Psychology graduates in the transition to employment
: negotiating employability, identity and the meaning of higher education

  • Peter Reddy

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The experience of psychology students and graduates in the transition from higher education to employment is examined using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) and thematic analysis (TA) of in-depth semi-structured individual interviews. Four students were interviewed near the beginning and again near the end of their sandwich placement year, and five graduates were interviewed shortly after graduation and again two years on. A literature review of studies of the graduate transition revealed a relative lack of qualitative studies and in particular few studies reflecting the circumstances of contemporary British psychology students and graduates and few longitudinal studies. The research is located additionally in literature concerned with graduate employability, the psychology of change and transition, vocation and identity, development in early adulthood, the development of epistemological reasoning, participation in communities of practice, the development of epistemic virtue, phronesis and ontological development.

Graduate interviews are analysed case-by-case and placement student interviews are grouped thematically. Ambition to enter clinical psychology is discussed as part of a strong career focus as well as issues of power and identity. The role of work experience, both as a graduate and on undergraduate placement emerges as a transformative force, much more so than higher education, which is experienced as enabling at best rather than transforming. Higher education is experienced in a range of ways from a source of a career credential to training for enframing in the Heideggerian sense, but rarely as ontologically significant. In conclusion the advantages of professional level work experience and a vocational direction are advocated to facilitate a transformative ontological turn in undergraduate education.
Date of Award1 Jun 2016
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorRachel Shaw (Supervisor)


  • graduate transition
  • interpretive phenomenological analysis
  • thematic analysis
  • experience of higher education
  • employability
  • ontological development
  • psychology education

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