Studying Applied Psychology at RGU

Caitlin Taylor, MSc Applied Psychology student outside RGU.

Caitlin Taylor, a BA (Hons) Applied Social Sciences alumni and MSc Applied Psychology student, writes about her course experiences at RGU.

Applying to RGU

When initially applying for degrees back in 2016, like most students, I wasn’t completely set on the topic I wanted to study, or the career I wanted to have. However, after studying psychology in the final year of high school, it caught my interest. It became something I wanted to explore further.

I had lived in Aberdeen my whole life. I knew that Robert Gordon University was a university I wanted to attend because I knew people who had previously enjoyed their experience there. I am now a third generation RGU graduate, with my grandad studying architecture in the early 60s and my mum studying chemistry in the late 80s.

Studying the BA (Hons) in Applied Social Sciences

I was drawn to the BA (Hons) in Applied Social Sciences because of the large number of psychology modules. Also, in the third and fourth year, I liked the freedom to choose my modules and purely study psychology if I wished. So, I started the course and had no idea that I would find the other areas of the degree so interesting. While psychology was still my primary focus, sociology (essentially the study of social life, the causes and influences of our behaviours within society), criminology, politics, counselling, history, and anthropology were all topics I had never really studied before, but truly enjoyed learning about.

The Applied Social Science degree is not the type of degree where you graduate and can then move into a job as a ‘Social Scientist’ per se. However, it does provide you with knowledge regarding people, the workings of society and societal inequality that provides you with the empathy, understanding and independent critical thinking skills to be successful in several career areas.

I am grateful for the opportunity to undertake my undergraduate degree, not only because it allowed me to further pursue my masters but also because it has widened my understanding of society and the people within it. Education here is not just a means to enter the workforce, though it will definitely help you. Education here helps you better understand topics such as inequality, self-identity, social change, gender politics, feminist thought (to name a few) as well as helping you to gain a better understanding of the workings of the human mind.

Specialising in psychology in my final years, and then going on to my Master’s in Applied Psychology, I have studied nearly all areas of psychology at some point, including cognitive, social, health, developmental, organisational and management, biological, forensic, and clinical. I found, and still find, behaviour particularly interesting. Discriminatory behaviour was the particular area of interest that formed my undergraduate dissertation topic. It focused on how societal group formations can cause discrimination and lead to discriminatory, violent behaviours towards other groups, also known as outgroups. While looking at historical acts of mass violence, I questioned how individuals could enact such brutal acts against innocent others. While not being a particularly cheery topic, it was fascinating to learn more about with the help of my supervisor.

Unfortunately, while the graduation did not go ahead as planned due to covid. I was delighted to have received an A for my dissertation, which helped me achieve a first in my degree.

Studying MSc Applied Psychology

The MSc in Applied Psychology is a distance learning course, which essentially means that it is all online. You do not need to go onto campus for lectures or seminars as they are all conducted over the CampusMoodle system. This was perfect during the pandemic and during lockdown because it meant that the course didn’t need to navigate turning everything into an online format because everything was already online.

When moving to a distance learning (online) format, it is most important to plan when you will be doing work to ensure that you stay organised and on top of your studies. Having that motivation to take the initiative and work anonymously is critical. However, the lecturers on the course are always very helpful. They are contactable through email or through Microsoft teams meetings, so assistance is there should it be needed.

Completing this Master’s degree will allow me to obtain the graduate basis to register for chartered membership to the British Psychological Society (BPS). Essentially, that means that I can then specialise in an area of psychology and eventually practice psychology in that area. If I am being honest, the pandemic has thrown a slight spanner in the works regarding my future career plans (i.e., which area of psychology I want to specialise in) because some courses would require me to relocate. However, I am playing it by ear, applying to the courses that I wish to, primarily in health and clinical psychology, and then waiting to see how the situation with COVID plays out.

However, more recently, I have been enjoying psychology research and thinking of pursuing it further. I have undertaken multiple research projects through my time at university, but choosing a really interesting yet relatively underexplored topic for my Master’s dissertation has made me want to pursue it further. Unfortunately, I cannot discuss the study because it is yet to be released.  

I recently interviewed for and was offered a research assistant position at RGU, primarily surrounding forensic but also cognitive psychology. The paper I am assisting on is a literature review, and it will hopefully be published after its completion. I am excited to undertake this work due to the practical application the study has to improving the criminal justice system.

Would you recommend MSc Applied Psychology to others?

I would highly recommend undertaking the Master’s degree should you want to pursue a career in psychology or purely wish to learn more about psychology as a whole. The course is very well organised, and sufficient support is provided should you need it. Both the undergraduate and postgraduate degree cover a broad and interesting range of topics which I am sure you will enjoy it as much as I did.

If you have any more questions, please feel free to contact me on the Contact a Student platform until I complete my degree in September of 2021. 

Caitlin Taylor

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