Gail Steptoe-Warren Talks Postgrad Psychology at Arden

We sat down with our Head of School for Psychology, Gail Steptoe-Warren, to talk about the benefits of studying the BPS-accredited MSc Psychology conversion course online with Arden University.

Discover how this conversion programme can help you to build a career in psychological practice.

Arden University's Gail Steptoe-Warren

What is a psychology conversion Master’s degree, and how does it differ from other MSc qualifications in psychology?

If you want to become a registered psychologist in a specific discipline area, you will need an accredited, first degree in psychology, or to have completed and passed a conversion course, such as Arden’s MSc Psychology.
You are then required to complete an accredited, discipline-specific MSc before finally undertaking your supervised practice (known as Stage 2 qualification), which you can find more information about on the BPS website.

There are eight discipline-specific areas of psychology; these are: occupational, forensic, clinical, health, educational, sports and exercise, and neuro. The course differs from other MSc qualifications as it’s a conversion course which, provides you with the baseline knowledge, skills, and the ability to continue a psychology career.

Who is Arden’s online MSc Psychology designed for?

This BPS-accredited programme is ideal for anyone who has a non-psychology related degree, or does not have sufficient credits from their psychology degree to confer Graduate Basis for Chartership.

The course provides an opportunity for you to build on your first degree to become eligible for the British Psychological Society’s Graduate Basis for Chartership, which you will need if you want to continue your training to become a psychologist.

The Arden University MSc is designed for anyone who wants to study in a flexible way, and is interested in human behaviour, thought processes, decision-making, and gaining an insight into why we are who we are. The programme allows you to develop theoretical knowledge and understanding of psychological concepts, and apply this knowledge to practice.

How does the programme reflect current trends and practices?

This MSc programme provides you with knowledge of seminal historical pieces of research that are still used within the field today, but also reflects on current trends and practices within psychology. We do this through our experiences as lecturers, practitioners, and researchers in our discipline areas.

We also require students to complete a dissertation project, which would focus on something that is novel, or where there is a gap in the literature, so that you are adding something to psychological knowledge or practice.

What are the benefits of studying on a BPS-accredited programme?

A BPS-accredited programme provides the Graduate Basis for Chartership (GBC) which is required to continue further training to become a registered psychologist with the Health Care Professions Council, which is our regulatory body.

Having an accredited degree opens doors for employment opportunities or further study on your journey to becoming a Psychologist. Accredited programmes are the gold standard that show you have covered the core areas of psychology and understand ethical practice. It is a mark of quality.

Can you outline some qualitative research methods you enjoy teaching?

When people hear you mention research methods, they automatically think of numbers. While psychology does have some of that, it also has qualitative methods which, is an alternative or complementary method approach to statistics.

This approach allows for the collection of data in a conversational and open-ended manner, and could be through interviews with individuals or groups of people known as focus groups.

One method I enjoy teaching is thematic analysis. It allows for the identification, analysis, and interpretation of themes from the data you have collected. It allows you to look for commonalities known as themes, and hence the name, thematic analysis. It also allows you to look for differences in responses, which can reveal as much as the commonalities we find.

What area of research interests you most?

I am interested in any form of human behaviour, and why we as humans make the decisions we do. For example, through the use of interviews with firefighters, I have found five overarching themes when looking at how decisions are made on the incident ground. These skills are trust, incident learning, skills, information gathering, and experience. This has now been used to assess firefighters’ development needs, and has informed their training.

These risk-critical decisions are important, as there is clearly an impact on life for the general public, as well as firefighters, and a risk to property. I have also interviewed and analysed data through thematic analysis of victim response to fire, and how people act and react in response to fire.

This links to numerous parts of our training as psychologists, in that when we have a stress response caused by an unusual incident such as a fire, we may not react in the way we would think we would react.
For example, prior to working on this project, I thought I would run from the house and call the fire service. Now, I am not so sure what happen, as my adrenaline would be pumping and could impact my rational decision-making.

This links into the biological side of psychology where we might freeze, fight or flee, and this was found in the research when some people ran from the property, some tried to fight the flames, and some just froze and let someone else take charge. These decision-making processes relate to cognitive psychology.

The core areas covered on the MSc Psychology are:

Research methods: these are methods that we as psychologists use when investigating a particular phenomenon. This can be through the use of quantitative techniques (statistics) or qualitative techniques (such as the thematic analysis example above).

  • Cognitive psychology: an area focused on the study of mental processes such as thinking, problem solving, and memory.
  • Social psychology: looking at how our thoughts, feelings, emotions and behaviours are influenced by others in society.
  • Individual differences and abnormal psychology: this area focuses on areas such as personality and intelligence, while abnormal psychology provides an introduction to the areas of depression, anxiety, and substance misuse.
  • Lifespan development: examining how we grow and change throughout our lifespan from birth to old age.
  • Behavioural neuroscience: which introduces you to the structure of the human nervous system, and gain a knowledge of human behaviour through a biological lens.