Studying Psychology: US or UK?

Studying Psychology: US or UK?

Psychology has become one of the most popular majors at universities all over the world. However, the approach to the degree can vary significantly between systems, and it’s important to understand the key differences between pursuing the degree in the US and UK. Choosing the right fit based on your learning preferences and future goals is crucial to success at University and beyond. 

In this article, Brendan and Emma, our Admissions Consultants who have Psychology degrees, will explore the main distinctions between the degree in the US versus the UK. 

Why did you choose to study Psychology and how did you choose between the UK & US? 

Brendan: My own experiences with learning differences as a child has led to my interest in studying psychology. However, I never had the opportunity to study psychology in my high school so I wanted to choose a program that would give me the flexibility to take classes outside of psychology in case I didn’t like it or wanted to study other things simultaneously. I also knew I would benefit from a smaller class as I had a tendency to zone out in larger seminars so I looked at liberal arts colleges in the USA.

Emma: I’ve always been fascinated by human behavior and why we do the things that we do. While researching potential areas of study, psychology seemed to offer explanations to all the questions I had. As a highly pragmatic person, I preferred the direct nature of a UK degree, rather than spending time on general education requirements that were not directly relevant to my main area of focus. I wanted to maximize the return on my educational investment and didn’t want to be further North than London, so the more affordable, 3-year degree at UCL was an attractive and financially prudent option! 

What was your experience doing your Psychology degree?

Brendan: The psychology degree at Claremont McKenna College followed the same structure as all Bachelor of Arts degrees in the USA in that you have to complete a set number of credits to graduate with some of the classes to be completed within your major and some of the classes within different fields that complete your general education requirements. The classes within your major are further categorized into a set number of required classes you have to complete for a psychology degree as well as a choice of several electives you choose based on your interests. All graduates were also required to complete a senior thesis on a topic of their choice within their major.

As I went to a liberal arts college, the required classes for my psychology major took up less than half of my required credits to graduate, leaving me with enough time to explore other fields like film and history. However, I ended up taking more psychology classes than required out of my own interests. 

Emma: The BSc Psychology program at UCL is a focused and comprehensive three year degree. Your grades are heavily coursework and exam dependent, and almost all of your classes are lecture-based, interspersed with a few small-group tutorials. Your first and second year consists mostly of compulsory modules, but in your third (and final) year you get to choose all your modules as well as the topic and supervisor for your research project. The first two years prepare you with a foundation for you to go in any direction you like in your third year. 

Early in my third year, I was offered the option to switch to the four-year integrated Master’s course, which offered a research placement. I completed a nine-month internship at a start-up, which was creating an AI-powered product to help marketers create personalized customer experiences at scale, and completed an 8000 word dissertation. I developed much of my understanding of and interest in machine learning during my time here.      

What were your three favorite classes? 

Brendan: Abnormal Psychology. It was fascinating to get a more academic look into disorders like depression and schizophrenia rather than relying on common misconceptions of them; Psychology and Law, where I learned about how psychology has changed the way we look at certain criminal cases; and Autobiographical Memory, where I learned how unreliable our memory often is.

Emma: Organizational Psychology, an introduction to human behavior in the workplace; Computer Programming for Psychologists, where I learned Python to execute experimental designs and analyze results; and Advanced Multivariate Statistical Methods in Psychology, for the necessary skills to understand, interpret, and apply statistical techniques to psychological research and data.  

What was your least favorite class? 

Brendan: Psychology Statistics was my least favorite class. I did quite well in Math at school but I was really unfamiliar with the types of calculations and logic required to determine statistical significance and other such concepts and struggled with that class as a result.

Emma: Brain and Behaviour – a deep dive into the biological foundations of human behavior and cognition. As someone who didn’t enjoy Biology and didn’t take it at GCSE level, I had to do a lot more work to keep up. 

What surprised you most about your degree? 

Brendan: The thing that surprised me most was how much misinformation there is surrounding the field of psychology. The majority of people have very strong misconceptions about many psychological phenomena and in my opinion it can lead to unhealthy and unproductive coping mechanisms to everyday challenges like pressure and stress.

Emma: A real eye-opener for me was just how long and demanding the journey is to become a chartered, practicing psychologist. Luckily, even if you decide that route is not for you, the rigor of the degree provides you with a robust and transferable toolkit to pursue and find success in a range of careers. Some of my psychology graduate friends have gone on to very different paths: one is on her way to becoming a registered psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, while another is an Associate at a private equity firm.

Are you interested in Psychology? Contact us for an initial meeting! 

Quantum Prep is an education consultancy that focuses on placing their students at the best colleges or universities. We boast of diverse results. In addition to the traditional rap sheet of prestigious university acceptances, our consultants like to highlight the different paths they have sent students on. All of our students are different; we are proud of our one-on-one tailored approach towards university counselling. Contact us for a complimentary 30-minute initial meeting, where you can get tailored individualized advice on how to put your best foot forward. Read our reviews to see what our clients think of us.

By Brendan Lung (Admissions Consultant) and Emma Keoy (Admissions Consultant)

Published 22-05-2024

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