Department of Psychology

What is Psychology?

Psychology is the scientific study of mental life and human behaviour. It helps explain how we think, feel and act both individually and as part of a social group.

The study of Psychology is based on scientific research principles and studies involve a range of methods, including experiments, brain imaging, interviews, case studies and observations. Results from these studies are analysed using statistical techniques and in-depth qualitative procedures to explain or predict behaviour.

Psychology is a broad discipline that covers a number of topics, such as memory, personality, child development, mental illness and social relationships.

The basis of psychology can be traced back to the Ancient Greeks, with the roots of the subject developing from biology and philosophy. The discipline draws on a number of different approaches to explain human behaviour.

Why study Psychology?

TED video: The world needs all kinds of minds

There are some more useful insights into a number of psychological topics in these TED videos.

A degree in psychology is excellent preparation for a diverse range of career paths. Unlike many degrees, it provides both clear routes for progression, whilst also giving you the flexibility to develop into other professional fields.

An undergraduate degree in this subject will prepare you for starting your career working directly in psychology based jobs, such as counselling, education, and mental health work. It will also make you attractive to employers for roles working with people and positions requiring good communication and relationship skills.

By studying psychology you will:
Girl reading books in coffee shop
  • find ways to improve your memory
  • learn about the key stages of development with children
  • develop sound analytical skills through the application of scientific method
  • identify the different types of mental illness and their symptoms
  • understand aspects of social behaviour such as attitudes, stereotyping and prejudice

Better understand yourself and others

Learning about behaviour patterns, social groups and human development is really interesting.

It will help you better understand yourself and others, while also learning about significant findings in the subject field.

It can be rewarding to find out how to help with common social problems and work closely with others. Many people take a degree in psychology simply because they enjoy working with people and understanding why they behave a certain way.

Further study

Many of the areas of study and research techniques you will learn as an undergraduate are ideal preparation for further study at master’s level.

You will often need to specialise in a particular area, and if you are looking to conduct research you will need to have a firm idea of what it is you are aiming to investigate.

Analyse and interpret complex data

You will benefit from a high-level understanding of collecting, managing and interpreting complex data.

A significant part of any psychology degree will require a firm understanding of conducting experiments and collecting results. The data you collect will be tested for statistical significance using a number of statistical techniques (such as Correlational tests, T-tests, ANOVA and Multiple Regression).

Psychological research also involves the investigation of the meanings associated with particular concepts (such as mental illness, unemployment or drug taking) by individuals and social groups. Data from interviews, surveys and observational research are analysed using qualitative procedures to explore this aspect of everyday life.

Psychology reading resources

If you have not studied psychology before then these books are a great introduction to the subject area:

  • Slater, L. (2005) Opening Skinner's Box: Great Psychological Experiments of the Twentieth Century. London: Bloomsbury
  • Holt, N., Bremner, A., Sutherland, R., et al. (2012). Psychology: the Science of Mind & Behaviour. (2nd Ed). Berkshire: McGraw-Hill.
  • Zimardo, P. (2012) The Lucifer Effect: How Good People Turn Evil. New York: Rider.

What will you earn?

As the career options for psychologists are highly varied it is difficult to specify a particular salary band.

Typically those going into further study and working within a clinical psychology or counselling role can earn upwards of £25,000 at a junior level (rising significantly when working in more specialised or senior positions).

Those working in mental health care can expect initial salaries of around £20,000 and a forensic psychologist can earn upwards of £25,000 (rising in some cases to over £60,000).

There are numerous career opportunities within the public and private sector for employment in management and senior management positions.

Degrees in psychology