Department of Psychology

Career prospects

In the middle is a graduate standing in a queue, talking to three other graduates in the foreground with their backs to the photographer. A line of people outside a building can be seen in the background.

How do you see your future?

Do you imagine a standard 9-5 at a computer? How about a career where you make a positive impact to people's lives?

Your psychology degree will equip you with advanced understanding of human behaviour, making you an excellent candidate for people-focused roles. Your knowledge of psychology and skills in scientific reasoning, problem-solving, and analysis will open up opportunities to a broad range of careers across all sectors.

  • After further study/training, recent graduates can go on to become Chartered Psychologists, supporting people with mental health difficulties.
  • You could help neurodivergent young people flourish in school through Special Educational Needs roles.
  • You could work in roles that need skills for resolving conflict in personal relationships or workplaces, such as family mediation or human resources.
  • Your skills could be used to help people in the criminal justice system work through rehabilitative programmes, giving them the best chance of re-joining society.

Throughout your degree, you will have opportunities to take part in work experience (including a year in a work placement), hone your skills and CV through training sessions and volunteering arranged by our University, and get hands-on with projects offered by our Research Experience Scheme.



Explore our Undergraduate courses Explore our Masters courses
Which jobs will suit me?
  • A psychology degree, especially one accredited by the British Psychology Society, will provide you with the foundations needed for specialising in areas such as Clinical Psychology or Educational Psychology.
  • Many psychology graduates decide on careers in other areas and the skills you learn during your degree opens doors to careers in market research, human resources, and people-focused careers such as counselling or Special Educational Needs.
  • Our psychology graduates have progressed in diverse careers across the public, private and third sectors, including working for the Ministry of Justice, and the Ministry of Defence, law firm Linklaters, and organisations like The Priory Group and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

Career opportunities

Chartered Psychology and Counselling

Completing our accredited psychology degree is the first step towards becoming a Chartered Psychologist. The British Psychological Society states that after your undergraduate degree you need to undertake an accredited postgraduate degree and further training or successfully carry out doctoral psychology research.

There are several areas that you can specialise in as a Chartered Psychologist:

  • Clinical psychologists work to improve the psychological wellbeing of clients with mental and physical health diagnoses such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress, addiction, and neurological disorders.
  • Educational psychologists support children and young people with socio-emotional and learning difficulties to achieve their potential, by carrying out various activities like assessing learning needs, developing methods to support learning and development, and developing and delivering well-being interventions.
  • Forensic psychologists work within the justice system to assess and treat criminal behaviour, often conducting criminal profiling and assessment, implementing rehabilitation programmes, and contributing to policy and associated research.
  • Health psychologists help people manage the mental health impact of illness, such as those who have a chronic condition or have suffered a lifechanging injury. You can also support people make changes to improve their long-term health, such as stopping smoking.
  • Occupational psychologists enable positive change in organisations to improve job satisfaction for employees. This can be a diverse field to work in because there are many aspects of employment that affect employee satisfaction, from relationships with colleagues to work-life balance.
  • Sports and exercise psychologists work with athletes and coaches to help them mentally prepare for competitions, or apply psychological research to improving public participation in exercise.

If you want to improve people’s psychological wellbeing but aren’t able to commit to the Chartered Psychologist pathway, then a career in counselling could be a good option.

The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) offers a range of courses that can lead to a qualification in counselling, or you could consider an accredited postgraduate degree such as a Masters degree.

Counsellors use psychological theory in therapeutic contexts to help clients (e.g., young people, families, couples) with challenging personal issues and mental health difficulties, including domestic violence, relationship difficulties, depression, and psychosis.

Private sector

The private sector covers privately owned businesses and organisations, from start-ups and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to multi-national corporations.

Your psychology degree will equip you with advanced understanding of human behaviour, making you an excellent candidate for people-focused role. in the private sector while retaining the flexibility to move between organisations.

  • Human Resources roles range from Equality, Diversity and Inclusion to deliver an organisation's EDI strategy, or Learning and Development, supporting employee personal development through training provision.
  • User Experience (UX) Researchers use qualitative and quantitative research methods to explore how people use or react to a service or business. These roles span wide-ranging organisations, like large retailers who want to understand customer experience, and software developers who want to discover how users interact with their products.
  • Events Co-ordinator and Management roles utilise attention to detail and organisational skills to deliver bespoke events to companies that may hold workshops and conferences, or at large venues that host events and have in-house catering.

Third sector

The third sector covers diverse organisations, from Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and international charities, to local community interest groups and social enterprises.

If you want a job where you will have a positive impact on people’s lives then the third sector could be an ideal next step.

  • Marketing or communications roles focus on promoting an organisations work and online presence in various ways such as through media communications, social media strategies and producing corporate publications and brand identity.
  • Charity Support Advisors or Services Advisors work with a charity’s clients ensuring access to support and services by signposting to relevant resources, contributing evidence to statements of support, and working with other professional agencies to develop action plans.
  • Charities and community interest group Programme Co-ordinators run programmes that help raise awareness of support and services, by, for example, creating learning activities to help homeless adults join the workforce, and designing and delivering workshops in local schools for vulnerable children.
  • Roles for Wellbeing or Support Workers can be found in mental health charities. You'll use your psychology experience to work with clients that need low level assistance, for example finding support for anxiety or depression.

Public sector

The public sector is one of the UKs biggest employers. It includes the governments of Scotland and Wales, local government bodies such as county councils, central government departments including the Cabinet Office and Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, and non-Ministerial bodies from the NHS to the Intellectual Property Office.

Psychology graduates have a collection of skills that make them suitable for a broad range of jobs in the public sector.

  • Social workers play an essential role in protecting children and vulnerable adults at risk of harm. After completing your psychology undergraduate degree, a postgraduate degree in social work can be the next step towards this role.
  • Intervention facilitators work to deliver programmes designed to reduce the risk of reoffending and complete reports on offenders who take part in sessions. This role can also be a step towards a career in forensic psychology.
  • User Researchers, such as those at the Department of Education, design and run research activities that inform areas of work such as digital services and policy development.
  • Casework Support Officers in the Competition & Markets Authority work with investigators to progress criminal cases through document management, project planning, and data analysis.

Civil Service Fast Stream

The Civil Service Fast Stream is a professional development programme that trains graduates for senior leadership roles in government departments. There are fifteen different schemes which range from two to four years of training, with a starting salary around £27,000 a year.

Schemes have different requirements for qualification type and subject. The Diplomatic and Development Scheme requires a 2:2 in any subject, while the Government Statistical Service requires at 2:1 undergraduate degree, or a postgraduate degree, in a subject that includes taught statistical content such as psychology.

Successfully completing the Fast Stream will make you eligible for roles in public sector departments where you could be earning between £40,000 and £50,000 a year.

Teaching and Special Educational Needs

A psychology degree is useful for working in Special Educational Needs (SEN) settings such as specialist teaching centres for young people with autism, or mainstream schools that require one-on-one support for learning difficulties such as dyslexia.

To work in SEN you will need Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), which you can gain by completing a teacher training course, or by working as a Teaching Assistant before moving onto a Straight to Teaching programme. Once you have QTS you can apply for SEN roles. Alternatively, you can undertake a Masters degree in a specialist area such as Inclusive Education.

Qualified teachers can also work as a Special Educational Needs Co-Ordinator (SENCO), with a requirement to complete a National award in Special Educational Needs Coordination within three years. SENCO roles focus on organising and managing SEN provision for pupils, ensuring that they receive appropriate support.

Skills development

Specialist skills

As part of your degree, you will learn a collection of specialist skills that will be suitable for your future career. We teach these skills through direct application to specific problems and concepts within psychology, so you will understand how they will be applied across a multitude of roles.

Some of the specialist skills that you will develop through your degree include:

  • Experimental design and analysis – You will gain an understanding of the connections between theory, method, and evidence by identifying a research question or area of interest, developing theoretical ideas, devising and carrying out an appropriate experiment to test your theories, and then analysing the data generated. You will also understand and apply your knowledge of ethical issues that can surround psychology research and how to adapt your work accordingly.
  • Critical thinking and evaluation - You will learn to understand and critically evaluate concepts and theories of psychology, scientific literature and evidence, and your own research and that of others. This could include identifying weaknesses in data, assessing ethical considerations, and understanding personal biases (both yours and others), or considering alternative research methods.
  • Quantitative and qualitative research skills - You will gain a diverse set of research skills through designing studies, carrying out practical laboratory experiments using our facilities, analysing and evaluating generated data, and writing the results up, as well as how to carry out literature searches and reference your sources appropriately. You will develop an understanding of both quantitative and qualitative research skills, their relative strengths and weaknesses, and how they can be deployed effectively in your work.

Transferable skills

In addition to specialist scientific skills your degree also helps you further enhance a range of transferable skills that you will have started to develop at school, such as:

  • Communication - You will develop your communication skills through tasks such as oral presentations and writing essays, project proposals and scientific reports. You will learn how to adapt your work for a range of audiences, such as “translating” complex scientific knowledge for a non-expert audience, how to visualise and present data, and how to communicate with research participants so they can make informed decisions about participation.
  • Collaboration and team working – Working as part of a team is essential for many roles. Through your degree you will understand how to collaborate effectively with your peers in order to complete a piece of work. This can include leadership skills (including understanding team dynamics, awareness of individual biases, and reflecting on others’ behaviours), how to complete your own work while progressing team goals, and managing tasks and workloads to make the most of team members competencies while reducing the risk of on-going work-based stress for yourself and individuals.
  • Independent working - Your final piece of work will be your research project. With supervision from one of our academic staff you will put into practice everything you have learned during your degree. You will identify an area of research, examine the relevant literature, create and carry out your own experiments, and then analyse the data and write up the results. Along with gaining confidence in your skills and awareness of your competence, you will also take responsibility for your own skill development in areas that you have identified as needing additional support.

Our graduates

The journeys they’ve taken, the opportunities they’ve experienced, the contacts they’ve made, and the variety of careers paths that have been embarked upon. Our graduates have shared their stories with us, and now we get to share them with you.

Supporting your development

Research experience

We operate a Research Experience Scheme which is open to all undergraduate and Masters degree students in our department.

Throughout the academic year we advertise opportunities to take part in academic-led research projects. You will assist in a range of research tasks, such as setting up experiments and collating data, recruiting participants, or reviewing relevant papers.

The Research Experience Scheme is a great way to help develop your research skills in advance of your final project. It can also give you an insight into the process of academic research if you’re considering postgraduate study or an academic career path.

Socials, Hospitality, and OUTreach Scheme (SHOUTS)

Our department also runs our Socials, Hospitality, and OUTreach Scheme. This scheme runs for 8 weeks in a term and requires minimal time commitment (normally no more than 5 hours per week) so it can fit in around your timetable.

As part of SHOUTS, you will work within a small team on projects that promote and showcase our work and department. Projects vary from term to term, but can include helping run social media accounts, contributing to the departmental newsletter, or helping promote or manage events run by the department.

You will gain experience in teamwork, project management, and communication (including digital communication), while learning more about aspects such as outreach, research promotion, and how to develop engagement and impact with different audiences.

Specialist employability modules

Throughout your degree you will take part in employability modules that have been designed to give you an insight into the process of job hunting, and identifying and developing your professional skills.

These modules are run through a combination of lectures and workshops, held in collaboration between department staff, the university Careers team, and guest speakers. You will learn how to identify a career pathway, what skills and experience you need to succeed at applications, how to tailor your CV and personal statement to each job, and how to make the most of opportunities such as postgraduate study.

We know that for many students, particularly those who are the first in their family to attend university, the graduate job market can appear difficult to navigate. These employability modules help demystify the process and help you find the right path for you.

Tailor your degree with optional modules

Psychology is naturally a very diverse subject. Our experiences during our lifetimes impact us all in different ways. As a result, you will be given opportunities to tailor your degree to your interests with some optional modules in your first year and your final year of studies.

For example, if you know that you want to work with children with Special Educational Needs then you may choose modules that focus on child development or neurodiversity, or if you want to continue a research path then you can take modules that have a strong emphasis on statistics or programming.

In your undergraduate first year we also offer some optional modules outside our department. These may change from year to year, but generally involve related departments such as the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, the Department of Sociology and Criminology, and Essex Business School.

Placement year and work experience

If you are concerned about a lack of detail on your CV come graduation time then taking part in a placement year or finding some relevant work experience during the holidays could help you bridge that gap.

Placement year

Many of our degrees include an option to pause your studies for a year in order to carry out a work placement in a relevant organisation or field. This takes place after your second year, and once you have completed your placement you will return to the university for your final year of undergraduate study.

With support from the university Careers team and our department, you will identify and apply for placement year opportunities with external organisations. You will gain valuable work experience that you can add to your CV and may be able to use a contact as a reference when applying for jobs.

Work experience

If you don’t want to spend a whole year away from your studies then you can look for more flexible work experience opportunities, especially during the summer break.

Along with standard internships offered by large, established organisations, you could find suitable opportunities through Essex Interns. Managed by the university, Essex Interns helps connect small and medium businesses with no formal internship schemes with students looking for work experience.

The university also offers paid employment opportunities for students on our campuses. These range from our Student Ambassadors, who help represent the university at Open Days and Offer Holder Days, through to Frontrunners who work on projects, often for our professional services teams.

Study Abroad

If you are interested in travelling abroad and studying in a different country, then our study abroad year may be suitable for you.

After completing your second year of studies, you will spend an academic year abroad studying your subject in one of our partner institutions. You will then return to Essex for the final year of your degree.

Studying abroad is a fantastic way to expand your horizons and live in a different culture. If you are fluent in or wish to study a second language, then you can look for institutions in a country that speaks your preferred language. But we also have partnerships with English-speaking countries including Australia and the USA.

Support for entrepreneurs

Some psychology graduates use their skills and experience to start their own company, for example working in HR consultancy or running their own counselling service.

Our university can support you on the path to entrepreneurship. Throughout the year business start-up events, such as boot camps or elevator pitches, are run by the Essex Start-ups team. You will also have access to events and support through our Innovation Centre and the University Enterprise Zone.


Both the department and the wider university offer mentoring schemes for students.

Our department has a peer-to-peer mentoring scheme that focuses on helping first year students settle into the department and their studies. Typically, mentors will be second year or final year students who can help guide new students through the first period of their time at Essex. This can range from understanding essay feedback or how to find your way around campus, to sharing your experience of applying for a placement year or signposting resources offered by other university teams.

Peer mentors are managed by the department and full training is offered to those who wish to volunteer. Acting as a mentor can be a good experience to have on your CV as it displays skills around co-operation and leadership.

Career mentoring

The university runs a career mentoring scheme that is designed to help students understand more about potential careers and the process of job applications for graduate roles.

Mentors are often alumni but can also be volunteers from the local community. Through a series of meetings (6 meetings of 1 hour each) you can discuss your career aspirations, review your CV to identify gaps, or ask questions about interviews or assessment centres.

Gaining this outside perspective of your planned career can give you a real boost when it comes to applying for jobs as you will have a greater understanding of how the graduate employment market works.

Integrated Masters degrees

If you know that your future career path will require a Masters degree, then you could undertake one of our Integrated Masters degrees.

You will spend a minimum of four years in our department, plus an extra year if you take a year abroad or a placement year. The first three years will cover your undergraduate degree, which you will study as a standard Bachelor’s degree.

After your final undergraduate year, you will move straight into your postgraduate taught year. You will not need to reapply to join our department, nor will you need to seek academic references.

Continuing your studies with us means that you can carry out further learning and research in a familiar environment, with the same academics you have built relationships with over the previous three years.

View our Integrated Masters options
Careers adviser looking at paper work
Your future matters, your career matters

You don't need to have your future all planned out. We offer a range of opportunities to build your CV, and gain valuable experience and expertise, including guidance on creating a start-up or becoming an entrepreneur, to ensure your career is on the right track for when you graduate.

Find out more