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UC study finds widespread demand across industries, for Psychology graduates with three-year degrees

Emma Larouche

6 February 2024: A new report by researchers from the University of Canberra and the Australian National University (ANU) has found graduates from a three-year Psychology degree have skills in high demand for jobs across nearly all industries, with almost a quarter of all jobs potentially suitable for graduates.

The researchers analysed five million job ads using machine learning and natural language processing (a subfield of computer science and linguistics) to identify roles suitable for Psychology graduates. The study was led by the University’s Senior Lecturer in Psychology Dr Janie Busby Grant and Associate Professor in Psychology Dr Amanda George, in collaboration with a multidisciplinary team from the ANU.

“Psychology undergraduate degrees are really popular, but many students aren’t interested in, or aren’t able to enrol in the several years of postgraduate study you need to become a professional psychologist,” Dr Busby Grant said.

“Given the sheer breadth of possible job roles and general applicability of the Psychology degree, it has always been a bit hard to identify exactly what jobs graduates would be suited for after the three-year degree. Our analysis shows that graduates of the undergraduate Psychology degree have a wide range of unique skills and knowledge that are explicitly needed and wanted in whole variety of industries, not just the health sector, and allows us to pinpoint those jobs right down to job titles.”

The report explains that graduates of a three-year psychology degree hold a broad range of attributes and knowledge including in human behaviour, research, communication, data analysis, mental health, society, ethics and cultural responsiveness.

Using machine learning and natural language processing on a massive job ad dataset meant the team could ditch the restrictive term ‘psychology’ in a keyword search, instead, mapping jobs which asked for the underlying skills of Psychology graduates.

This approach identified a wide range of jobs suitable for graduates straight out of the three-year degree, and jobs that would be a good fit for Psychology graduates after additional training or experience.

Potential job roles spanned nearly every industry, from health to education, business to social professions, science, IT and design.

“Our graduates have the skills and knowledge to contribute in roles from community and welfare right through to data and intelligence analysis and investigation, user design and learning development, environmental health and a whole range of project, engagement and management roles,” Dr Busby Grant said.

“We want potential students, current students and graduates to be confident in their decision to pursue a Psychology degree and have a better understanding of how they can apply their skills in the real world once they graduate. We also want employers to be able to recognise when a Psychology graduate would be a beneficial addition to their team.”

The study also highlighted jobs where Psychology graduates are unlikely to be currently sought after as potential employees, due to misconceptions around the qualification, and capabilities of its graduates.

The team hopes the project findings will spearhead a rethink of job search training for Psychology students and graduates, support new internships and Work-Integrated Learning, and help universities build new relationships with potential employers from a broad range of fields and industries.

“There are many Psychology graduates out there with skills that can really make a difference in workplaces and in wider society,” Dr Busby Grant said.

“This study will inform educators, career advisors and employers on how Psychology graduates should approach the job market and what jobs would be the best fit for their skills.”

Find out more about the study here.