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Why Otago?

The Department of Psychology has an international reputation for excellence in research. It is seen as a leading Psychology Department in New Zealand and is regarded as one of the University of Otago's strongest departments. Our research effort is complemented by the training of many Masters and PhD students who are encouraged to publish in high quality journals alongside our internationally acclaimed research supervisors.

Our vibrant Department attracts large numbers of undergraduate and postgraduate students, and is one of the largest departments in the University in terms of student numbers. Our staff are known as excellent and passionate teachers, routinely obtaining high ratings from student evaluations, and earning various university teaching awards. Innovative teaching practices are applied at every level.

Our Clinical Psychology graduates are in demand by employers due to the depth and quality of the clinical programme. Our PhD graduates go on to postdoctoral positions and faculty positions at leading universities world-wide.

Read think. the Department of Psychology Magazine produced by OPSYC – Otago Psychology Students Committee

What is Psychology?

Psychology is the science of behaviour. It studies the way people and animals interact with the world and each other. This covers a wide range of topics. Here are a few, and the sort of questions they might address:

  • Biopsychology
    How do sleep, hormone levels and drugs affect our behaviour?
  • Neuropsychology
    How does our brain work?
  • Development
    Why do our abilities and behaviour change with age?
  • Perception
    What do our eyes tell our brain?
  • Social Psychology
    Why do groups of people treat each other the way they do?
  • Abnormal Psychology
    When do we decide that behaviour is "abnormal" and what causes such problems?
  • Learning
    How do our experiences influence our behaviour?
  • Cognition
    How do we remember things, solve problems and use language?
  • Applied Psychology
    How do we apply our knowledge of behaviour to everyday situations?

Who takes Psychology?

Psychology attracts many students. If you specialise in Psychology, you can complete a BSc, BA, BASc, BACom or BComSci degree with Psychology as your major subject.

Or, you may take Psychology because it complements other degrees. For example, you may take some Psychology papers to go with your degrees in Law, Health Sciences, Education, Philosophy, Management, Marketing, Neuroscience, Computer Science, Physical Education, or Consumer and Applied Sciences.

What does first year (100-level) Psychology involve?

There are two first-year papers, PSYC 111 (Semester 1) and PSYC 112 (Semester 2). You could take just one paper, but you usually must do both before you can take Psychology papers at 200-level. Each paper has both lectures and a laboratory component.

What background do you need?

Any student eligible to enrol at university can take Psychology papers at 100-level at the University of Otago.

Our students come from a variety of backgrounds, therefore we don't assume too much in terms of prior experience. High School English, Biology and Statistics are useful, but are not essential.

What other subjects should you take if you major in Psychology?

It depends on your particular interests and strengths. Here are a few examples, but there are many other possible combinations. You may:

  • take biology and chemistry because you're interested in the biological underpinnings of behaviour
  • take management and marketing because you plan to work in industry or an organisational setting
  • take mathematics and computer science because you're fascinated by artificial intelligence
  • add some political studies and philosophy to your degree because you're interested in issues of social change
  • like to work with children so you take some education papers
  • be interested in the cultural aspects of behaviour, so you take some anthropology and sociology papers

If you were intending to progress to advanced levels (eg, Honours, Masters, Diploma in Clinical Psychology) you should take STAT 110, STAT 115, or equivalent before entering 300-level psychology.

What is the difference between a Clinical Psychologist and a Psychiatrist?

Clinical Psychologists and Psychiatrists are both trained to diagnose and treat psychological disorders and dysfunctions. Both can provide therapy and counselling services for children and adults.

Psychiatrists have a general medical degree and then advanced training in psychiatry. Psychiatrists can prescribe medication for people with serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, whereas psychologists cannot.

Clinical Psychologists have a MA, MSc or PhD in Psychology and advanced training in Clinical Psychology (Postgraduate Diploma in Clinical Psychology). As well as therapy and counselling services, clinical psychologists can do psychological testing with well-researched tests. Psychiatrists usually do not do psychological testing.

Student support services within the Department of Psychology

The Department of Psychology aims to provide support, equity and inclusion for all students. This involves providing specific support for Māori students, Pacific students, international students and students who are experiencing any form of disability (including temporary and permanent situations).

Find out more about support services in the Department of Psychology

Our History

2014 was the 50th anniversary of the Psychology Department at the University of Otago.

We invite you to look back on our history.

Tertiary Open Days

Tertiary Open Days happen in May every year at Otago. A large number of people come from out of town to visit the Open Days as it's a way to see the University in action. A number of talks and presentations occur throughout the days, as well as tours of departments and an interactive expo.

There is a one-hour Psychology presentation and discussion which is very popular with students. Psychology also has an information booth at the Expo.

Check the Tertiary Open Day website for the time and location of the talk and the location of the Expo

See below for PDF versions of the Psychology handouts available at the Psychology Expo booth at Tertiary Open Days in 2024:

Find out more about Tertiary Open Days

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