Psychology is the study of the mind and human behaviour. Psychology students will learn about the feelings that humans experience, what motivates us and how we interact with each other.
Many psychology graduates will go on to careers as professional psychologists, however a degree in psychology can also lead to careers in childcare, social work or in the legal profession. Scroll down for a full guide to what you can do with a psychology degree.
This year, for the first time, Times Higher Education has released a ranking of the 100 best universities for psychology degrees. The ranking features 16 countries.
Stanford University takes first place in the 2017 ranking, followed by UCL, the only UK university to make the top 10. The only other non-US university in the top 10 is the University of British Columbia in Canada.
Nearly half of the universities in the overall ranking (47 universities) are US universities. The next most represented country is the UK, with just 13 universities present. Germany and the Netherlands are also well represented, with eight and seven universities respectively.
The ranking uses the same methodology as the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, but with a higher weighting for citations and a lower weighting for teaching. The full methodology can be found here.
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The top 5 universities for psychology degrees
1. Stanford University
The department of psychology at Stanford University was one of the first departments to be established at the institution.
Undergraduate and graduate programmes are available, with the latter emphasising research training. The department is split into five research groups known as department areas. The areas are affective science, neuroscience, cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, and social psychology.
The department has close ties with many other departments on campus such as biology, law, medicine, law and business. There are aims to increase participation in various interdisciplinary programmes on campus.
Research is carried out in areas including addictive behaviours, psychopathology and risk, and stereotyping.
The UCL Division of Psychology and Language Sciences is the largest department of its kind in the country, with more than 120 academic staff and approximately 1,500 students.
The undergraduate programme at UCL is accredited by the British Psychological Society and graduates are eligible to become members.
As well as undergraduate courses, the department offers 20 master’s degrees in topics including business psychology, neuroscience, decision science and human-computer interaction.
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3. Princeton University
The psychology department at Princeton University has produced one Nobel prizewinner, six Distinguished Contributions awards from the American Psychological Association and three William James Fellow Awards from the Association for Psychological Science.
Graduate study is focused on systems neuroscience, cognitive neuroscience, perception and cognition, personality and social psychology, and physiological psychology. This is viewed as a preparatory programme for a PhD.
The department is closely affiliated with the Center for the Study of Brain, Mind, and Behaviour, which fosters research on neuroscience and psychological function.
4. Yale University
The Yale University psychology department separates research into five different programmes: clinical psychology, cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, neuroscience and social/personality psychology. Students and staff are offered weekly seminars in each of these programmes.
The department provides courses for students at the undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD level. Only about 15 students are admitted for doctoral research each year.
Recently, the department launched a new course that has since become the university’s most popular in its 316-year history. Some 1,150 students (or a quarter of undergraduates) signed up for the Psychology and the Good Life course, which aims to teach students about changing their habits to promote positive thinking. It was launched in reaction to high rates of low student well-being on campus.
4. Harvard University
Psychology programmes at Harvard University have been running since the late 1800s, when US psychologist and philosopher William James began to introduce psychology classes as a separate entity to the philosophy department, under which the subject previously had been classified.
Psychology is one of the most popular undergraduate courses at Harvard and one of the most famous alumni of the department is actress Natalie Portman, who graduated in 2003.
The graduate programme in psychology focuses on four main research areas: cognition, brain and behaviour; developmental psychology; social psychology; and clinical science.
5. Duke University
Psychology is one of the most popular subjects among Duke University students, with many choosing it as a minor subject.
Undergraduate students are able to gain research experience by working alongside faculty members on some of their research projects. The university also offers internships that allow students to gain more experience.
The graduate programme is made up of five training areas: clinical psychology; cognition and cognitive neuroscience; developmental psychology; social psychology and systems; and integrative neuroscience.
Student experience of studying psychology
Top universities for psychology degrees 2018
Click on each institution to view its World University Ranking 2018 profile
Editor’s note, 5 April 2018: this table has been amended to include Yale University. For more details, please click here