How Is a Psychology Degree Structured in the UK?

15 Jul, 2023 | Psychology, University Preparation

There’s a tendency to discuss psychology as a single unified subject with a limited range of degree options, but this is far from the truth. There’s a huge variety of courses on offer if you choose to study Psychology at university. 

It’s true that some universities will offer “pure” BA or BSc Psychology courses, with perhaps one or two variations – this is often the case at universities geared towards traditional courses. However, other institutions deliver a wide variety of Psychology-related degrees.

As a subject that touches on countless aspects of life, you’ll find that a Psychology degree lends itself perfectly to combining different subjects and varying the course structure.

In the UK, you’ll have the option of taking a joint honours course, allowing you to mix-and-match subjects that interest you, as well as choosing between a taught, research or applied approach to the Psychology elements of your degree.

Should I Choose Single or Joint Honours?

Many students will choose to study pure Psychology for three or four years, with the option to specialise within the subject as they progress. This is called a single honours degree. However, you also have the option to pick a joint honours course. Joint honours degrees offer you the chance to combine two or more subjects, and can be a great way to balance other academic interests. 

A Major/Minor honours course in the UK, also known as a “with” degree, is very similar to the system that most US colleges use, except you have to nominate your course options when you first apply to university. You’ll pick one subject to study extensively, and then take occasional modules from a second (and possibly even a third) subject. 

This is a great option if you want to pursue a career in a specific psychological field, or you’d like to gain additional experience in another subject. Often, the second subject will be closely related to Psychology, but that’s not a requirement. 

You might like the sound of BSc Psychology with Finance (70:30 split) as it could open doors in the business world, and it would serve as an amazing foundation for a career in occupational psychology.

Dual honours courses, or “and” degrees, combine core modules from both of your chosen subjects, along with a selection of optional modules from both faculties, resulting in a relatively even split between the two. This is perfect if you’re looking to specialise in one field in particular, or if you want a balance between two complementary subjects, such as a Psychology and Neuroscience dual honours course.

When choosing between a single or joint honours degree, it’s important to look into all the options available, thinking about what aligns best with your personal interests and goals

There are so many courses to choose from so you’re sure to find a perfect match for you!

Taught, Research or Applied Psychology Courses

At undergraduate level, Psychology courses are usually structured in one of two ways. Taught courses are the most common style of degree, but research and applied psychology courses are also available.

Taught courses are a typical combination of lectures on key topics, and seminars exploring more practical or niche areas. Depending on whether you chose to combine your Psychology course with another subject or not, you could also have lab sessions on your timetable. The best way to get a feel for the taught courses you’re considering is by checking out the information provided on the university websites, or by seeking out Psychology student experiences for a firsthand account of student life.

Research and applied Psychology courses require you to spend a lot of time in lab or field settings, respectively. In this course structure, you’ll likely be expected to produce a piece of research or a portfolio as your main evaluation each semester. You’ll still have lectures, but they’ll complement your practical learning rather than being the main event of your week.

Narrowing down your university choices and the type of Psychology degree you’d like to pursue can seem like a major undertaking, but with enough research and reflection on what you want to gain from your degree, you’ll find a course that’s right for you!


By Kylie Li

Kylie is reading Experimental Psychology student at Queen’s College, Oxford. She is most interested in developmental and cognitive psychology, and how these can be applied to the education system.

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