Department of Psychology

Undergraduate study

Professor Silke Paulmann with a psychology student

Unravel the complexities of human behaviour

The greatest understanding we can have is of ourselves and others.

To truly make positive contributions to communities and the wider world, we first need to understand what drives people to think, feel and act in the ways they do. This understanding is even more important when our society faces increasing uncertainty and challenge. Psychological science can provide innovative insights on every topic imaginable from social inequality and climate change to our romantic relationships and healthy living.

Studying Psychology at Essex means embarking on a journey into the thoughts, feelings and actions of individuals. Our research and teaching spans three overlapping areas: thinking about the world, interacting with the world, and experiencing the world. These three themes feed through in to our modules. You can study areas such as memory and attention, emotional behaviour, or the impact of culture on ourselves and on group behaviour.

Satisfy your curiosity by learning from researchers at the cutting edge of psychological science – discover how fascinating techniques and intriguing theories allow us to answer questions such as:

  • Why don’t some people comply with health interventions or engage with recycling schemes – can we change that?
  • Why are social relationships so important – how do we make and break them – and what can we do to improve our relationships?
  • What can neuroscience tell us about the function of consciousness and our sense of self – how can we use these insights to understand disorders such as autism and schizophrenia?
  • How do parenting choices in the earliest weeks of a baby’s life impact them for years to come?
  • How does our cultural background affect thinking, motivations, personality, interpersonal behaviours and group processes?

Join us to learn from world-renowned experts, benefit from our state-of-the-art facilities, and pursue your intellectual passion. By studying your degree in our Department of Psychology, you will take the first steps towards understanding yourself and the people around you. Whatever the future holds, we will give you the experience and skills needed to flourish.


Explore our undergraduate courses
Why choose us?
  • 91% of our psychology students are in employment or further study (Graduate Outcomes 2020)
  • Ranked among the top 250 psychology departments in the QS World University Rankings by Subject (2020)
  • All our degrees include employability modules designed to help you develop your CV, identify your career aspirations, and practice applications, so you graduate ready for employment.

COVID-19 and Teaching in Psychology

Will COVID-19 change the way my course is taught?

If for any reason you are unable to travel to campus to start the academic year, all teaching will be available virtually. This means that you can start, or continue, your programme off-campus, wherever you are, with full flexibility to transfer to on-campus learning as soon as you are able to.

A particular challenge that we have embraced is that of running psychology experiments when it is not possible for participants to visit our labs in person. Drawing on world-leading expertise in our department, in your first-and second-year modules we will teach you how to use technology to conduct high-quality research online, as well as in lab settings where this can be done safely and appropriately.

What will this mean for my learning experience?

For the 2020 academic year, we are focusing on ensuring that we are able to deliver a quality education and that your teaching and learning can continue if there is further disruption. That’s why we’ve been working hard to ensure that our students are able to start with us in October – in whatever way possible. The changes we have made to support you and protect your health and wellbeing mean that, for most of our courses, this will include online learning – with lectures, classes and other teaching taking place online, and academic support hours offered in-person. Much of this teaching will be offered “live” (even if online/ virtual) but will also be available to access at times that suit you.

We know that your learning experience is about more than just attending classes, and our campuses can provide you with all you need to make the most of your studies. This includes private space to study, in your on-campus study bedrooms as well as in PC labs and other spaces on our three campuses for self-study. We can also offer you access to laptops on loan and access to our library services; as well as enhanced wifi provision across our campuses.

We have also been working closely with the British Psychological Society to ensure that we maintain the high standards that are recognised by their accreditation of our degree programmes.

What happens if the situation changes before I start or during my time at Essex?

We recognise that some students may have difficulty travelling to campus in time to start the academic year. If for any reason you are unable to travel to campus to start the academic year, all teaching will be available virtually. This means that you can start, or continue, your programme off-campus, wherever you are, with full flexibility to transfer to on-campus learning as soon as you are able to. However if you are an overseas student and you aren't able to join us on Campus in the autumn, then you will need to be aware of some immigration changes taking place in January 2021.

All of our modules are designed to support you to continue learning and still be able to access one-to-one consultation and guidance that you would normally get from the lecturers on your course, if further outbreaks of infection occur during the year. This means you can join us in full confidence that you can continue and complete your programme of study.

There is lots of helpful information about starting at Essex in our guide for applicants should you have any questions, feel uncertain about something in particular, or, would like up to date information on specific topics if your situation changes. 

What will my broader student experience in the Department and on campus be like?

We are proud to be a friendly, inclusive department, and we will continue to be as open and accessible as possible. We understand that the social aspect of university is just as important as the education, so we are will continue to host tutorials and events on campus, with appropriate physical distance to keep you safe, and we will also provide online support.

We have an active Psychology Society and our Department has a long tradition of regularly organising social events and get togethers. We will also organise online social events, such as coffee mornings and quizzes. And we will keep everyone updated with life in the department through our regular Psychology Newsletter.

We have been working in partnership with our Students’ Union to ensure that you can enjoy our clubs, societies, activities and services. We have built in flexibility to enable you to access support and activities, and to shape your experience around your life.

To learn more about the range of events Essex will be hosting, please visit our events calendar. To stay up to date with the very latest guidance on how to visit your campus, view our coming onto campus guide.

How will the University support me during this time?

The health and wellbeing of our students is our priority, and this has been one of the focuses to ensure students can start on campus – safely – in October.

This means we are constantly monitoring advice from the UK Government, Public Health England, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the World Health Organisation.

To protect our community on campus once the academic year starts again in October, we will be looking to introduce the following measures:

  • Enhanced cleaning and sterilising regimes
  • Social distancing in line with international guidance
  • Signage and floor markings in key locations to help you move around our campuses safely

We’re asking you to wear face coverings in all public campus areas where social distancing is difficult to maintain or in specifically designated locations. We’ll be supporting you by giving two washable face coverings to all students.

There is a number of support systems available to you whilst you are at Essex, for whenever you need them and for however long you wish to use them.

These include: 

The University also runs a variety of online events throughout the year including at-home yoga and mindfulness sessions.

To find out more about the network of support you will benefit from during your time at Essex, please visit the Student Directory.

Within our department you will be assigned an Academic Tutor, who will be your key contact point throughout your time with us. If you are concerned about your academic progress, or are worried about managing your deadlines, then you can always talk to them. We also have a dedicated team of professional services colleagues in our department office, who will be on-hand to support you and answer any questions you may have.

"I have been an Intervention Co-ordinator for the past 5 years. I support children with autism and associated learning difficulties, who also have specific sensory, behavioural, medical, social or emotional needs. In Psychology, I learned about memory and different learning styles. This helped me recognise different learners and allowed me to adapt teaching strategies as a result. It has been rewarding to see the progress children have made, from being able to communicate better to being able to play with others."
Luis Salinas Herrera BSc Psychology 2015

So, what can we offer you?

Choose between a BSc and a BA

Our department offers both a BSc Psychology and a BA Psychology.

With these courses the only difference is the award you receive when you graduate, you'll receive either a Bachelor of Science or a Bachelor of Arts. The modules you take are the same for both degrees, you will be taught by the same lecturers, and have access to the same facilities.

What's more important is whether a degree is accredited by the British Psychological Society (BPS). You can find more information about this on our course listings. Otherwise it is simply down to personal choice – would you prefer to have a BSc or a BA? Because these courses share the same modules, you can change your mind about which exit award best suits you and your future career plans – simply let our Professional Services colleagues know and they will update your record.

Research Experience Scheme

We provide one of the most immersive and exciting opportunities to study psychology through collaborating with our researchers. Our Research Experience Scheme is designed to help you become more familiar with the process of academic research by working one-on-one with a psychologist as their research assistant. Throughout the year, academics will advertise for undergraduate students to get hands-on with a research project, whether it’s helping plan experiments, recruit and test participants, or analyse data.

You will gain a deeper insight into how real-world research is conducted from initial ideas and the details of carrying out research, to the conclusions that you might be able to draw about human experience. The research scheme might inspire your final year project, and help you decide whether to pursue research as a future career.

And even if you know postgraduate study isn’t for you, then it will help build your experience, skills, and confidence in project management and collaborative working. Your supervisor will also be ideally placed to provide you with a personalised reference when applying for jobs.

Skills for your future

In our department we know that the skills you learn with us are essential for your future career. Throughout your degree, you will develop the essential scientific and transferable skills that are in demand in a range of sectors across the world.

Our modules are designed to give you hands-on experience with psychological research technologies. You will learn how to collate and analyse datasets, and identify and explain relevant patterns and results. You will discover how to design effective studies of your own, and to appraise and critically evaluate those of others.

Throughout your degree, you will enhance your numerical skills through modules that focus on statistics. The University’s Student Development team run support sessions for mathematics and statistics throughout the year, so you can benefit from additional support.

But in the 21st century you need more than just expertise in a field of science. We also equip you with the transferable skills that are essential for all jobs. These range from both oral and written communication skills, through to team working, critical thinking, and organisation and time management.

Your learning will be showcased in your final-year project. With support from your chosen supervisor, you will devise a research question, formulate predictions, carry out studies using our specialist facilities, analyse your results, and write up your discoveries in a report.

Employability is embedded in your studies from the moment you join our department. In your first year, you will undertake our module Introduction to Personal Development and Employability, which will help you familiarise yourself with personal development planning and the resources available around the university. In your second and final years, you will have further modules that will help you identify your future career aspirations, practice job applications and interviews, and create a career action plan so you know what steps you need to take after graduation.

You will finish your course with everything you need to flourish in a range of careers, both within psychology and beyond.


Undertaking a psychology degree doesn’t mean you have to become a psychologist. Psychology is increasingly important for a range of areas including education, training, industry, sports, and legal and health matters. The skills and knowledge that you develop with us can be applied to a host of roles across multiple sectors.

Our graduates have followed diverse career paths in a variety of organisations:

  • Public sector, including with the Civil Service in the Ministry of Justice and the Prison and Probation Service, healthcare through the NHS, and in education as primary school teachers and special educational needs support staff.
  • Private sector, including financial institutions such as M&G Investments, professional services organisations such as Accenture, and media groups including the BBC.
  • Third-sector organisations, including mental health charities such as Mind.
  • Alternative routes, such as starting a business, or following an academic career by undertaking a research degree.

And of course, many of our students have gone on to careers within psychology including counselling, clinical psychology, and educational psychology.

Some of our graduates return to us for further study by opting for a Masters degree. An MSc in psychology or cognitive neuroscience can enhance your research skills and give you the necessary boost for a promotion, or it may help you decide on a career change.

Expert staff

Our teaching and research is led by academics who are experts in their specialist fields of interest. We have a diverse range of expertise, from studying the effects of autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) on well-being, to understanding how we can encourage the public to “think green”, and how inequality impacts on the way individuals view the world. Our work is highly interdisciplinary, and we collaborate with our academic colleagues in the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, the Department of Mathematical Sciences, and the School of Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Sciences.

Our research feeds in to our teaching, so you benefit directly from the work we carry out, the papers we publish, and the impact we have on society.

We emphasise this expertise through our research seminar series. Throughout the academic year, we host academics from other institutions who present their latest work to our department. We encourage our undergraduates to attend these seminars, so you can learn more about research in the wider psychology community and benefit from additional expertise in other areas.


Our department is set up with all the facilities you need for psychology research. Our Centre for Brain Science is home to a range of physiological measurement systems (for measuring heart rate, skin temperature, galvanic skin response), as well as eye-tracking technology, Electroencephalography (EEG, a non-invasive way of tracking brain activity), near infra-red spectroscopy (NIRS, which records changes in blood oxygen levels), and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS, a non-invasive way of stimulating parts of the brain), and a dedicated virtual reality suite.

We are also home to the Essex Babylab, where some of our developmental psychologists discover how babies and infants develop as they grow, including understanding how we develop and acquire language, and how we come to recognise our “self”.

Placement year and year abroad

Many of our courses can be extended for a year by undertaking a work placement or spending a year studying abroad.

A placement year is an ideal way for you to gain relevant work experience and apply what you’ve learned to a professional, real-world, context. With help from our department and the University’s Student Development team, you will select and apply for placement opportunities that interest you. You can choose what to apply for, whether you want to remain close to the University of Essex and apply for opportunities in the local area, or save money by finding something closer to home if you live further afield.

Alternatively, undertaking a year abroad in another country to study at one of our partner universities can mean stretching your wings and experiencing another language and culture. You don’t need to go far – we have partnerships with institutions across Europe. But if travel is something that excites you, then you can explore opportunities in South Korea, Australia, Canada, and many more.

Signing up to a degree including one of these years doesn’t commit you to going. We know that things change, so if you decide you no longer want to undertake a placement year, or don’t want to go abroad, we can swap you on to a standard three-year degree.

Study your interests

We offer a range of undergraduate courses, including our BSc Psychology with Economics, which gives you the opportunity to study modules offered by our Department of Economics.

In your final year you will benefit from a wide variety of optional modules, which enable you to build a programme of study that reflects and hones your interests. Our modules cover core areas of psychology with a specialist twist including ageing and the impact of neurodegenerative diseases, decision-making, and human sexuality and relationships.

If you have a particular career in mind then you can choose modules that give you a head start on gaining suitable knowledge and experience. But even if you’re not sure what your future holds, you may find an area that has always intrigued you and have the opportunity to discover more. 


Many of our degrees are accredited by the British Psychological Society (BPS). Accreditation is a sign that our courses have been successfully tested against a set of rigorous external criteria, set by professional experts in the field of psychology. BPS accreditation opens up further education routes that can lead to you specialising in areas such as clinical psychology or educational psychology.

If you finish a BPS-accredited degree with a minimum exit award of 2.2 then you can apply for graduate BPS membership. This is the first step towards becoming a chartered psychologist, and opens up further education routes that can lead to you specialising in areas such as clinical psychology or educational psychology.

Integrated Masters degrees

We offer integrated Masters degrees in Psychology with Cognitive Neuroscience, and Psychology with Advanced Research Methods.

An integrated Masters degree is a four year degree which allows you to finish your time at Essex with a Master of Science (MSc) qualification. It is an ideal option if you are already considering a Postgraduate Taught degree after finishing your undergraduate studies (for example if you know it will be required in your career path or if you are planning on doing a research degree in the future). 

You will still have the same modules and the same access to facilities as other students. An integrated degree simply means that you do not need to apply separately to stay on after your final year of undergraduate study.

Part of our community

We are an international community of psychology experts from a diverse range of backgrounds. Some of us have always known we wanted to study psychology, and some have come to academia later in life after following other career paths. But we are united by our focus on understanding our place in the world through psychological science.

By joining our department you will become part of our community. You will learn and work alongside staff and fellow students who are passionate about uncovering how we think, interact with, and experience the world.

As a department we host events throughout the year including our annual Christmas party, while our vibrant Psychology Society runs regular social events such as coffee morning catch-ups, and walk-and-talks. We keep you up-to-date with all the latest student news on twitter and through our monthly psychology newsletter. We’re always keen to hear from students about what they enjoy so have your say on the student-focused events that you want to see in the future.

But we also know that university is more than your degree. Our Students’ Union hosts a broad range of sports teams, and cultural and activity societies including the Bookish Society, the St John Ambulance Society, and the Debating Society, which are open to all students.

Alice Sherlock, Department of Psychology graduate, standing outside with a city in the background.
"I work for the Chatteris Educational Foundation, a registered charity in Hong Kong. We work in collaboration with local schools by placing native-English tutors into underprivileged schools to develop the proficiency, confidence, and soft skills in Hong Kong students. Hong Kong has a big gap in English proficiency and students attending lower banding schools will often struggle to get a job or into university with little to no English. It’s great to see the students develop and pick up on your accent and idioms. I also absolutely love managing the tutors and seeing their progression and development throughout their time with us!"
Alice Sherlock BSc Psychology 2016
Get in touch
Psychology undergraduate enquiries