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Case Study

Sam McBride

Sunderland, UK

BSc (Hons) Psychology with Counselling

MSc Psychological Research Methods

Sam was working in a factory after finishing school as he wasn’t sure what career he wanted to pursue. After giving it some thought, he decided to undertake his undergraduate degree at Sunderland to study Psychology with Counselling followed by the University’s MSc Psychological Research Methods course. Upon graduation, Sam has been working as an Academic Tutor at the University and is now pursuing a PhD.

I’d never given much thought to a career in school and sixth form, so I found myself working in a factory assuming that that’d be fine for me. Safe to say I was wrong, and I really had to think about what I wanted to do, with counselling being the answer that I came to. After looking into it, I realised that I would need a degree and so I started looking for what would be right for me. I didn’t have any positive expectations about university, seeing it as a means to an end for my career. Not only was it a shock that I enjoyed it, but I enjoyed it that much I’m still here as staff more than six years later.

I wanted to stay at home for university and so I looked at the local universities before applying. Sunderland’s BSc (Hons) Psychology with Counselling pathway really appealed to me with it having the specialised route alongside the core psychology content, as well as the way different topics were broken up across the years. Ultimately what swayed me was the Open Day experience as the friendly atmosphere and general vibe of the people and place grabbed me a lot more than the other places I looked.

After getting to the end of my three years as an undergraduate, I was really involved in the university as well as being really comfortable in a generally uncomfortable period due to lockdown. My dissertation was originally due a fortnight after we went into lockdown! After this, I saw my career going more towards academia than counselling, and it’s completely fine for you to change your mind about your future after starting a degree! Because of this, I knew I wanted to continue studying and our MSc in Psychological Research Methods seemed the obvious choice because research methods were the weakest part of my undergrad and I knew that I’d need to improve if I was ever going to pursue a PhD. Having a 20% alumni discount on Postgrad course fees also was a pretty good incentive!

My favourite thing about the undergraduate course is how broad it is. At the beginning I was ignorant about what psychology was, and what I had expected the whole degree would be ended up being covered in just one module in first year! Covering topics that I didn’t expect to learn about and linking them all together more as we got more advanced kept things fresh and interesting throughout. The MSc did a lot to prepare me for potential future jobs and I’m sure it won’t let me down when I get to collecting and analysing data on my PhD!

The best advice I could give to a prospective student is to be strict with your attendance and to not be scared to ask questions. It can be easy to start to slack if you decide to miss a lecture or two, but it makes studying so much easier by doing the simplest thing of just turning up. The academics are always happy to help, and I’m not sure I would have ever gotten a grasp on statistics if I didn’t ask any questions. If you persist, it will come to you eventually. For your master’s, I would advise either picking a course that will address your weaknesses as it will make you more well-rounded for employers and further study, or to go down an applied route (e.g. counselling, clinical, or forensic psychology) if you’re set on what you want to do.

Since completing my master’s, I have started working at the University as an Academic Tutor and have taught on foundation, undergraduate, and our MSc Psychology (Conversion). I have also started a PhD, with the aim being to stay here and be a lecturer in Psychology afterwards.

If I was to sum up my experience of studying at the University of Sunderland, I’d struggle not to be clichéd and on-brand by saying it’s been life changing. As well as my degree, I have been able to have other experiences such as being on the School of Psychology’s Athena Swan team, becoming a Student Rep for my course and being a Student Ambassador, the latter especially I can’t recommend enough if you want flexible, enjoyable, and valuable work during your degree. Not only was studying at Sunderland my way out of a job that I felt stuck in, but it has also provided me with lots of opportunities and I don’t see myself looking to leave anytime soon."

Published 19 February 2024

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