Advice

I’m about to go to uni to study psychology — should I reapply to a harder subject?

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A-level student mulls impact of degree choice on future legal career

In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, one aspiring solicitor wonders whether his ‘soft subject’ degree choice will hold him back.

“I am currently an A-level student, who, after university, aspires to work at a commercial law firm. When making my UCAS choices, I decided to study psychology and have received an offer from Kings College. Now, I am concerned that the degree would be considered ‘soft’ and minimise any changes of me getting a training contract later on.

I did consider, and am still open to, studying law or a politics and economics degree — my A-levels are in history, economics and psychology. Realistically, would I stand a chance getting a training contract with a psychology degree? If not, could you suggest any more-respected degrees? I am starting the degree in 2019, as I am taking a gap year to do an internship, so would be able to reapply to university next year.”

If you have a career conundrum, email us with it to careers@legalcheek.com.

38 Comments

Anonymous

The degree class and the identity of the university are the most important things. Honestly, I think a non-trad subject like psychology might hold you back at the fuddy-duddier sections of the bar, but I very much doubt that it would matter for a TC. I also don’t particularly think of psychology as being an easy/soft subject.

Anonymous

But if you are bothered about ‘reputation’, the most establishment type degrees are the ones that have been around for longest. So from your A-Levels I’d say history is the most respected, and economics slightly less so (unless as part of PPE) but still fine if studied at a reputable university.

TheAcresOfFour

If you are monied, and where and what you studied matters so much to you just get a 1st in your Psychology segree and undertake a Senior Status law degree at Oxbridge. I take it you have the necessary GCSE and A-levels given your offer from Kings.

That being said a psychology degree from Kings and a GDL will be no disadvantage to you in getting a TC unless you get a 2:2.

Anonymous

Degree**

Ted

Solid 2:1 and good marks on the LPC and you’ll be fine

Anonymous

Of course it depends where you applying. But I would ask, why on earth do you WANT to do a psychology degree if you want to become a solicitor?

Anonymous

Because it’s possible to have more than one interest? I would encourage anyone to study the degree subject they will get the most intellectual satisfaction from. Doing the GDL adds one year to your studies and is no disadvantage in applications.

Anonymous

With no forethought into your career? Typical lefty tripe. No partner is going to be interested in your knowledge of psychology. I understand they may have other interests but read about it and study it in your own time instead of harming your legal career… How can you say it is no disadvantage.

Anonymous

Why would anyone expect to have conversations with a partner about their degree? The most they’ll ask about it is during the interview process. If your life revolves around law and only law a lot of firms are now less likely to offer you a TC. Showing and demonstrating interests outside the law is much more advantageous. Studying psychology at Kings will likely be fine for her, as long as she does well on the GDL and LPC I don’t think she’ll be at a disadvantage compared to other candidates.

Non-Law Grad, MC Trainee

Horsec*ck. Do as he suggested and study a degree you actually want to study.

Reading an LLB is for mugs, equates to three years of major unnecessary pain, and won’t give you any advantage in applying for a TC.

Anonymous

Agreed.

I did Psychology, albeit with Criminology, and enjoyed the course got a good result and then spent a year on the GDL.

Whilst I was studying a really enjoyable course, that I wanted to study, not that I thought I should, or that I had to study, I had a number of friends doing LLBs that were doing some weird and wonderful modules (history of law and animal law spring to mind).

Firms seem to pick at least 50% of their intake from non-law graduates (usually slight over 50%) so I really don’t think it is an issue.

Anonymous

“How can you say it is no disadvantage.”

Because it genuinely isn’t a disadvantage at the bar or in city firms to have studied a subject other than law? You just have to glance at the CVs of people in that area to see that. What matters is grades/undergrad institution. In fact, many law departments give out proportionally fewer firsts than most other departments, particularly science departments. I would say it is positively worse for your CV to study law and get a 2.1 than to study another academic subject at a university of the same caliber and get a first.

Anonymous

100% this.

Theology student - MC training contract

Yeah bullshit. It’s of zero disadvantage whatsoever, and it can even help studying something other than law if you really enjoy it. It gives you something different to talk about and show your personality through. A different degree can also teach you a whole range of soft and hard skills a law degree might not. Analysis of biblical prophetical texts has taught me how to be a compelling advocate I shit you not.

In regards to ‘soft’ degrees putting you at a disadvantage I don’t think that’s the case either. As a potential trainee law firms don’t really care about what you studied and how hard it was. They care about your intellectual capacity, buisiness acumen and ability to work well. Theology is considered ‘soft’ at most universities, but was ZERO issue in my applications to firms (I got VCs/open days at three magic circle and two other firms in my first year)

Top marks from a good uni, commercial sense, understanding of the job, and some form of charisma are what are vital. What subject you actually study is of relatively little importance compared to those.

Anonymous

Neglects to mention that he studied Theology at Oxbridge…thus the 1st year offers from lazy City recruitment.

Theology student - MC training contract

Afraid it was Durham.

…where co-incidentally I’ve done a huge amount of mooting, before then serving on the Executive Committee of the Mooting society, and doing a range of other things.

Given the number of people I know studying at Oxbridge who have failed to get anything comparable, I’d hesitate to call recruitment lazy, or brand an Oxbridge degree as a free pass. My achievements and those of others can’t be attributed merely to an Oxbridge or any other good university degree. Such achievements take hard work. The offer’s aren’t lazily handed out when you’ve got 40 applicants for each place.

Amanda Harris BaHons Bsc Phd

If you want a career in the legal profession study law. Do not denigrate a subject which you have merely scratched the surface of at A level. I can assure you if you want work in a field where psychology is relevant it is far from a easy option or a soft subject.

Weyland-Yutani

No, you’ll be fine. Please proceed.

Anonymous

Won’t make a difference if you want to become a commercial solicitor, they seem to be taking any Tom, Dick and Harry nowadays.

Anonymous

For goodness sake, do the degree you want to do, not one you think a notional law firm will want you to have in three years’ time. Back in my day, psychology was considered a “hard” degree, when a lot of aspiring lawyers were reading History and English lit. Have fun, work hard, demonstrate your interest in the law and you’ll prosper.

Been through this 100s of times...

In a job market that is saturated with top students, firms look at the minute details when giving out TCs. Psychology v Economics = only one winner. There is bound to be many other Economics/Law/Politics/PPE students with at least the same credentials as you. Don’t harm your career by choosing a degree that has a bad reputation. Unless of course you are aiming for the high street/conveyancing.

Anonymous

Utter bollox.

James

Do psychology definitely ! It will bring something extra to your applications ! I’m a partner in a top firm and don’t give a monkeys about the first degree as long as it’s good and from a good uni.

Alex

I don’t think a psychology degree would hold you back, but it’s worth saying that a degree in economics would boost your chances.

Alex

I did my degree in Classics. I wouldn’t say it’s been a positive or a negative really. I believe it put me on a par with law degree graduates. I think people who have science degrees or degrees that lend themselves to commercial awareness, such as politics and economics, are more employable. But that’s just my sense.

Anonymous

I think how well off and well connected you are may have an impact.

If you can easily afford a gap year, an affluent student lifestyle to build connections in London, work experience in psychology and then the same in a conversion degree and at the l p c, then that is one thing. If you have contacts in relevant organisations to probe for work experience and a job shortly, that is one thing too.

It doesn’t matter what you study then, the relevant people will recognise you as one of them and will give you a job.

If you are a grafter from an ordinary background you will find London and kings hard work because of the wealthy and well connected students there , and the cost of living.

After that slog you then have to convert. You will have debt and an appreciation of a slanted playing field.

You can get frustrated and depressed if You are not careful, especially if you don’t do really well in psychology.

An argument presents itself to try and do some legal work experience asap. Just going to civil and criminal courts and appeal courts would be fine, chat to lawyers in their breaks and see how you like it. Read the financial Times for an appreciation of corporate and commercial law.

Then there is an argument for keeping costs down and keeping close to family support and applying for law at a good uni near home. You can think it is a good job I approached legal cheek at a crucial time, if you change tack.

Finally, you can always pick up a psychology book or watch some Jordan Peterson videos on you tube.

The usefulness of the law degree means that the reverse is not true.

I am glad I did not do history at the lse through clearing instead of law because of the advice I have just given.

I’m done unless there’s anything else 😊

Anonymous

Go eat some cream you monster.

Anonymous

“or watch some Jordan Peterson videos on you tube”

I suspected you were talking bollocks, then this confirmed it.

Anonymous

More generally, I wouldn’t worry too much about the “well-connected” students. At any RG university you’ll be exposed to career fairs and law firm marketing – i.e. going to a RG institution makes you well-connected, compared to many students. The proportion of students who get ahead because daddy is a Magic Circle partner is tiny. There’s no secret formula for success — most people just attend law firm events, do extra-curricular activities, apply for vac schemes and work hard on their degrees.

It’s fair to say that the cost of living in London is high, so yes that’s a factor to consider. But if you can afford it it’s better to go to KCL than your local university if that university is the University of Huddersfield or something.

Loans Hey Wagner

I have a particularly hard subject that I would like you to try…

Anonymous

Harder?

Maybe one which is more difficult.

Anonymous

I think a better question would be: “What can I do with a psychology degree (comparaed to a law/economics/history degree) should I fail to get a training contract with a commercial solicitors firm?”

The right decision becomes much more obvious once you manage to answer this question.

Anonymous

I know somebody who got a First in Psychology at a decent Russell Group uni (a uni above Exeter/Sheffield in terms of reputation, but below the London unis). Now qualified at international City firm. Do well on your course at King’s and you will have nothing to worry about. Good lucknowledge.

Bartholomew Percival-Smith QC

I did fashion and dance now look at me

Judge Mental

Is this question for real? I’m a solicitor but before I qualified I spent 5 years working in the Higher Education sector.

I was going to write a nice, well reasoned response but I actually can’t be bothered.

Anonymous

Hopefully by studying Psychology you’ll change your mind about your future career thoughts now!!

Anonymous

If you feel that BPS accredited BSc (Hons) Psych degree is easy, you are in for a real shock. Psychology at this level is a completely different ball game to A Level psych which is why a good degree result is highly respected in the employment market. Like the types of psychology one can specialise in, there is a wide area of employment fields open to psych grads with a 2:1 and above. But be warned it’s not an easy degree by any means.

Anonymous

By the way, law is not a hard subject to study. The thinking that it is is a myth put about by law students. But, apart from that, FFS study something that you are interested in. If you still want to join this bloody boring profession then you can catch up with the law graduates by a one-year GDL (which, again, indicates how hard a law degree is).

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