Psychology is the scientific study of behaviour and associated biological, cognitive, and social processes in humans and other animals. It is a rapidly developing field touching on all aspects of human life. Advances in neuro-imaging and molecular biology are rapidly enhancing our understanding of how the brain works, while increasingly complex theories are being developed to understand both normal and abnormal development and the behaviour of individuals and groups. Major advances are being made in understanding and treating psycho-pathologies such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and addictions.
Psychology students are trained to:
- think independently and critically about psychological issues
- become knowledgeable about the key methods, important findings and major theories of psychology
- learn how to distinguish genuine findings from implausible and suspect claims
- understand modern scientific research in psychology.
Psychology may be taken as a major subject for a Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Health Sciences, or Bachelor of Science degree. It may also be taken as a subject in a Bachelor of Commerce, Bachelor of Laws, Bachelor of Music, and Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.
- UC is ranked in the top 200 universities in the world for Psychology (QS World University Rankings by Subject, 2018).
- UC offers a balanced and comprehensive set of courses, excellent opportunities to undertake work in experimental psychology, and has nationally and internationally recognised postgraduate applied programmes in Applied Psychology, Child and Family Psychology, and Clinical Psychology (leading to professional registration as a psychologist).
- UC has more than 25 specialist academic staff offering a diverse range of research and teaching options. With a large number of undergraduate and postgraduate students, we seek to foster close working relationships between staff and students. Undergraduate students from 100-level courses onwards can become involved in research projects and may make significant contributions to the discipline.
- The Department of Psychology provides students with modern computer-based laboratories; excellent digital recording and editing equipment; an extensive library of psychological tests; and laboratories for human performance, human robot interaction, animal behaviour and neuroscience, perception and cognition, and social, developmental, and applied psychology.
- UC has a Psychology Clinic where clinical students receive training, and has working relationships with the Canterbury District Health Board | Te Poari Hauora o Waitaha, and the Department of Corrections | Ara Poutama Aotearoa, offering opportunities for research and clinical internships.
Psychology is presented and taught as a science, but students from both arts and science backgrounds find the study of Psychology an interesting and worthwhile challenge.
Being able to write clearly and lucidly is a key skill for psychologists. Increasingly, Psychology has come to incorporate findings from neuroscience, making some background knowledge in biology very useful. Students use statistical methods in analysing and treating research data, meaning a background in statistics is helpful. Competence in mathematics at Year 11 and basic computer skills are assumed.
There are two first-year courses required for any degree majoring in Psychology:
- PSYC 105 Introductory Psychology – Brain, Behaviour and Cognition
- PSYC 106 Introductory Psychology – Social, Personality and Developmental
PSYC 105 is taught in the first semester and PSYC 106 is taught in the second semester. Both PSYC 105 and PSYC 106 include weekly two-hour laboratory classes. These labs offer the opportunity for students to experience first-hand some of the phenomena discussed in lectures and the text, and also incorporate an introduction to the research methods and statistics employed in Psychology. Taken together, the two courses provide a broad general introduction to Psychology. As the Department regards them as essential joint prerequisites for 200-level Psychology courses, first-year students are strongly advised to enrol in both courses.
Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Commerce students may wish to complete a minor in Psychology. This requires passing PSYC 105 and PSYC 106, and any further 45 points in advanced PSYC courses (200 and 300-level courses).
200-level and beyond
At 200 level, courses include: cognition; developmental psychology; personality; sensation and perception; social psychology; as well as a core course in research design and statistics (PSYC 206 Research Design and Statistics).
300-level courses include: abnormal psychology; biological psychology; cognitive psychology; family psychology; health psychology and behavioural change; industrial and organisational psychology; learning and behavioural analysis; judgement and decision making; environmental psychology; plus an advanced course in research methods.
The Bachelor of Health Sciences degree requires three courses (including PSYC 206) at 200-level, and at 300-level requires one 15-point course and both PSYC 339 and PSYC 344. For a typical degree structure of the Bachelor of Health Sciences majoring in Psychology, see the Bachelor of Health Sciences brochure.
In addition, to be eligible to enter postgraduate programmes in Psychology, students must have passed certain 300-level courses.
- PSYC 344 is required for postgraduate study in Psychology and Applied Psychology.
- PSYC 336 (or equivalent) is required for the Master of Science in Applied Psychology.
- PSYC 335 (or equivalent) is required for the Postgraduate Diploma in Clinical Psychology.
For more information on the course requirements for each degree in Psychology, see the University Regulations website.
Psychologists have a unique mix of skills. As well as a basic knowledge about people, as individuals and in groups, they are required to have excellent writing and communication skills, the ability to analyse and understand quantitative data, and a critical and objective way of approaching problems.
Psychology graduates hold research and policy analyst positions in government departments and other large public sector organisations, as well as positions of responsibility in a variety of settings, including many private sector businesses. Many graduates are employed in public relations; teaching and training; district health boards; the New Zealand Defence Forces; the Department of Corrections | Ara Poutama Aotearoa; and in social service agencies such as employment services, social welfare, counselling services, and health promotion.
Further specialist opportunities open up for those who have completed postgraduate training in Applied Psychology, Child and Family Psychology, and Clinical Psychology (leading to professional registration as a psychologist). Clinical psychologists work with individuals and their families where there are difficulties in adjustment and coping.
Find out more about what you can do with a degree in Psychology.
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