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The basics
Study abroad : Subject Guides

Why should you study psychology abroad?

The human mind is a fascinating area of study, and with a degree in psychology can be the path to an amazing career

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A common misconception about psychology is that it is about ‘reading minds’, that psychologists can know what another person is thinking or feeling. A simple mistake to make, perhaps: ‘psychic’ and ‘psychologist’ both have the same root word, ‘psyche’, referring to the human mind in both its conscious and unconscious forms.


For much of human history, understanding of the human mind was considered the understanding of the soul, and indeed, psyche can be translated to soul, but modern psychology is a scientific study, one with a history of only about 150 years, with many viewing the German psychologist Wilhelm Wundt as the ‘father’ of the field. (Another common misconception is that Sigmund Freud founded Psychology as a discipline!)


Wundt was the first figure to describe himself as a ‘Psychologist’ and defined it as a discipline distinct from Biology and Philosophy, which the study of the mind had previously been relegated to: now it was a science of its own. In the relatively short time since Wundt 'established' psychology, it has grown into a massive field with many different, interrelated areas of study, and as awareness of the impact of bad mental health continues to grow around the world, it is only likely to see its relevance increase.


To give just one example proving the necessity of understanding the human mind, the World Health Organisation estimates that 300 million people globally suffer from depression: how much more vital could it be to understand the causes of, and solutions to, this pressing health issue?


What do you need to study psychology?



Are you fascinated by what makes human beings human: how we are able to think and feel and express ourselves in a way unlike any other animal? Do you wonder why we dream at night, and what the significance of these dreams may be? Have you ever thought about how we are able to conceptualise thoughts and express them verbally? Having a curiosity about the human mind and its inner workings is a sign you might be interested in studying psychology, and also a good first step to getting on to a Psychology degree. Universities are interested in applicants motivated by a desire to explore the human mind and its functions.


Being able to show you're an understanding, compassionate person with the patience to listen to people even in very difficult circumstances is also important, especially if you hope to pursue a career in practice (for example, counselling or therapy) after you graduate.


Specified academic entry requirements will vary from university to university, but generally speaking institutions are looking for individuals who can combine this compassion and curiosity with a scientific background, for example by having an A Level or equivalent in one of the Sciences (particularly Chemistry and Biology), or in some cases Maths.


What can you do with a psychology degree?



It is important to be realistic about any dreams you might have of becoming a psychologist – there are many psychology graduates, and only a small amount will go on to become registered psychologists. To pursue this career requires a master’s degree at the very least, and professional accreditation: to arrive at this point takes years of hard work and dedication. It is also important to think about the areas of psychology you might choose to specialise in: you may be more interested in Cognitive Psychology, which focuses on language, memory, understanding and problem-solving, than you are in Developmental Psychology, which is concerned with the changes that take place to a person’s mind over their lifetime, for example.


The same is also true for related fields including therapy, psychotherapy and counselling: a Bachelor’s in psychology is a great start to getting a career in these fields, but further study is also a necessity. This figure shows in the graduate destinations of those with psychology undergraduate degrees. In the UK, for example, a relatively low number of graduates are employment after six months of graduation (63.7%), but 16.2% are in further study, and 8.6% are working and studying (psychology requires a huge amount of practical experience, so working and studying is a common path).  


Despite this, the appeal of a career in these fields is clear, and there is a reason so many people pursue these paths: these careers involve making a huge difference to a people’s lives, are highly respected, and well paid. Yet a degree in psychology also provides graduates with many transferable skills that are applicable in fields beyond psychology, from care to teaching - the options are wide!


Where can you study psychology?


Whether an undergraduate degree in psychology is the start of your path to becoming a psychologist or you decide to take a different route after you graduate, choosing the right course and university for you is essential. There are nearly 2,000 institutions globally offering undergraduate degrees in the subject and related areas of study, here are some you might wish to consider.


Aberystwyth University, which offers a BSc (Hons) in Psychology and Criminology


  • The College of Saint Rose in Albany, New York, USA offers a Bachelor of Science in Psychology placing an "emphasis ... on the holistic appreciation of the human being through an understanding of the interactions among cognitive, social, emotional, and biological factors," allowing students to "pursue graduate study in a variety of fields such as psychology, business, counseling, social work, or women’s and gender studies" or "enter careers in human services, business and industry."
  • In Wales, Aberystwyth University offers a joint honours for those who take a particular interest in criminal psychology, with the Psychology and Criminology BSc (Hons). The degree allows students to "study the brain, the mind and behaviour to discover the reasons why people commit crime and the social cultural repercussions of crime."
  • The University of Adelaide has a strong focus on the science behind the human mind with their Bachelor of Psychological Science. The degree "delivers a comprehensive foundation in psychology as well as providing a choice of more than 20 majors and electives from various disciplines across the University" and prepares graduates for "a a range of exciting careers that require superior problem-solving, critical thinking and understanding of human behaviour."


You can find many more psychology courses here.

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