Equipping psychology students for the world of work

Hixenbaugh, Paula
Reed, Corriene
University of Westminster,

As the job market becomes evermore competitive, students' ability to demonstrate experience and applied skills is becoming increasingly important. A past president of the British Psychological Society estimated that about 85% of psychology graduates do not go on to become professional psychologists. Yet a survey of first year students at the University of Westminster revealed that 90% of them wanted a career in psychology. Psychology graduates go on to work in a wide variety of fields including management, social services, human resources and teaching. What are the skills that U.K employers need in graduates? How well are we preparing our graduates for the workplace? This discussion will explore how the psychology curriculum can incorporate specific transferable skills and provide opportunities for accredited work experiences. The skills that students acquire during their psychology degree will be discussed and ways to make these skills more explicit to students will be explored. A successful work experience framework used at the University of Westminster, London, will be presented as an example of how students can gain meaningful applied experience. Applied work benefits the students, the University, and future employers. Students gain an understanding of how psychological theory can be applied to real life issues. They also learn about the professional skills necessary for working in an applied setting, which helps to inform their future career choices. Universities gain valuable contacts within the local community and employers gain graduates with work experience. Methods of the assessment of work experience in order to enable students to gain academic credit will be explored.