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A complete guide to psychology degrees

Here, we unravel what a psychology degree entails, how to get a place on one, and how it could set you up for a great career once you finish your studies.

Psychologist at work

If you’ve decided that a degree is the right academic and career path for you, it’s vital to choose the right degree subject. To help you make that decision, FutureLearn has created useful degree guides. 

Here, we unravel what a psychology degree entails, how to get a place on one, and how it could set you up for a great career once you finish your studies.

What is psychology?

Psychology is all about understanding how people’s minds work. Why we think the way we think. What makes us behave in particular ways. 

People who study psychology often go on to become psychologists, helping people better understand their own cognitive processes and cope with all kinds of issues around mental health, past traumas and processing the thoughts, feelings and emotions we have.

What is a psychology degree?

To become an expert in psychology and how the mind works, the best route is to study a formal psychology degree, which teaches you the fundamentals of the subject and normally lasts three years.

Beyond your degree, if you want to go on to become a clinical psychologist working for the NHS or privately, you usually need to complete further postgraduate training and work experience.

Online Degree

MSc Psychology Conversion Degree (BPS)

  • 1 year+
  • postgraduate
  • Flexible Learning
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What types of psychology degree are there?

Most psychology degrees fall under the BSc banner, which means a bachelor of science award. Many people study straight psychology degrees, but some institutions offer more specialist, focused or combined degrees. 

Below are a few examples of courses that offer good job prospects. This is not an exhaustive list. Other areas of study can include forensic psychology, neuropsychology, counselling, and environmental psychology.

Psychology BSc

The most common pathway to a psychology degree is a Psychology BSc. As a psychology undergraduate you’ll learn the basics of neuroscience, cognitive behaviour, how to conduct research and analyse your findings. 

Later in the course you’ll get to specialise in areas of psychology that interest you, whether that’s health, education, developmental behaviour or language. These choices will be based on the kind of work you want to do when you graduate.

Child psychology

Some institutions combine psychology with the study of children and young adults. These courses look at how the human psyche develops according to both genetics and behaviours young people learn from the environments, communities, families, schools and societies they grow up in.

This pathway can lead you to very niche and specialised career roles within education or social work, which you can read about later in this article.

Sport psychology 

The psychology of professional athletes is a fascinating and potentially lucrative field of work and study. Much research takes place in academia and sports clubs to better understand the pressures and impacts of our minds and thoughts on what we can achieve on a sports field or arena – whether in team sports or as individuals.

Business psychology

How organisations and companies function, and how the different people and roles in those organisations behave, is increasingly under scrutiny.

Studying workplace behaviour, relationship building, hierarchical structures and other aspects of professional bodies is a valuable skill in the modern office. 

What do you need to get a psychology degree?

To get a place on a psychology degree course at a UK university you’ll need to study A-Levels or an equivalent qualification. The average entry requirements range from 100–160 UCAS points, depending on which institution you are applying to. 

Psychology degree must-haves

This table shows you the essentials you’ll need to achieve to be accepted on to a psychology degree course. 

Qualification typeMinimum grade requirementMax. grade requirement
A LevelB, C, C (three passes)A*, A*, A*
BTECM, M, M (three merit passes)D, D, D (three distinctions)
Scottish HighersC, C, C, C, C (five passes)A, A, A, A, A
International Baccalaureate30 (overall score)42

Psychology degree nice-to-haves

It’s a good idea to study a science subject (biology, chemistry, physics) at A-Level (or equivalent) if you intend to study psychology, as most universities see this as essential for a good preliminary understanding.

Maths and computer science A-Levels are also looked on positively, as they demonstrate the ability to apply critical or analytical thinking and problem-solving to your studies. 

Likewise, anthropology, sociology, philosophy, history and politics set you up well. Even better, study psychology at A-Level!

Work experience at a care provider that offers psychology or therapy to patients would also look good on your application, and when asked at a possible interview at the university of your choice. Try to get a summer temping job at a local NHS trust or write to independent practitioners to ask if you can do a week’s work experience at their office.

What does a psychology degree cover?

You will study modules over the course of three years that will cover a range of fascinating psychology-related subjects, including:

  • Evolution – how the human brain has evolved
  • Research – methods of conducting and analysing studies
  • Behavioural psychology – how our minds govern our behaviour
  • Cognition – how the brain processes information
  • Social psychology – how we relate to the world around us

How long does it take to get a psychology degree?

Well, in many ways, getting the degree is the easy part. Depending where you study, your degree should take 3-4 years to complete.

That’s when things get serious! If you want to go on to become a clinical psychologist, you’re going to need another 2-6 years of postgraduate study (a masters degree or PhD), and/or some on-the-job training, working and accreditation. E.g. working as a trainee while completing your academic studies.

How much does a psychology degree cost?

The average cost for a degree course in the UK is £9,250 per year. So multiply that by 3 years for your psychology degree and you’re looking at roughly £19,000

You can take out student loans to pay for the fees, which you pay back later when you start working and earning money. Many students will also need maintenance loans to pay for their accommodation and other essentials like food, travel and leisure. The maximum loan is around £10,000 per year if you study outside London and around £13,000 in London.

FutureLearn offers psychology degree courses online, of course, which can mean less financial impact for things like travelling and accommodation. The costs of our online courses are also highly competitive compared to in-person courses.

How to get a degree in psychology 

To study psychology and come away with a qualification, you must follow the same pathway to any other degree. That will involve:

Step 1 – Choose the best course for you

First choose a number of universities and course options that you like, then narrow them down to your favourite five (or fewer), then look up the deadlines and application requirements

Decide whether studying in-person at a university or taking an online degree is the best option for you

Step 2 – Prepare your personal statement

Applying for a degree requires getting the right grades, but also telling the university about yourself. This comes in the form of a written statement, usually a few paragraphs long, where you get to advertise yourself, promote your strengths and accomplishments, describe your hopes and dreams, why you want to study psychology, and what you wish to learn and achieve at the course

Step 3 – Apply

It might sound obvious, but you’ll need to put in an application in order to do a psychology degree. For most degrees in the UK you will apply online through UCAS. The process is quite straightforward, but teachers, mentors, local education services or online guides can help.

What jobs can I get with a psychology degree?

Once you complete your degree, you can then decide whether continuing to study psychology and becoming a psychologist is right for you, or whether you would prefer to take the skills you’ve learned, knowledge you’ve acquired and qualification you’ve attained, and go into the world of work.

Or you can decide to continue studying towards a postgraduate qualification and go onto become a professional psychologist.

We’ve summarised the skills and types of job you can get after studying psychology:

What skills will I gain with a psychology degree?

  • Practical skills – how to devise and plan projects e.g. research/experiments
  • Communication skills – how to present and discuss ideas (written, verbal and visual)
  • Research – qualitative and quantitative methods for gathering/analysing information
  • Critical thinking – going deep into exploring, analysing and evaluating information
  • Problem-solving – using your critical thinking skills to find solutions
  • Teamwork – your degree will sometimes involve working in groups and  teams
  • Time management – writing essays and your final dissertation comes with deadlines
  • Reporting – you will learn how to synthesise results/concepts into written reports
  • Statistical analysis – the ability to read and comprehend data

What jobs can I get with a psychology degree?

Whether you study to graduate or postgraduate level, multiple job opportunities will open up, including:

  • Counsellor/psychotherapist – use your acquired knowledge to help counsel people dealing with a huge range of psychological issues, including depression, anxiety, grief, relationships or anger management
  • Social care worker – support vulnerable or socially disadvantaged people and families going through crises or issues. This can include working with children or older people
  • Mental health worker – whether in a school, work or domestic setting, thousands of people struggle with their mental health and need guidance and support from a professional
  • Addiction recovery practitioner – help people with drug, alcohol or other addictions through recovery programmes
  • Speech therapist – help children and people recovering from illness or psychological impairment to speak and communicate well
  • Psychiatrist – if you complete the full 6+ years of studying, training and accreditation, you could become a clinical psychiatrist treating people in medical/healthcare environments such as the NHS who have serious mental illness conditions
  • Business management – use your insight into the human mind and behaviour to lead teams and increase profits and efficiency  in a commercial business environment
  • HR professional – working in human resources requires knowing about humans and what makes people and teams click. Perfect for those who have studied psychology
  • Teacher/lecturer – stay the course, go all the way through your learning adventure, then teach it! Whether at school, college or university, teaching is a rewarding career with lifelong job opportunities.
  • Occupational therapist – guide, nurture and design solutions for people who have physical, mental or social needs to make it possible for them to participate in an active life, complete everyday tasks and improve their quality of life
  • Researcher – use your analytical and problem-solving skills to carry out qualitative and quantitative research for market research firms, social research agencies, academic institutions or public bodies

Is a psychology degree right for me?

First ask yourself: are you a people person? Psychologists, like doctors, managers, journalists, even receptionists, and many other roles, need to be able to relate to people and engage with them in ways that make them comfortable and responsive.

Secondly, are you interested in learning about the complex functioning of the human mind?

If the answer to both of the above is yes, you have the right basics. Next you’ll need to think about the career options laid out above, and whether they are right for you. If so, you will be highly rewarded in your choice of degree.

Postgraduate opportunities

As mentioned previously, you can go on to further study in psychology. You can also use your degree to study other types of related masters subjects, including:

  • Social Psychology MSc
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy MSc
  • Neuroscience MSc
  • Speech and Language Therapy MSc
  • Clinical Psychology DClinPsych
  • Organisational Behaviour/Change PhD

How much do psychologists earn?

The average earnings of a chartered psychologist start at around £44,000 and move up to around £57,000 for experienced roles. However, if you decide to go private and open your own practice, the earnings ability can take you up to £80,000 or higher, depending on your client base, location and how many hours you’re prepared to work.

Online Degree

BSc (Hons) Psychology

  • 3+ years
  • undergraduate
  • Flexible Learning
Apply now

What are job prospects like for psychology graduates?

According to UCAS research, there were over 14,000 jobs available for clinical psychologists in the past year. The future prospects are also good, with the number of roles expected to increase by over 6% over the next eight years.

So rest assured, a psychology degree will set you up for a stable career with a wide range of fulfilling and rewarding job opportunities. 

>> Kickstart your psychology career and explore our collection of online psychology degrees

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