Want a career in advertising? How about human resources, general management or accountancy? Believe it or not, psychology is the subject that can open the door to a career in them all.
Its relevance to so many fields of work has helped make it the second most popular degree course at Edge Hill University – but a famous, heavyweight forensic investigator also has to take some of the credit for the upsurge of interest.
Professor Philip Erwin is Associate Head of the Department of Social and Psychological Sciences. He is philosophical about the influence television has on the popularity of the course. “We do get more applications when something like Cracker is on the television. It’s inevitable really, the media can have a significant impact on young people’s career choices, but there are many more reasons why Psychology keeps on growing.
“One of its advantages is that it is a great subject for all-rounders. Psychology is not just about spoken and written words, but elements such as statistics, which takes a few undergraduates by surprise. Students also need analytical thinking, listening and people skills.
“Our students choose Psychology for a variety of reasons and many have a specific career in their sights. Today’s students generally know what is involved, as they may well have studied the subject at A-Level. Gone are the days when people thought studying Psychology was one step removed from mind-reading!”
Five years ago there were questions asked about the huge rise in the number of A-Level psychology students in the UK and the increase in popularity of psychology degree courses. But the whole sector has expanded enormously in recent years and there are good opportunities for graduates across a range of disciplines. While it’s true that those determined to move into Cracker-style forensic psychology roles might have to join a queue, in other sectors opportunities continue to grow.
Professor Erwin said: “This is certainly not an easy course – our students must be both numerate and literate, with a good all-round skill level. We expect a lot from them but, at the end, the opportunities are out there.
“The fact is that there has been something of an explosion in relevant jobs, particularly in psychology relating to health and sport. There used to be a stigma in this country about getting involved with a psychologist or therapist of any kind, but that has gone. People can have their emotional wellbeing taken care of from the cradle to the grave and this is widely accepted as part of our society now. In some ways people see therapy as a positive thing, showing that they can take control and helping them to get the most out of life.
“People are also more interested in health without the need for drugs and psychology can play a part in that. It’s the same with more people wanting to enhance their sports or business performance; even their parenting skills. Whichever way you look – and the US has found the same to be true over the past decade – it is a growing sector.”
There are two main career routes for Psychology graduates. They can move onto a number of postgraduate training courses, notably Educational Psychology, Clinical Psychology, Work Psychology, Health Psychology and teaching and research in further and higher education. The Department of Social and Psychological Sciences at Edge Hill has a strong record of research and encourages new graduates to register for higher degrees such as MPhil and PhD.
“Psychology is for those with an interest in all aspects of human thought and behaviour and while there are so many possible career choices, I cannot see its popularity diminishing. We get applications from a wide range of people with different aspirations – but the overall message must be the course is much, much more than mind-reading.”
A Wide Ranging Degree
The study of psychology is growing to incorporate many diverse areas of life. Sectors such as education, health and sport are all benefiting from a better understanding of the human mind and Edge Hill’s range of psychology courses cover many of these areas.
Dr David Putwain, Senior Lecturer in Educational Psychology, said: “Students wanting a career in teaching, educational psychology or educational research will definitely have an edge by studying Educational Psychology. This is because in addition to the core areas they also get to focus on the psychology of reading, education and neuropsychology, and also complete a six-week work-based placement which gives them invaluable work experience.”
The mind and behaviour of elite sportsmen and women make for a fascinating subject. Students on Edge Hill’s Sport and Exercise Psychology degree explore cutting-edge psychological theory and research covering both elite sport performance and the influence of exercise on psychological well-being. Dave Marchant, Senior Lecturer, said: “Interest in sport and exercise psychology continues to grow and the discipline is currently one of the fastest developing areas of the discipline. This course gives students the chance to explore how psychological science explains sport and exercise behaviour and how we can use this to help develop athletes.”
Students who choose the Health Psychology route benefit from a full-time six-week work placement in a health or community setting. Dr Marianne Quick, Senior Lecturer, said: “This is a unique feature of the programme that provides ideal experience for those wishing to apply for intensely competitive postgraduate places on the Stage 1 Health Psychology qualification, or enter health research.”