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Sharing his expertise and professional insight, MSc Psychology Course Leader Dr Tom Lockhart discusses the value of psychology in today’s climate, how to achieve your goals, and where this MSc could lead. 

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About the expert

Dr Tom Lockhart is Course Leader for our online MSc Psychology. His research centres around anxiety and Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory, a neurological theory of personality. Other research interests include fear, decision making, personality, and behavioural prediction.  



Tom Lockhart - My background is in academic psychology. My research is in anxiety primarily. So I look at how anxiety can be conceptualized using a number of different methods, neurological methods, what does it look like in the brain? Behavioral measures, what do people look like when they're anxious? And personality measures, how stable is somebody's level of anxiety? Does it differ over time? Is there anything that we can do about it? Or is it quite fixed.

I've also worked with emergency services and researched into what they can do to improve their outcomes and how anxiety can relate to performance in emergency settings. And weirdly enough, at times I've worked with animals as well, with pets. So it's been quite a varied research career.

But academically in terms of teaching, I've been a lecturer for a few years now. Previously I was a course leader at another university on a similar MSC course. And then I joined Portsmouth nearly three years ago now where we've been working on setting up this new master's in psychology that we're very excited about. And it is going wonderfully so far.

Key aspect here is the conversion element of the course. So we actually had a lot of our own students on, say, a degree that was something with psychology. So it might have been criminology with psychology, for example. And they decided on that degree that they really enjoyed the psychology element of it.

And then I wanted to go into further training in psychology. But they couldn't because all of the training routes required that they had an accredited psychology degree. And if you do something with psychology undergraduate degree, it's not usually accredited. So in order to get on to those further training courses, they needed an accredited psychology degree.

And what conversion courses allow you to do is rather than going back and doing a full three years full-time undergraduate degree to get your accreditation, you can do a two-year part-time distance learning, in this case, masters, which appeals to a lot of our students who are in that situation. And a lot of people more widely who come to us and go, I love the sound of your postgraduate psychology courses that specialize in forensic psychology or health psychology, or I love your PhD programs. But I don't have the psychology accreditation. And I don't want to go back and do three years full-time as an undergraduate student.

So the course is designed as your entryway into a career and progression in psychology and getting you that accreditation in a quite intensive and demanding but shortened period of time. So it really hopefully will open the door for a lot of people. And that's why we started it.

I think it's very key here to highlight that it is not a degree in clinical psychology. We do certainly touch on some of the fundamental elements of clinical psychology, particularly in the individual differences module where we have several weeks on mental health and where we have a week on positive psychology as well.

It also comes up in the fundamental and transferable knowledge of the other modules. So for example, if you were to go into clinical psychology, you would need to know about developmental influences and mental health, which comes up in learning about developmental influences in that module. You would need to know about biological influences to be able to apply medical model perspectives to clients, for example.

And you would need to know about the research methods that we use in psychology that have validated the approaches that we take in clinical methods. So it's really important as a question. And I think it's really good for us to be transparent here and say that you won't come out of this degree as a clinical psychologist. And what you will come out as is somebody who has the qualifications necessary to get into a clinical psychology specialist training course presuming that you get the grades that you need as well.

As you say, it's a crucial part of what we try to do in setting up the course. And thankfully, it is accredited, which is good. It's accredited by the British Psychological Society who are the regulatory body for academic psychology and practiced psychology in the United Kingdom.

So the BPS have a very strict set of requirements that courses have to meet in order to be accredited. We have to cover a set number of core modules. We have to have a certain number of research practicals. And we have to have a very good student-to-staff ratio.

So we have to make sure that students are very well supported, which is something that we want to do. And we have to be holding to eight different standards of competency-- I think it is eight, yeah-- that they review us for and very, very, very stringently grill us over before they hand out any accreditation.

So it's both useful in terms of knowing what you're going to get on the course and that you get all of the skills that you need to go into any of these specialist routes. But it is also a marker of quality as well in that we have met those competencies. And we do have the support in place for our students. And that is regularly reviewed as well. So they do hold us to those standards.

And in terms of the advantages, I've always used a student. It means that if you finish your degree with 50% or above as your average grade and you pass your dissertation module, you will have a degree that is BPS-accredited.

So you will have something called Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership of the British Psychological Society, which is a long way of saying that you can get into BPS training routes for things like health psychology, clinical psychology, educational psychology, occupational research-based routes, neuropsychology, sports exercise psychology, counseling, forensic psychology.

All of those doors open up to you once you have a BPS-accredited degree. So that is one of the many reasons that we strive to get that accreditation and one of the many advantages, I think, of having it on the degree. In terms of the entry requirements, that's all perfect. The only thing I wanted to add is a degree has to be a 2.2 or above as well or the equivalent abroad.

Depends sort of how far you want to go within the career or within the field. But certainly with anything like an educational psychology career, the next steps are what's known as stage one, stage two training. So those are courses that are quite usually in Britain anyway require a BPS-accredited degree to begin with. So this is your foot in the door to get into those degrees. But you would then be looking at stage one training, which is something along the lines of a specialized master's degree or stage 2.2 training, which is a specialized doctoral degree.

And there is opportunity to skip. So if you do very, very well on this course and you sell yourself well in an interview, it's certainly not impossible to jump and go from this straight to stage two and get a doctoral degree in something like educational psychology and then get into the career that way. But the usual route is degree that's BPS-accredited, the conversion course, and specialist stage one training, which is another master's course, and then specialist stage two training, which is normally a doctoral level or equivalent degree.

It depends how far you want to go in the career and which one you want to go into. And if you are looking at just doing stage one specialist training, then you could be done a year after taking this degree, for example, if you went and did the master's after this full-time or two years if you were doing it part-time.

If you want to do stage two training as well, you'd be looking at a three-year doctoral degree and full-time four-year if you do a placement as part of that or six to eight years if you were to do that part-time. So it is worth being aware that these are quite long routes to travel for some of these career outcomes.

It's also worth noting that it depends which country you are doing this. We're talking sort of very England-focused here. But I know, for example, that some of our students currently based on the countries that they are living in at the moment, the master's in psychology that they're getting from this course is itself enough to get into some of these careers. So it will depend a little bit on which country you are looking to do the degree or to use your degree in rather.

But for the standard kind of UK, going into a BPS-accredited stage one and stage two training route, you are looking at an additional year to eight years extra depending on which route you want to go into and how far you want to go into it. But that might be something that it's worth talking about on an individual level. So if anybody does want to question their particular career, and I'm happy to talk about that as well. I know, Freddie, you and your team are very good at that as well.


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