Holly Stokes, Psychology Experimental Officer at Arden University, offers some advice for anyone looking to boost their employability in psychology and related careers.
Studying for your psychology degree is an excellent starting point when you’re considering a career in psychology. However, you will need to develop a range of subject-specific and generic skills in order to strengthen your employability.
The UK Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education list skills that graduates should develop in their Subject Benchmark Statement for Psychology.
These are skills directly related to the area of psychology, including:
- the application and integration of psychological knowledge and perspectives
- the application of evidence-based reasoning
- the ability to use psychological tools
- the ability to carry out empirical research which employs ethical considerations;
- the ability to critically evaluate psychological research and theory.
Psychology students also need to develop more generic, transferrable skills, including:
- effective communication
- numerical reasoning
- computer literacy
- the effective retrieval and organisation of information
- awareness of factors contributing to effective teamwork
- identification and articulation of one’s own strengths and weaknesses;
- taking responsibility for one’s own learning and development through self-reflection, self-management and personal planning.
You will, of course, develop many of these skills while studying your degree with Arden, as we aim to provide you with as many opportunities as possible to present, get published, and attend seminars. However, you can also develop your key skills by building up your work experience.
This may include paid or voluntary work as an assistant, mentoring, or community support. It could also include shadowing, placements and internships - and remember to gain experience in the area of psychology you would like to work in.
Volunteering not only equips you with many transferrable skills, but also allows you to explore different areas of work which you may be interested in pursuing, following your degree.
Volunteering in the UK
Do-it: Allows you to find opportunities near you, using your postcode, with the advanced search options of selecting your availability, the type of activities you would be interested in, the skills you already have and would like to gain, and whether you would like to work in the community or from home.
Time Bank: Recruits and trains volunteers in delivering mentoring projects which tackle complex social difficulties.
SLV.Global: Provides placements in Sri Lanka, Bali and India which focus on global mental health in various communities requiring extra support.
Projects Abroad: Provides a range of volunteering opportunities in many destinations. Projects include child care, teaching, coaching, conservation and social work, to name a few.
The psychological organisations in your country should also provide you with some useful tips on identifying current opportunities. You can find a list of these organisations on the American Psychological Association's website.
Being Aware of Potential Career Paths
Apart from the obvious career paths available to psychology graduates, the skills you will develop while studying your degree also allow you to follow other paths, which you may not have yet considered, including:
Careers advisor – Provide information, guidance and realistic advice to help people make decisions about their education and careers, enabling them to meet their goals.
Education consultant – Aid in the development of the curriculum and work with schools and students to identify and provide support for specialist needs.
Detective – Manage a range of investigations in specialist departments: the criminal investigations department, fraud squad, drugs squad, fire arms squad, child protection department and the special branch (national security and international terrorism).
What is the role of a counsellor?
Counsellors build a trusting relationship with clients to encourage and facilitate discussion about their feelings, with the aim of making a positive difference to their lives. Counsellors tend to employ a particular approach to counselling and can work either in specialised areas, or with wide-ranging issues.
How do I become a counsellor?
The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) recommends completing the following stages of training to become a fully-qualified counsellor:
- An introductory course on the basic ideas and skills of counselling.
- A certificate in counselling skills.
- A diploma or advanced diploma in counselling – this includes the study of theory and ethics, as well as a supervised work placement.
Experiences in a helping role with wide-ranging client groups is desirable for those wishing to pursue this career path. There are many voluntary, counselling-related opportunities available, which usually include some basic counselling training.
A further step: becoming a counselling psychologist
A counselling psychologist specifically implements psychological theory and research into their therapeutic work with clients. Following the completion of a BPS-accredited psychology degree, individuals can then either complete a BPS-accredited doctorate or qualification in counselling psychology.
Work experience needed usually includes a minimum of one year’s experience in a mental health or counselling role. Other roles which are useful include experience as a psychological wellbeing practitioner, health or social care support worker, or a healthcare assistant.
This article was taken from the Arden Psychology Newsletter. If you’re an Arden student or member of staff, and would be interested in writing a topical piece for the newsletter, please contact Holly Stokes on firstname.lastname@example.org.