Student Blog: Work experience for Psychology graduates

UoY Careers Balloon illy      Adele James is a MSc Cognitive Neuroscience student at the University of York

“Psychology is one of the most popular degrees in the UK but, unlike other sectors, there are no internships or graduate schemes into the field and almost any job will require additional training and education.

Entry level jobs, like Assistant Psychologists or Research Assistants, are very difficult to come by. Worryingly, some of these jobs are becoming ‘honourary’ or ‘voluntary’, where you will be required to work for free. An honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay it is not – why should employers pay a salary when people are willing to work for nothing?

The field of Psychology should be investing more in its graduates, but in a difficult economic climate, we instead are needing to become more creative in our job hunt.  We’re constantly told that to have a degree these days is simply not enough and the pressure is on to complement our academic studies with work experience. Jobs like relief support work, healthcare assistance, volunteering in a charity shop etc. are all options that can enhance your employability when you graduate.  Be aware, though, that work experience in clinical or counselling settings can be very difficult to find because of issues surrounding patient confidentiality.

Even if you can’t find work that suits a Psychology degree, don’t give up! I worked in retail during my first degree, which wasn’t ideal, but it means I can talk confidently about team-work and prioritising deadlines it an interview situation.  Honestly, it can be difficult to juggle your commitments and workload and sometimes I struggled, but it does give you the chance to demonstrate those organisational and time management skills. It wasn’t until I started my Masters here at York that I did any work that was remotely linked to Psychology; I currently volunteer as a research assistant in the department, something that I sorely wish I had done during my first degree.

Be prepared to do further study or a year or two of work experience – my decision to do a postgraduate course has been incredibly expensive but I knew I just had to do it if I wanted to succeed in my career plans.

If you’re not interested in doing further studies, or even working in the field of Psychology, then all is not lost – graduates can be in particular demand because the transferable skills you learn during your degree are so diverse. Scientific reporting, data analysis and good communication will mean more to most employers than will being able to remember Piaget’s Three Mountain Problem, sadly.

I think that any employer worth their salt will appreciate how difficult it is out there for Psychology graduates at the moment, but by getting some practical experience you prove that you can work well in a team, you are reliable and you can communicate effectively, all of which will put you in good stead when job hunting later on.”

Adele James


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