Careers and employability

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.

Source: Your journey into Psychology – careers booklet, The British Psychological Society website

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

Making you employable

Studying for a degree in Psychology at Exeter has given me the experience to think critically and creatively but I’m fully aware that this alone is no longer sufficient to stand out from the crowd. The Exeter Award has been the perfect opportunity for me to gain official university recognition to the range of activities I’ve undertaken during my time at university and will show employers the skills that I have sought to develop. It has played a pivotal role in teaching me how to highlight important skills and ultimately build up the best possible CV.

I’ve attended time management and CV planning sessions and The Interview Experience, and have also completed 25 hours of voluntary work. I work for the charity ‘Headway’ as a learning mentor for disadvantaged and disabled students, helping young children and adults to stay on track to reach their goals.

I was successful with my application for a Floella Benjamin Career Development Award which helped support me financially to conduct a Research Assistantship for Professor John Bargh, at Yale University in the United States. My placement involved hypothesis generation, designing studies, creating materials for the study, running studies and statistical analysis. The work demanded total commitment and certainly stretched me academically beyond anything that I had expected.

Sarah-Beth Secret, Exeter Award holder, Psychology graduate.

The University of Exeter has an excellent reputation with graduate recruiters and our students and graduates compete very successfully in the employment market. Whatever path you wish to follow after graduation, we’re here to help and support you with all your career and employability needs.

Our Psychology graduates develop a wide variety of practical, transferable skills that are highly valued by potential employers, including communication, numeracy, independent learning and teamwork.

Our various British Psychological Society (BPS) accredited programmes contain substantial teaching on statistics and research methodology, as well as scientific methods. This provides students with invaluable experience in understanding quantitative and qualitative data – skills and experience which are attractive to employers.

These transferable skills provide a breadth of career opportunities for our students, whether it be through the traditional routes, to more diverse opportunities including, for example, market research, human resources, psychotherapy and counselling and advertising.

Further information about careers destinations of graduates can be found on the programme pages.

An employability enriched curriculum

Due to the wide range of generic skills, and the rigour with which they are taught, training in psychology is widely accepted as providing an excellent preparation for many careers... Psychology is distinctive in the rich and diverse range of attributes it develops – skills which are associated with the humanities (eg, critical thinking and essay writing) and the sciences (hypotheses-testing and numeracy).

Source: The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education 2007. Subject benchmark statement: Psychology, pp2-5*.

Exeter's fantastic reputation for research and academia means we get the opportunity to hear from a diversity of speakers from around the world and different fields of experience. These opportunities allow us develop our commercial awareness, as well as various other skills, and through my role as an employability group member I have actively helped to promote these events through social media as well as helping with event preparations.

Beckie Palmer, BSc Psychology student.

Due to the wide range of generic skills, and the rigour with which they are taught, training in psychology is widely accepted as providing an excellent preparation for many careers. Psychology is distinctive in the rich and diverse range of attributes it develops – skills which are associated with the humanities (e.g., critical thinking and essay writing) and the sciences (hypotheses-testing and numeracy).

Source: The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education 2007. Subject benchmark statement: Psychology, pp2-5.

A strong emphasis is placed on your personal and professional development with degree programmes specially designed to develop academic, personal and professional skills that will prepare you for employment, future study or training for professional practice.

Employers are looking for numerous skills in potential employees, most of which fall into two categories: subject knowledge and exceptional communication skills. The skills acquired in any degree – for example, being literate and articulate, well organised, clear headed and with plenty of initiative – are clearly desirable. The particular skills acquired in psychology programmes are also highly sought after by employers, for example:

  • research skills and the ability to retrieve and organise information from different sources and to handle primary source material critically: manipulating data encourages clarity and develops your ability to identify key information from large and complex data sources
  • numeracy and the ability to understand, analyse and use complex data: psychological investigations test hypotheses and utilise your numeracy and data analysis skills
  • the ability to solve problems and reason scientifically to consider alternative approaches and solutions
  • the ability to make critical judgements and evaluations to gain different perspectives on a question
  • ethical awareness and sensitivity to contextual and interpersonal factors, including behaviour and social interaction
  • the ability to engage in effective team work including in interdisciplinary teams: group work, an essential part of our psychology programmes , develops your team work and leadership skills
  • personal planning and project management skills: our programmes necessitate that you hone these skills becoming more independent and pragmatic

Psychology Employability Group

Holding a role as an employability group member allows students to have an input into the creation of events and to gain key skills in event promotion and commercial awareness. It also counts towards the Exeter Award.

Work experience

[A Psychology degree can equip you with a very valuable perspective and psychological literacy.] ... psychological knowledge can bring unique insights into human thinking, emotion, motivation and behaviour. Psychology graduates understand individual differences, diversity and ethics. Psychological literacy means being able to apply this knowledge and skills to real life contexts.

Source: The Future of Undergraduate Psychology in the United Kingdom. 2011. Higher Education Academy Psychology Network. p33.

[A Psychology degree can equip you with a very valuable perspective and psychological literacy.] ... Psychological knowledge can bring unique insights into human thinking, emotion, motivation and behaviour. Psychology graduates understand individual differences, diversity and ethics. Psychological literacy means being able to apply this knowledge and skills to real life contexts.

Source: The Future of Undergraduate Psychology in the United Kingdom. 2011. Higher Education Academy Psychology Network. p33.

Work experience can include shadowing, project placements, industrial placements, vacation work and internships. Our Employability Team work with alumni and academics to build networks with local, regional, national and international organisations to establish avenues for student work experience.  During year one, Psychology students have the option to take a module PSY1206 Introduction to Research Methods  which includes an internal work experience placement where the student helps a researcher (staff member, post-doc or PGR) in an appropriate piece of research.

The PSY3906 Psychology Research Internship Scheme provides promising first, second and final year Psychology students with the opportunity to become involved in research projects within the School. This scheme has been designed to benefit participating student interns (who gain experience in conducting cutting-edge research in an area of interest) as well as researchers (who receive extra support in their research tasks).

 

Employability events

'Careers in Clinical Psychology' event

'What Next after a Psychology Degree?' event

We have a number of ways you can get involved and broaden your skills. Widen Your Options is a fortnight of events, that takes place during the spring term, to give students access to industry professionals from a range of sectors. Other resources that can further your employability skills include:

  • The CareerZone organises a series of pivotal events throughout the year, including careers fairs, forums and workshops Within Psychology a number of professional Psychologists give talks about psychology specific career options.
  • Widen Your Options is a fortnight of events, which takes place during the spring term, to give students access to industry professionals from a range of sectors
  • The Exeter Award is designed to enhance the employability of University of Exeter graduates by providing official recognition and evidence of extra-curricular activities and achievements
  • eXfactor is the employability and professional development day that aims to encourage you to consider what motivates you; where your interests and values lie; what skills you may already have; and which skills you need to develop in preparation for graduate level employment or further study.
  • The Career Mentor Scheme is a unique opportunity for all current students to be matched with an experienced professional to gain one-to-one careers advice, support and guidance into their profession and sector for 6-months.
  • eXepert Scheme provides students and recent graduates the opportunity to contact University alumni to gain advice on how to enter their chosen sector, work for a certain company, become self-employed or benefit from possible networking opportunities and contacts.

Careers in Clinical Psychology

Dr Kim Wright presented on careers in Clinical Psychology. Additional guest speakers also talked about their career paths towards becoming a Clinical Psychologist and other related professions. These included Joanne Woodford, who is currently working on a Research Training Fellowship to obtain her PhD, Associate Research Fellow Kay Rayton and first year Doctorate in Clinical Psychology trainee Laura Shepton. They shared with students their tips on writing applications, emphasised the need to gain experience in areas they enjoy and that they would have to work hard but that it would be worth it. Students commented that they “loved how some of guests told their own stories about progressing into the clinical field” and that “the event was really useful for clarifying options for the future”.

A day in a life of a Senior Research Psychologist

Alumna Laura Spear (BSc Psychology, 2005) delivered a seminar to a small group of second and third year students on her role as a Senior Research Psychologist at The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL). She spoke about how the knowledge and skills she learned during her time at Exeter have helped her career path to date and provided advice to those seeking employment. Students commented that it was “a wonderful opportunity to see careers I would otherwise never have heard of” and that it was good to hear from an “enthusiastic and knowledgeable speaker who is visibly passionate about her field of work”.

What Next after a Psychology Degree?

Three alumni guest speakers came to deliver presentations to Psychology students, sharing tips and talking about their career paths to date, as well as their current roles. Dr Stale Rygh (BSc Psychology, 2000) also shared his experiences within Clinical Psychology, highlighting key elements of the application process. Dr Caroline Gashe (DCLIN Clinical and Community Psychology, 2011) spoke about the many routes one can take in the field of Psychology as well as sharing her top tips on getting onto a Clinical Psychology Doctorate, and her role within Child Clinical Psychology. Dr Clare Elcombe Webber (BSc Psychology, 2004) talked about her extracurricular activities during her time at Exeter, highlighting the importance of volunteering and gaining valuable experience.

Students commented that the talk was “remarkably useful and interesting. I now have a better idea of my career prospects and understand what I need to achieve to obtain a career in Psychology”.

South West Undergraduate Conference

As part of the Psychology undergraduate degree programme, all students have the opportunity to present their final year research project at the South West Undergraduate Conference. The annual conference brings together students from across the region, including those from the University of Bristol, University of Bath and Plymouth University, to present their findings amongst their own peer group.

Psychology and your career choices

Find out more from our staff and students how studying Psychology at the University of Exeter can enhance your career choices. View full size.