Psychology And Employability

This is a link to the website of the Higher Education Academy. Their role is to provide advice and support to universities. They have a Psychology specialist

https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/node/3269

This is the document they have produced about Psychology and employability.

https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/sites/default/files/psychology-dept-employability-guide.pdf

With UCAS on the horizon, people thinking about Psychology degrees inevitably want to know where a degree might take them. This document gives you some idea. Here are some key points.

a) Psychology is a vocational degree but not in the same way as, say, Dentistry and Law are. You need a Psychology degree to do professional training in a BPS approved field: that makes it vocational. However, the percentage of Psychology graduates who pursue careers in professional Psychology remains low at between 15 and 20%. This is much lower than for other vocational degrees. This has some negative consequences. People are put off from doing a Psychology degree even when they might get a lot out of it because they don’t want to be a professional psychologist afterwards or think their chances of getting on a training course are small. People who are on a Psychology degree focus on a Psychology destination which may not be attainable or relevant to them, not realising that they are developing skills, knowledge and attributes which are much in demand in other fields. People regard not being a professional psychologist as some sort of failure.

b) We need to think more about employability. People tend to see employability in terms of knowledge. You learn things which are useful for your career. We might at a stretch think about employability in terms of skills: literacy, numeracy, research skills, collaboration etc.. This paper however adds two more elements. The first is about efficacy beliefs. This is about having the confidence and self-awareness to get the job done. The other element is meta-cognition. This is about taking a step back, thinking about your own thinking and learning and working out what to do next. These go beyond being skills to being dispositions or attributes.

c) The crucial argument is that a Psychology degree puts people in a strong position to develop employability. The content of a degree course contains subject content that employers value. That’s true of A Level too. An understanding of stress, memory, compliance/internalisation, social change, mental health, addiction, obesity, advertising, research methods etc. is going to be highly relevant in very many workplaces, particularly those that are concerned with innovation and managing change. Psychology students develop strong and varied skill sets through the range of things they do. We learn to write and test hypotheses like scientists but also write essays like humanities students. Since Psychology involves thinking about how we think, efficacy beliefs and meta-cognition become both subjects of study and ingrained habits.

d) You will see online data about employment destinations. These do not look particularly positive for Psychology graduates either in terms of what people do or how much they earn. This is due in part to the fact that people who want to train as professional psychologists often work at a non-graduate level immediately after graduating before embarking on a master’s degree or further training. An example of this is a former student I met recently who is working for the National Blood Service to get some experience of a health setting before she embarks on a clinical Psychology doctorate. The BPS is currently developing a survey of graduates, following them over about seven years in order to understand more about their longer term career trajectories.

 

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