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Developing your career: Psychology

What makes us who we are? What influences how we feel, think and act, and how we relate to others? Psychology is the scientific study of the human mind and behaviour – and a psychologist applies their understanding to a wide range of real world contexts.

These include:

  • clinical – support for people with a range of different mental or physical health issues
  • educational – supporting children's learning and social, emotional and behavioural development
  • forensic – working with offenders, victims and staff in the justice system
  • occupational – helping organisations get the best from their people, improving job satisfaction and the quality of working life
  • health – helping people achieve a healthier lifestyle, and managing the psychological aspects of ill health
  • sports and exercise – working with individuals, teams and organisations
  • counselling psychology – supporting people experiencing a wide variety of life challenges and mental health conditions.

To work as a practitioner psychologist, you’ll need to do significant further study, training and supervised practice beyond a degree. Approximately 20% of all UK psychology graduates go on to qualify as professional psychologists and you can find out more about the routes to professional practice from the British Psychological Society and the Psychological Society of Ireland. But whether or not you take this route, study of psychology opens up exciting job opportunities in areas such as advertising and marketing; education and careers advice; health professions, social services and police; management and human resources.

For detailed information about typical jobs within these areas – including day to day activities, the qualifications you need and what you might expect to earn – visit the Prospects careers website, GradIreland website, or Skills Development Scotland website.

How the OU can help

The OU is Europe's largest provider of university-level education in psychology

OU psychology courses are highly regarded in the profession. Our BSc (Honours) Psychology (Q07)* is approved as the first stage of professional training, and we’re proud to produce more psychology graduates than any other university in the United Kingdom.

Our psychology graduates gain an impressive breadth of knowledge and skills that make them highly employable across a wide range of sectors. Through studying psychology you will gain an understanding of psychological ideas, theories and methods; how to analyse and evaluate psychological concepts; assessing and using different kinds of evidence. You'll also develop essential transferable and work-related skills such as:

  • communication
  • numeracy
  • effective team-working
  • independent and critical thinking
  • IT and data handling
  • analysing and evaluating diverse sources of information, including qualitative and quantitative data
  • designing and carrying out research projects, and presenting their findings
  • problem-solving and reasoning
  • application of learning to real world problems and situations
  • independent learning.

*This degree is designed to deliver the requirements for the Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership (GBC) of the British Psychological Society (BPS). To be eligible for GBC, you must achieve a 2:2 (or higher) degree classification. In addition to our BSc (Honours) Psychology, the following OU degree courses are also accredited by the BPS – BSc (Honours) Psychology with Counselling (Q84), BSc (Honours) Social Psychology (Q83) and BSc (Honours) Forensic Psychology (Q82).

Getting started

If you’re not quite ready for degree-level study in psychology, our People, work and society Access module (Y032) could be exactly what you’re looking for. It’s designed to build your confidence and study skills while introducing ideas and debates about children and young people, health, law, management, psychology and social science. By the end of the module, you’ll be well prepared to begin your first full OU course.

More about Access modules

Work experience

Open University study puts you at a distinct advantage when it comes to putting your learning into practice, as you’ll be encouraged to apply your learning immediately to your own context, and to build on your experience to develop real-world knowledge and skills. If additional work experience could enhance your learning further, consider volunteering in a context that reflects your career aspirations – for example, helping out in a nursery or school; helping to run an activity, sports or youth club; training as a helpline counsellor, working as a prison visitor or volunteering in a hospital or care home. The OU Careers & Employability Services website contains a vast range of resources including those focused on students studying psychology.

Note that you’ll need to apply for a police check to work directly with children, young people and/or vulnerable adults.