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Why students choose to study psychology and their level of satisfaction with the course

Ethics Approval Number: 2011/084

Researchers: Daniel Apat, Lisa Christophers, Celeste van der Kooji, Talitha Lowndes, Helen McCagh, Danique Omaquasha, and Amanda Wyatt

The purpose of this study was to determine what motivates students to choose to study psychology at the tertiary level, with a particular focus on gender differences and further explore if there is a relationship between these motivating factors and the students’ satisfaction with the course. A total of 87 (70 female, 17 male) participants with an average of 2.26 years of university education completed the questionnaire. Analysis showed students, both male and female were motivated by a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic motivators including studying in a field that interests me, increasing knowledge and understanding of human behaviour, personal growth and development, a desire to help others, expanding career options and because it is a prerequisite for a career in psychology. These results support previous findings and indicate psychology students are primarily motivated by factors that promote self development, as well as helping others and supporting vocational aspirations.

‘Studying in a field that interests me’ was ranked highest as an important motivating factor. This supports previous findings that interest is a prime reason students choose a major at university (Frederickson et al., 2003; James, Krause, & Jennings, 2010; Morris, Cheng & Smith, 1992).

There was a significant relationship between academic motivation and satisfaction, where academic motivation refers to a desire to learn. Considering these findings university psychology faculties are encouraged to develop recruitment and retention techniques that highlight how the course will allow for personal growth and development, as well as nurture the students’ desire to help others and lead to a career in psychology.