust literature into the field of psychology, we need to be scrupulous and challenging of the literature we accept.
There is something to be said about the difficulty that students and new researchers have in getting published as a result though, but this isn’t necessarily something I would directly change.
What I do think is an issue is how psychology researchers are given value based on the number of publications they have to their name.
Now, you might not think this is such an issue, but I do.
Researchers based at universities are often ranked based on the number of publications they get.
This can at times have consequences where researchers break up pieces of research in order to publish multiple articles and not just one big one…again you might not think it’s a big deal.
However, the fact that this goes on speaks to the motives behind this valuable empirical literature.
It’s often not a case of getting their best work out there, sometimes it is of course, but other times its to boost the name and the credibility of the individual and that doesn’t sit well with me.
What’s more, is that the pull to publish more work can at times lead to shoddy results. Now, this is in part why it’s so important to have a critical eye in psychology, but I do not think we address this enough.
It’s not uncommon for researchers to manipulate data to their favour and in ways that give outputs that they want. It might be to get more funding, it might be to boost their position as a researcher, either way, it’s not ok.
I don’t want you leaving thinking I hate empirical literature, I in no way do. In truth, I believe in developing more empirical literature. The research backing I have as counselling psychology is based in empirically backed considerations. This is something I would never change. I believe in the scrupulous nature of publishing research also. However, the points I have discussed here are ones I feel need addressed.
Unequal appreciation of different branches
For me, this is a big one.
In the UK we have a disparity between different branches of psychology.
Let me make this clear from the beginning.
No one branch of psychology is more important or valuable than another!
If you are a doctor in applied psychology then you are equal to all other applied psychologists, clinical, educational, counselling, health, sports and exercise. We don’t fully appreciate that often in this country.
I’m going to try and take bias out of this as much as I can as I am a counselling psychologist in training. However, the way we look at clinical psychology and its hierarchical nature isn’t ok. Every now again on twitter ill voice this…it often doesn’t go down well.
People still see clinical as superior…it’s not.
In the UK we think it is, often because the training is fully funded, with a £26,000 a year salary attached.
Again, I’ve had some Twitter discussions about how this isn’t ok also.
However, the NHS and here in the UK have given clinical this hierarchical nature. I work with some people who are counselling psychologists and counselling psychologists in training that are not allowed to work with borderline personality disorders, it’s left to the clinical psychologists.
This isn’t right, it has no research backing, and it is against the egalitarian nature of all applied psychologies.
Counselling psychologists can work with a client diagnosed with BPD just as well as any other. One of the only ways this is going to change is with the funding situation.
Challenges with the direct route for undergrads
My next issue with psychology right now is the route and options for undergraduate psychology students. A very small percentage of undergraduates in psychology pursue a career in the field.
In large I think much of this has to do with not enough information or development of direct routes into careers in psychology.
If psychology is going to see developments in people coming through the ranks then I really think initiatives like apprenticeships, internship and opportunities for experience need to be provided by universities.
Non-accredited counsellors and therapists
This is an area that might not be directly attributed to psychology itself, but it is something psychology can stand up for and that will help it in its development I feel.
There are so many non-accredited ‘therapists’ and ‘counsellors’ out there. I have spoken to many and even worked with some in the past. The fact that an individual can legally call themselves counsellor or a therapist is discrediting to the therapeutic industry, and psychology as a whole.
Legally no one can call themselves a psychologist if they do not have a doctorate. However, literally, anyone can call themselves a therapist, counsellor or psychotherapist.
A lot of the time counselling psychologists actually call themselves therapists and this can blur the lines even further.
In part, this is a job for governing bodies here in the UK such as the BACP to develop guidelines of accreditation.
Challenges in developing clinical experience for students
When I did a bit of market research for this topic, the challenges for developing clinical experience for psychology student came out as a big concern.
Students seem more and more frustrated in psychology with the difficulties in gaining clinical experience
However, I can empathise with the challenges and frustrations experienced by undergraduates. In part, I feel that the view that psychology is often seen as a route to multiple careers not a career in psychology is a major contributing factor.
In many ways, this connects to one of my previous points. Psychology must do better in informing undergraduate students about the opportunities that are available in psychology.
We must do more to encourage students to pursue careers in psychology!
Reached that point in your undergraduate degree where you start to contemplate what comes next? For me this happened at the end of my second year of university; everything began to matter that much more.
After a summer of contemplating counselling, health, clinical, forensic, graduate jobs or even working my way up in the supermarket I was working in; I reapplied for my disabled student’s allowance and that really got me thinking… Apart from diagnosing my dyslexia and other students learning disabilities
What do educational psychologists actually do?
To answer this question I did the thing all students do… I googled it… This did not really help a lot of subjective information and a discussion of the lack of Educational Psychologists in the UK.
Next, I went to the BPS Website to see what they could tell me about educational psychology. Practitioners generally work with young people and children aged 0-25.
The work itself is incredibly versatile, working with learning needs, emotional and behavioural needs, physical disabilities, sensory needs, social skills difficulties and concentration difficulties.
This can be through psychological assessments such as that which most people know of educational psychologists through. Although it can also be part of the educational psychologist’s role to do consultations, one to one and group interventions, supporting staff development, supporting parents, research and evaluation, multi-agency work and strategic work.
It is worth mentioning that most educational psychologists do not spend a great amount of time working solely with individuals but take a more managerial role in ensuring that procedures are put in place to help the young person in day to day life as a result of their findings.
Essentially, it is an educational psychologists job to take all learning needs which a young person may have and work to improve their learning environment in order to improve on their learning experience in any way possible.
Sound like something you might want to do?
How to become an educational psychologist
First things first! Psychology degree accredited by the BPS with a 2:1 or above! Without the 2:1 it is very unlikely that you will be able to proceed straight onto a postgraduate in educational psychology. Although masters and undergraduate students can both apply for educational psychology postgraduates.
In Scotland, it is possible to become accredited by the BPS after a Masters followed by a stage 2 conversion course, which is explained on the BPS website (Although only Strathclyde and Dundee currently offer this). However, in the rest of the UK, it requires a 3-year doctorate, there are 16 universities offering these in the UK.
All educational psychology postgraduates require at least a year of work experience before applying, some are more strict than others in the type of experience although one year of full time paid work experience is required by most doctorate courses.
It might feel like you’re progressing quickly enough but I like to think of it as a reason to relax! This is a full year for you to decide what you want to do while also working towards the goal of becoming an educational psychologist.
A year out of university to learn about education and if you decide to go another way then you haven’t embarked on a doctorate or masters which wasn’t right for you. Not to mention the money!
I have been advised that the module selection in your undergraduate will not affect your chances of successfully applying for a postgraduate so breathe out, the marks matter more than whether child psychology was an option.
As with many postgraduate courses, the competition over places doing educational psychology is pretty high! Of the universities I have spoken to there is around 15 applications for every place on an educational psychology doctorate so it’s common to have to apply a few times before successfully getting a place.
Advice which I would give is to enjoy your undergraduate degree and don’t apply for postgraduate in anything until you’re absolutely sure that this is what you want to do.
As part of my own journey toward becoming an educational psychologist, I am currently researching the student adjustment to university for students with a diagnosed learning disability. If this applies to you- especially if you enjoyed this article please participate by clicking this link.
I love reading, and there is nothing I love more than a good psychology book.
I developed this reading list based off of some of my favourite books over the past few years.
If you are a psychology student, graduate, qualified psychologist, therapist or simply just interested in the topic of psychology then there will be a book in here for you, or maybe two, or maybe all of them!
Check out my reviews of all 20 books and simply click on the name of the book to be taken straight to a link to purchase it!
Blackbox thinking really came at the right time for me.
I had just started my doctorate in counselling psychology and was struggling to come to terms with a failed assignment.
This book really opened my eyes to the power and true purpose of failure.
Blackbox Thinking looks at different professional industries in our society and tries to teach lessons of industries that refuse to learn from failure, those that do and the differences in those industries as a result.
If you want to gain a better understanding of what failure is all about, the purpose and power of what failure can do for us, then this book is a must read!
Carl Rogers is one of the greatest pioneers of psychotherapy and psychology!
His work created a new age of therapeutic work during times of psychodynamic and behaviourist principles.
With a focus on the client as an individual, in their subjective world, Rogers’ work was revolutionary.
This book really encapsulates his ideology and philosophy better than any other.
What’s more, is that you don’t need to be a therapist to really appreciate and gain benefit from his work and knowledge
A new appreciation of the individual, empathy, unconditional positive regard and congruence, an appreciation of the principles in this book and enhance the life of any reader, from any background and profession.
The book, unsurprisingly so, introduces the concept of ‘flow’.
Flow is a state that if reached, it is argued, can enrich the lives of people, and is the key to true happiness.
combination of a number of things such as minimising some of the challenges we catastrophise in life, as well as learning from our failures encapsulates what flow is about, however, it includes so much more.
This book is a bit of a classic in psychology and I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would.
Backed with real sound empirical principles this book is one for the people looking to introduce a new concept in their lives to experience some more happiness in 2019!
Thinking fast and slow can be a challenging read I will not deny it
However, this is in the GetPsyched Reading List 2019 because of how thought-provoking it is.
If you can get past the challenges you might experience in reading it, this book talks in great detail about the two different parts of our decision making brain, the logic behind them and how it rules everything we do.
How rational we think we are when we are reactive compared to when we are considered and think situations through thoroughly, is very different from reality.
Similar to his other work, Yalom in the Gift of Therapy talks about his personal experiences and process of becoming the establish therapist he is today.
He goes into brutal detail about his trials and successes, something I rarely come across form professional therapists talking about their work.
The lessons he has learned and is willing to relay to the reader are so so valuable.
I really believe this book is not only a must read for therapists and trainees, but for anyone wishing to develop empathic and interpersonal skills with a desire to communicate and relate to others better.
This is one of those books that I just love picking up every now and again.
It’s by no means a self-discovery or intellectual based book but it is so so fun to read and actually gives more detail than I thought it would at first.
If like me you are interested in the basic principles of psychology but have limited time or resources to remind your self of some of the experiments that established these principles…then this is the book for you.
It gives wonderful illustrations and descriptions of the most famous studies in psychologies history.
It’s so easy to read and a really nice break from some of the harder texts I read often.
This book also looks at some of the ethical and legal issues some of these studies raised as well as their findings and how they still influence our lives and understand of psychology today. A really brilliant book!
Very similar to Pavlov’s Dogs and Other Experiments, the Psychology Book is one of those books I love to big up and just have a scan through.
Its nothing heavy and in truth was actually given to me as a bit of a joke.
It’s honestly brilliant though.
It’s a book that makes some of the most challenging and difficult to absorb concepts and principles in psychology easy to digest.
With awesome illustrations and key facts about studies, research, psychologists and experiments, it is everything you need in order to learn the most valuable points of some of the key principles to psychology.
I started my YouTube channel GetPsyched just over a year ago. The object was for me to engage with a wider audience, to take on the role as a voice for psychology students and people just generally interested in psychology.
As I developed my YouTube channel, I also invested in developing my social media accounts.
From there, things really took off for me. I was seeing weekly growth and deeper engagement with a larger audience of psychology students and professionals and people just generally interested in psychology.
However, about six months into the development of GetPsyched. PsychReg invited me to speak at their upcoming international conference in the Philippines.
I was blown away. After an incredible amount of work and extra effort, I was gaining enough recognition to be asked as a speaker at a huge conference.
The conference itself with incredible. There were speakers and delegates from all over the world that sought to communicate revolutionary findings in psychology and education, as well as network and experience a new and diverse culture.
The Philippines and New Era University in Quezon City, Manila welcomed us with unapparelled hospitality.
The students and delegates that attended the conference had such an interesting background of experiences and a strong desire to learn more.
Throughout the conference, each speaker had the opportunity to engage with attendees that wanted to learn more about their topics. Seeing such an enthusiasm for psychology and education was amazing to witness.
It made me think more about the responsibility we hold as people that work and study in psychology and education. Our research and our learning outcomes are not only applicable to the country where we work but all over the world too.
We live in an age where we can share ideas, thoughts and findings to massive audiences across the world. As a result, new collaborative approaches to things such as mental health, schooling of young children and human rights can be shared and developed. This conference was an illustration of all of this. It was an opportunity to share amongst new colleagues and witness new ideas unfold.
My presentation was on my recent findings on a widespread literature review of men’s mental health.
I covered concepts such as toxic masculinity, male identity and issues with therapeutic uptake in men.
The opportunity itself was genuinely life-changing. I found myself on the other side of the world with some of the most prominent and inspiring figures in the field of psychology and education.
After being unsure as to whether developing online content in psychology was a good idea, I cannot describe how grateful I am to PsychReg and all others that have supported me in developing GetPsyched.
I suppose this post is not one of new information or insight, or perhaps for some, it is. I hope that this article can be utilised as motivation for anyone considering stepping out into a new domain, or those willing to think outside the box a little.
Taking a step of faith and being consistent with what you develop and the passion you show for what you do will always work! It will always provide you with what you hope for and so much more! There is no downside to working hard, showing extra effort and developing your passion for something you care about. There will only always be positivity, and at times opportunities that you cannot believe have presented themselves.
It’s a term that’s used to help people realise and achieve goals and dreams, but what do we mean exactly by visualisation and what impact can it actually have?
Well, fundamentally visualisation is a cognitive tool used to picture exactly what you want to happen.
In doing so we are creating all aspects of the scenario that we to experience or obtain. Now, I mean everything, so that could be sounds, sights, smells, feelings.
The more realistic the visualisation you take part in and the more it stimulates you, the more impact it will have in you realising and moving closer to what you want to achieve.
Rosabeth Moss Kanter gives a fantastic explanation of what visualisation is and its power:
“A vision is not just a picture of what could be; it is an appeal to our better selves, a call to become something more”
So, with this depiction, we can start to understand that visualisation is an opportunity for us to try and control what we are struggling to control.
It is a tool that helps us create what we want to see and achieve.
This all sounds great, ideal, give me some visualisation!
Well, hold on for a second. What is important when thinking about concepts that talk about how they are the key to success, is to look at the research.
What does psychology say about visualisation?
Well, often in psychological services, visualisation boards are used to help illustrate what the client is seeking.
These external tools can help in keeping the client focussed on visualisation.
Visualisation boards are often used for people that want a better future, a healthier lifestyle and even for those attempting to overcome addiction.
In psychological services, concrete objects are often utilised to help with the process of visualisation.
This is often used with patients with depression to visualise a better future and used to great effect.
These concrete objects can include things such as pictures in wallets for example, or mementoes that the individual carries with them.
Visualisation is also used in psychological and therapeutic services for patients with severe anxiety to create mental holidays to retreat to a calmer environment.
This might sound abstract but it has been shown to have incredible effects.
So, it’s clear then that visualisation techniques can be used to incredible effect in therapeutic and psychological contests but where else is visualisation used?
Where else is visualisation used?
Well the easiest one to appreciate perhaps is in the world of sports
Athletes will spend huge amounts of time visualising good performances.
Recent research has in fact inferred that spending time visualising performances and potential different outcomes and responses in sports settings have as much a role to play in how well an athlete performs the practice itself.
I watched the Winter Olympics earlier in the year and saw bob slay team captains pretending to go through the motions of the full course in their minds.
They would turn in ways that they would expect when they go down the track, all to ensure that they fully utilise the power of visualisation.
Visualisation can also be really effectively utilised in a studying context.
For example, you might visualise exams and coursework that you have due. Visualising what questions, you might get asked and best to answer them are all really powerful ways of utilising visualisation in studying.
The trick here, with regards to anything in visualisation, is to go through the entire process.
Don’t just focus on one questions in an exam or one move on the sports field. Visualise the full thing in its entirety.
That means, from waking up that day, to what you have for breakfast, to walking to school or the gym, to entering the room and sitting down and opening the paper…you get the idea.
The important thing is that you go through as many different scenarios in your head in as much detail as possible.
This way, you teach yourself not to expect anything unpredictable. You also reassure yourself of the different outcomes that could happen and how you might react as a result.
How can you use visualisation to great effect in your everyday life?
Well, you might to create your own visualisation board and keep it somewhere that you will see it every day. Whenever you walk past it, take some time to visualise what it is you desire as you look at the pictures.
When I was studying for exams, I used to pin my notes and mind maps around my house and when I went to the fridge for milk, there would be some notes there, I would take my time and read them through and visualise how I might use them in a potential question in an exam.
When I went to go out the front door, there would be another page of notes and I would do the same.
I was utilising visualisation to improve my upcoming performances.
Fundamentally guys, visualisation is seriously powerful, it’s not just a generic term thrown around by people who think they know what they are talking about, it has real psychological backing and is a toll that you can use every day to achieve and progress more in whatever you want to do.
Interested in learning more about visualisation? The check out the recent video I did about the psychology of visualisation on my YouTube channel GetPsyched by clicking the link here.
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