What can I do with my psychology degree?

A psychology degree can take you in many different directions. You may want to continue to specialise and become a chartered psychologist in areas such as clinical, occupational or educational psychology. Or you may want to get working straight after your degree.  Below are some questions you can ask yourself to help you decide on your next steps.

What kind of people do I want to work with?

Many psychology students say they want to work with people – think about who those people might be. Are you interested in particular conditions, mental health issues, offenders, children, athletes or employees? Psychologists work with all of these.

How much further study am I happy to do?

To become a chartered psychologist you will have to do further study. For some areas such as occupational or forensic psychology you will need to take an accredited Masters course followed by a year’s professional training. If you want to be a clinical, educational or counselling psychologist you will have to do a three-year doctorate. Competition for the doctorates is fierce and they require you to have significant work experience.

What kind of work experience am I willing to do?

The first step to psychology-related experience tends to be as a volunteer with organisations that support the particular client groups you have an interest in. Work experience can include befriending, providing helpline support through organisations such as The Samaritans or supporting pupils with special educational needs. https://do-it.org  is a good place to look for volunteering positions or check the volunteering section of our webpage. Many psychology students build up experience as paid support workers and http://jobs.communitycare.co.uk/ has vacancies.

Working as a research assistant can also be good for your CV, especially if you want to apply for a doctorate later on so keep your ears open for opportunities within your department.

I just want to get a job after I graduate, what can I do?

You find psychologists in lots of different fields. An interest and understanding of people’s behaviour and motivations could lead you to a career in marketing or advertising. If you’ve enjoyed the stats on the course perhaps market or social research is for you. If areas such as organisational and occupational psychology piqued your interest, a career in human resources or working for an occupational testing company might be worth considering.

Whatever you choose, your degree will have equipped you with some very marketable skills. You will have planned research projects, persuaded and recruited participants for experiments, have a good grasp of data and learnt how to present it. If you want help in presenting your experience or discussing your next step, book an appointment with us as a new year’s resolution.


Wannabe Creatives – Have You Considered the ‘Passion’ vs ‘Security’ Trade-off?

This post first appeared on the Careers Group blog. 

Careers in the creative sectors carry their own set of challenges. As many a struggling creative will tell you, there can be a trade-off between pursuing what you are passionate about, and securing a reliable income stream that will grow incrementally. This post is a brief case study of somebody who definitely prioritised ‘passion’ over ‘security’, and how they have made it work for them (so far!).

People's palace

My friend Irma didn’t know what kind of a career she would have, but she loved theatre and performance, and went to a London drama school because that was the option that she found most exciting. After graduating, regular acting work was few and far between. Irma loved travelling, and soon took off to travel around Europe in a camper van with her boyfriend. After a couple of itinerant years, she heard of volunteering opportunities with Theatre for a Change, a non-profit dedicated to empowering marginalized communities in Africa, and then spent six months in Ghana, facilitating drama workshops and legislative theatre with sex workers in an Accra slum. This experience, and the contacts Irma has accumulated over the years, led to invitations to get involved in projects which often are ad hoc in nature. Currently based in Berlin, Irma is working on a short project in a rural German town. The project involves facilitating refugees and locals to interview and film each other talking about their experiences as either refugees or ‘hosts’. This is to be followed by a workshop in a Dutch university teaching public speaking skills to postdocs.

Irma loves her work. She belongs to that tribe of people who surrender their career decisions almost completely to their interests and values, for which there is often a significant trade-off. From her story I’d like to highlight the following points, which those of you considering a career in the creative sectors may want to consider:

  1. How much unpredictability are you prepared to accept, in exchange for the thrill of exciting and varied projects?
  2. Passion wins the day. It is what will sustain you through difficult periods, and what will make others see value in collaborating with you. Do you have it?
  3. Your network may be the best source of information about new opportunities and collaboration. Put yourself out there, meet people, and find out what they are working on.

If you want to get some volunteering experience in the creative sectors, here are some places you could look:

Theatre for a Change volunteering opportunities

Princes School for Traditional Arts volunteering opportunities

Volunteering opportunities on CharityJob website

Do-it.org list many volunteering opportunities

Creative Skillset – a guide to the creative industries

Jerwood Charitable Foundation – opportunities for bachelors grads to get a start in the creative industries

Jalal Afhim

Careers Consultant

To be, or not to be (a lawyer)?

Doing a law degree but not sure if you want to be a lawyer? Well take a look at this post written by our previous law Careers Consultant on whether law is the right career choice for you.

School of Law

Since January this year I’ve been the careers consultant for laws at Queen Mary.  That means that as well as running appointments with students from a whole range of degree subjects, I also run appointments during certain times specifically for law students.  It doesn’t mean that if you come and see me, you have to want a career in law.  This is something I’m keen to emphasise, as on quite a few occasions now I’ve had slightly sheepish law students coming through my office door with their head hung low, announcing… “I’m so, so sorry, but I really don’t think I want to be a lawyer”.

Well, my very clear message to law students not wanting to pursue a career in law is that this is absolutely fine and a perfectly valid decision.  A law degree may well have a very natural connection to a career as a solicitor or barrister.  But, there are some very important things to bear in mind when it comes to deciding what you want to do immediately after leaving Queen Mary.

You Need Passion and Commitment

First, a career in law may be the obvious or “natural” choice for a law student, but it is by no means the easy option.  Securing a training contract or pupillage is notoriously hard, and all the more difficult if you have to “pretend” that it is what you passionately want to do, when really you are not so sure.  Even if you secure a training contract (and I’ll be specific about this branch of the legal profession purely because there are around ten times more training contracts than there are pupillages), the next three years (and beyond if you stick at it) will be no walk in the park.  Pouring over solicitors’ accounts during the LPC, cancelling dinner plans during the corporate seat of your training contract (and meticulously reviewing thousands of pages of commercial contracts instead) can test the commitment even of someone who has “always wanted to be a solicitor”, never mind the person who followed this route purely because it was the obvious choice.

You Have Transferrable Skills

Secondly, not pursuing a career in law does not mean that you are “wasting your degree”.  Law is one of a number of highly regarded academic degree subjects which, in addition to giving you knowledge of the law, will have enabled you to develop an impressive collection of transferrable skills including attention to detail, critical analysis, working under pressure, summarising, persuading, writing – to name but a few.  It is these skills, rather than your in-depth knowledge of the Unfair Contract Terms Act (by way of random example!) which are going to appeal most to the average employer.

You Have Time

Finally, if you decide not to pursue a career in law immediately after graduating, this does not necessarily rule out the option to do so a bit further down the line (this applies to non-law students too).  I know of several graduates who decided to just “get a job” after graduating, whether in retail, sales, marketing, the army(!) or pretty much any other field, so that they could get on with earning money and building up their skills and experience for the first few years after university.  Some of these graduates had an interest in a legal career while at university but were not yet ready to commit.  Others thought that the law definitely wasn’t for them.  Fast forward a few years, and some of these graduates are now happy and successful barristers or solicitors.  They used the first few years after university to really think about their career decisions, and were then able to use the skills they developed in their job after university as their main selling point to legal graduate recruiters.

You may now be convinced that just because you study law doesn’t mean you have to become a lawyer, but don’t know where to turn to work out what on earth you should do instead. You may also be thinking that it’s crazy of a law careers advisor to be telling law students not to do law!  That is certainly not what I’m trying to do.  The law can offer a truly wonderful career to graduates who are genuinely suited to it.  My point is rather, do not do it for the sake of it.  Really examine whether or not it is right for you – including by doing lots of work experience and, importantly, reflecting on this experience afterwards.  If it’s not for you, that’s ok – there are so many other rewarding careers among which you could find a perfect fit.

Katherine Dudnikova

[former] Careers Consultant, Careers and Enterprise Centre

Commercial Awareness in Law

This post on Law Careers.net recently caught my eye. As the article explains:

‘Commercial awareness is one of the key skills that law firms look for in future trainees and thus, if you are to succeed, you will need to develop this particular area of your brain’.

It even gives you some tips on newspapers to read, TV shows to watch and radio channels to listen to, to help improve your commercial awareness.

STEM, Finance and Business graduates – the new ‘Madmen’?

mad men advertising

Think advertising and media agencies and the traditional association is with arts and humanities students. After all, it’s all about being creative, right?

According to the media agencies making up GroupM, part of the WPP global advertising and marcomms group, there’s been a significant shift towards recruiting graduates from a broader range of disciplines. Whereas not so long ago there was an 80/20 split of humanities to other graduates, nowadays it’s more like 50/50. Why the change?

First it’s recognised that creativity comes in many forms and is not the exclusive preserve of the liberal arts. Plus technological advances have meant the nature of media and advertising is changing. With a focus on big data, analytical creativity and commercial savvy are increasingly needed.

So how does this work in practice? The visually and verbally creative teams at creative agencies come up with a marketing message for a client’s product. Then the media agencies pick up control of the marketing process, advising clients on how and where to advertise to make the most of their marketing budget. They ensure the message reaches the right people at the right time. It’s no use buying an expensive ad slot half way through a UEFA Champions League broadcast if the client’s target audience is 20-35 year old women into camping and yoga!

By capturing and analysing data from users across all digital devices (mobiles, PCs etc), media agencies are able to create very specific segments of audiences to target. They know how specific types of people can best be reached, ie, through which medium via which channels at which times. Which gives their clients more bang for their buck.

So, whatever form your creativity takes – verbal, visual, analytical or commercial – if you’ve got a passion for digital, the media world is interested.

Eight top tips for budding lawyers on how to secure a Magic Circle training contract


Q – What do you get if you mix a graduate recruiter, a trainee lawyer, two Vacation Scheme students and a first year undergrad getting an insight of Linklaters via their two day ‘Pathfinder’ programme?

A – Eight great tips on how to impress when applying to a Magic Circle firm!

  1. Do a Vac Scheme if possible, to learn to think like a lawyer (it’s a slightly different approach to studying law in an academic way). BUT don’t despair if you don’t bag a Vac Scheme at your ideal firm. Linklaters has many trainees who picked up legal experience elsewhere. Why not start by volunteering at QMUL’s own Legal Advice Centre?
  1. Know the difference between law firms. Both how types of firm differ (eg US firms and Magic Circle firms) and how each firm differs within a type. Do the research.
  1. Be genuine, honest and self-reflective. They’ve lost count of how many applicants cite the same examples of skills on the application form or at interview. Yes, being hockey captain demonstrates teamworking/leadership, and organising a ball at uni shows initiative/interpersonal skills etc. But if you want to stand out, try also giving examples of things that didn’t quite work and what you learned/how you would do things differently.
  1. Be creative in looking for opportunities for experience. One panel member simply emailed firms outside the UK asking for an internship. He got one in Cairo and another in Europe. Linklaters liked his entrepreneurial spirit. They were similarly impressed by a student who had worked her way up from part-time bar job to supervisor.law student
  1. Have an opinion, don’t just regurgitate facts and figures. There’s a lot of focus on applicants being able to demonstrate commercial awareness, ie, an understanding of the broader business context in which the firm operates. This doesn’t mean you have to memorise whole articles from The Lawyer or The Economist. Anyone could do that. The more impressive applicants read up on relevant commercial matters and then take a view. It doesn’t matter if the interviewer disagrees with your opinion. They’re interested in how you argue. After all, the interview is a chance to share ideas.
  1. Quality not quantity counts in commercial awareness. Start early (ie, don’t leave it till the last minute), and follow two or three stories that are relevant and that you are interested in. Keep relating this back to how it might affect the legal world and the firm specifically. For example, how might changes in the global economy affect the firm’s clients? What impact could that have on the firm?
  1. Do practice critical thinking tests on the firm’s careers site. Most firms, including Linklaters, have excellent graduate sites which include sample Critical Thinking tests and E-tray exercises. By practising in advance, your performance will improve and there’ll be no nasty surprises with the format. Plus, you can download a feedback report to highlight areas you need to work on.
  1. Understand how to use a Masters to help get a training contract. Linklaters, like many firms, doesn’t put extra weight on a Masters. BUT an LLM can help by: (1) opening up internships internationally (where an LLM may be required). That international experience may help students stand out; (2) giving extra confidence and topics to talk about at interview; and (3) help with the Case Study exercise.

So, there you have it. From the employer’s mouth. Now it’s over to you (but please do feel free to book an appointment with the Careers team for further help).

Karen Watton

Careers Consultant, Careers & Enterprise Centre


Does your degree have to match your career path?

This a guest post written by employer bonprix.

Having a maths degree on your CV when applying for a fashion role might not seem like a match made in heaven, but don’t be discouraged. Skills can be transferred from unlikely places, with past education and employment being invaluable in all professional experiences.

We recently spoke to three members of staff at fashion retailer bonprix about how their different career paths led them up to working in fashion. Offline Campaign Manager, Rosie; Project Manager, Lydia; and Marketing Services Manager, Paul discuss their experience, and what they would look for in an employee.

Skills on CV

How did you get into your current role and why?

Rosie – I had four years’ experience working in a couple of marketing roles. I was lucky enough to get a taste of both B2C [business to consumer] and B2B [business to business] companies’ communications. Through that experience I figured out exactly what my interests and strengths were and what type of environment I wanted to work in. This realisation led me to the role that I am in now and I couldn’t be happier.

Lydia – I was given the opportunity to work on a bonprix website migration project which then led to further opportunities focusing on specific project work. Bonprix had a big project on the horizon which involved the migration of a warehouse and customer systems to the UK and I was asked to play the role as Business Change Manager on the project, which I accepted and thoroughly enjoyed.

Paul – My first role as a graduate was in a marketing department where I was coordinating direct mail campaigns. I was identified as someone who had an eye for numbers so I was drafted into the analysis team and I’ve done this ever since.

What impact has your university studies had on your career?

Lydia – Firstly, I would not have been able to apply for my first job without having my degree. The course allowed me to gain some real work experience which was invaluable. But also I developed some important skills while I was at university which I still use in my day to day job: communication skills, presentation skills and influencing skills.

Paul – Rightly or wrongly, the opportunities I’ve had in my career aren’t really open to people without a degree, so it’s had a huge impact.

What kind of work experience did you undertake in the past?

Rosie – Before gaining full-time marketing positions after university I was lucky enough to have had jobs from the age of 16: waitressing, bar work, retail, promotions and stewarding.

Lydia – My placement year was spent at a nursery and baby company, and by the time I left I was a product expert for their full range of pushchairs and car seats. My work experience allowed me to put into practice some of what I’d learnt but most importantly prepared me for the real world when I completed my degree.

Paul – From turning 16 I worked in supermarkets and pubs, which gave me a good work ethic and customer focus.

What would you look for in a potential employee?

Rosie – A potential employee needs to be passionate about the position, have clear eagerness to learn and show enthusiasm. If they don’t have any direct experience in the industry I look for transferable skills – the ability to work hard and to be articulate are two of them.

Lydia – Experience is really important to me: what have they done previously and what can they bring to the role. I also think adaptability is a really positive thing to have in any team. Not being able to adapt to change can really hold you back in your career!

Paul – Somebody who I’m happy to spend 40 hours of my life each week with and somebody with the aptitude for the job they are going to be doing and a willingness to learn. 

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your younger self?

Lydia – Plan your time better and start coursework a lot earlier in order to stop that last minute panic. Fail to plan, plan to fail!

Paul – Don’t get stressed about things.  Look at your boss and if they’re not worried, you don’t have to be.

As bonprix’s team discusses, it’s not necessarily like-for-like experience that you will be judged on in interviews. Employers look for the willingness to learn and hardworking qualities that will really stand the test of time in a new role.