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Becoming a Psychologist Part 1 - Getting Started

14 Jun 16:00 by Kai Theriault

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In order to work as a Psychologist, you will need a degree and postgraduate qualifications.

However, the starting point for each individual’s journey is different.

Some start studying at school or college, while others don't start until university (and some wait until even later, with an accredited Postgraduate Conversion Course).

But whatever level you're currently at in your education, the information below is designed to give you a taste of what to expect when studying psychology.

GCSE (and equivalent)

Courses at this level are designed to give students an introduction to the science behind people's behaviour and an early understanding of how psychology can be used to improve quality of life.

Course content will vary depending on the exam board, but will normally include a mix of simple practical work and an introduction to psychological research in the following key areas:

  • How do people develop?
  • How does memory work?
  • How can psychological problems affect people?
  • How do others affect you?
  • What makes you who you are?
  • How do you interpret the world around you?
  • How do people communicate? 

By the end of your course, you should have gained a greater understanding of how psychology works, and its role in society, that will put you at a big advantage if you choose to continue onto a Psychology A Level or Scottish Higher programme.

Further Education

A Level, Scottish Highers, and International Baccalaureate level courses will take a closer look at the development of certain ideas and theories in psychology, with a greater emphasis on learning how to critically analyse evidence.

The exact content of your course will vary depending on the exam board, but you can expect to study subjects such as:

  • Social Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Approaches in Psychology
  • Psychopathology
  • Biological Psychology
  • Issues and debates in Psychology

You will most likely undertake some practical research and may get the opportunity to create your own experimental project, and by the end of the course you should be able to understand, analyse and form opinions on theories, and to present and communicate your knowledge in a clear way.

Generally an A Level or Scottish Higher qualification in psychology is not necessary to go on to undergraduate study, but many institutions require at least one science A Level.

In fact a survey conducted by the Society’s Psychology Education Board (PEB) discovered that 25% of accredited courses prefer candidates in possession of a science A Level.

University

Completing an accredited degree course is one of the best ways to take your psychological education to a new level.

Not only is it a great first step towards becoming a psychologist, but research has shown that psychology graduates are highly regarded by employers in many different industries, due to the transferable nature of the skills which they acquire during their degree.

We strongly recommend that you take an accredited psychology degree that gives you eligibility for Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership, as this is required to gain entrance to the various postgraduate courses and training programmes required to become a fully Chartered Psychologist.

Degrees in psychology can be taken as a single, joint or combined honours course, and cover a variety of content in the areas of human mind and behaviour, with a particular focus on:

  • Biological psychology
  • Cognitive psychology
  • Developmental psychology
  • Social psychology

With additional attention paid to:

  • Conceptual/Historical issues
  • Individual differences
  • Research methods

Many degrees allow students to select their own modules in addition to core content, and all will include some form of independent project and practical work.

If your degree course is modular, it may be necessary to choose certain modules to qualify for GBC, so it's best to check with the course organisers to ensure that your choices will lead to an accredited psychology degree.

To start your search for an accredited course, please click here.

For more information on becoming a Psychologist, visit - https://beta.bps.org.uk/public/become-psychologist