What is Psychology?

Psychology is the study of all aspects of behaviour and mental processes. It includes topics such as how the brain works, how our memory is organised, how people interact in groups and how children learn about the world. Because of its breadth, virtually everyone can find something in psychology that is of interest to them. Psychology has links to the natural sciences, the social sciences and the arts, and leads to a variety of career opportunities. Professional psychologists work in the areas of clinical psychology, educational psychology, organisational psychology, forensic psychology, counselling psychology and health psychology.

What is the difference between psychology, psychiatry and psychoanalysis?

There are several differences but one of the most important is the training that psychologists, psychiatrists and psychoanalysts have. Psychology is an independent discipline which is taught in universities and colleges. A psychologist is someone who holds at least a BA or BSc in psychology which is accredited by a national psychology association such as the Psychological Society of Ireland (PSI) . More often than not, a professional psychologist will also hold a masters or doctoral degree in a specialist area of psychology, such as clinical psychology. A psychiatrist, in contrast, has a primary degree in medicine (rather than psychology) and a specialist postgraduate qualification in psychiatry. Psychiatry is therefore a branch of medicine. Psychoanalysis is a particular approach to psychotherapy, and this approach falls within a psychotherapeutic tradition founded by Sigmund Freud. While all psychologists, psychiatrists and psychotherapists learn something about Freud’s work during their training, only a minority undergo additional specialist training in psychoanalysis to become qualified to practice as psychoanalysts. You can find out more information about psychology at the PSI website. More information about psychiatry is available at the College of Psychiatry Ireland website. Information about psychotherapy in Ireland is available at the Irish Council of Psychotherapy (ICP) website.

What do I do if I want to become a psychologist?

If you do not have a degree already, then the best route is to take the three-year UCD Honours BA in Psychology. If you already have a degree but have not majored in psychology, then you may enrol on the two-year Higher Diploma in Psychology (H Dip Psych). These two degrees provide a general academic training in the discipline. They are accredited by PSI, and as such provide the foundation, and gateway for further postgraduate professional training in a particular branch of psychology such as clinical, counselling or health psychology. This professional training is offered at a masters or doctoral level, so it usually takes 2 to 4 years of study after the BA or H Dip Psych in order to qualify as a professional psychologist.-

Is psychology a difficult subject?

All subjects at the university level require a considerable amount of reading and study. How easy or difficult students find a particular subject depends on their ability, interests, and motivation to study the subject.

Is there a lot of mathematics involved?

Statistics are widely used in psychology and courses in statistics are a part of every psychology degree. This news may cause anxiety among new students. However, any student who attends core psychology lectures and tutorials and does the assigned reading should have no difficulty with statistics. The most important thing is to avoid developing a fear of the subject in advance.

Is there a lot of biology involved?

Courses in biological psychology are a part of every psychology degree. Some biology may also be covered in other psychology courses. As with statistics, you will have no problems with biological psychology if you attend the lectures and tutorials and do the assigned readings.

Is there any practical work involved?

There is no practical work in the first year of psychology. In the second year, students are required to complete supervised practical work in experimental psychology, survey research and psychological testing. In the final year, every student must complete a research project and write it up as research thesis.

  • Top 1% of the world’s higher education institutions
  • Ireland’s largest university
  • On-campus accommodation
  • Leading School of Psychology


UCD School of Psychology is the leading centre for research, teaching and professional training in psychology in Ireland. The School has particular expertise in clinical psychology, cognitive and behavioural neuroscience, disability and rehabilitation, and social and developmental psychology.

Established in 1854, UCD is one of Europe’s leading research-intensive universities – ranked in the top 1% of higher education institutions world-wide by the Times Higher Education rankings.

Ireland’s largest university with almost 25,000 students, UCD is the national leader in research funding, attracting quality investment that has helped the university to establish a reputation as a world-class destination for leading researchers.

UCD's flexible 'UCD Horizons' undergraduate curriculum has contributed to making UCD the most popular destination for Irish school-leavers. With approximately 7,000 postgraduate students, UCD is Ireland’s leader in postgraduate education.

UCD is home to over 5,000 international students and, in addition, places great emphasis on the internationalisation of the Irish student experience – preparing all UCD students for future employment and life that crosses borders, boundaries and cultures.

UCD is located on a beautiful, leafy, 133-hectare campus close to Dublin’s city centre, which provides a mix of academic facilities, research institutes, libraries and archival collections, enterprise space, student villages, and sports and recreational facilities.