What can you do with A Level Psychology? Open Evening ideas

Sixth Form: Open Evenings

I always get asked at Sixth Form Open Evenings, (interestingly by parents rather than students) the following question:

“What careers can A Level Psychology lead to?”

It’s easy to find yourself offering an answer that doesn’t quite do the subject justice and only helps to confirm some of the misconceptions about the subject. For example, suggesting that any career where working with people is a feature might be accurate to an extent, but may leave the person who made the enquiry thinking along the lines of Social Work, Policing, Nursing, counselling and little else.  At the end of the day no student is required to choose to take A Level Psychology to fulfil a career goal, they should choose it because they want to and because they will develop potentially transferable skills that will be useful in their next level of study or in the workplace.

Psychology and careers

I think a better way to answer the question, of what can be done with an A Level in Psychology, is with two answers:

  1. Point out that taking A Level Psychology might introduce the student to future study of Psychology and highlight the number of different careers paths in Psychology
  2. The skills that can be developed through the study of this subject are transferable to a number of career options.

Even better, pre-empt the question and dedicate a display piece to careers and Psychology and point those interested in the direction of this information.

Student helpers: “Ask me about…”

If you have student helpers at your school/college Open Evening ask them to be prepared to answer specific questions that you allocate to them and prepare them for this question(s).  For example, ask one student to wear a badge saying “ask me about careers and Psychology” and make sure they are armed with lots of examples to help them answer the question. This will free you up to answer more specific questions about the course.

Useful resources

The British Psychological Society has a careers section on its website with lots of information about routes to being a Psychologist of varying types. I also came across a useful article in the Guardian (“What to do with a degree in psychology”; posted online 13/02/2010) on this subject.

Mapping skills to careers

A Level Psychology has the potential to enable students to do become proficient at the following (and much much more…):

  • Reading and digesting complex texts
  • Being analytical
  • Justifying an argument
  • Being sceptical about arguments not supported by evidence
  • Using evidence to support or refute an argument
  • Applying knowledge in different settings
  • Taking a scientific approach to investigative work
  • Expressing ideas in a coherent manner in written work
  • Knowing the difference between so-called “common sense” and knowledge that has been validated
  • Being able to analyse and interpret data

Ask people you know in different occupations to identify an example of when they might have needed to use these skills to gain a selection of examples or career “case studies” to demonstrate the versatility of skills gained in A Level study.

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