A study on the skills of master of arts in research psychology graduates from the employers’ perspective

  • A.W.R. Fynn University of South Africa
  • S.N. Dladla University of South Africa
  • H. Erasmus University of South Africa


There is limited research into Research Psychology in general and even less research into employers’ expectations of graduates from Research Psychology programmes. Calls from higher education institutions to improve graduate employability demonstrate the importance of exploring employer expectations. The method employed in this study was a cross-sectional design. Employers were surveyed to determine the types of industry in which graduates are employed, the institutions that employ the graduates and the skills required for their employment. Descriptive statistics and frequency counts were carried out to report the results. The study found that employers place much emphasis on the importance of soft skills, which is in contrast to the weight given to hard skills. In terms of research‑specific skills, employers focus less on the academic research skills and more on the basic research skills that research programmes often take for granted. The matching of the organisation to the individual was considered important. Although this falls outside the offerings of research programmes, this match ensures the employment of the graduate and increases human capital development within organisations. The research problem was that while the existence of the skills gap between training outcomes and employer expectations is widely documented, relatively little research has been conducted into the expectations of employers of graduates within the field of Research Psychology. The study contributes to the understanding of the expectations of employers that affect employability outcomes and destinations of Research Psychology graduates. 

Author Biographies

A.W.R. Fynn, University of South Africa
Department of Institutional Research and Business Intelligence, Institutional Researcher
S.N. Dladla, University of South Africa
Department of Psychology, Postgraduate Research Assistant
H. Erasmus, University of South Africa
Department of Psychology, Lecturer


Archer, Elizabeth, and Yuraisha Chetty. 2013. “Graduate Employability: Conceptualisation and Findings from the University of South Africa.” Progressio 35 (1): 134–65.

Bridgstock, Ruth. 2009. “The Graduate Attributes We’ve Overlooked: Enhancing Graduate Employability through Career Management Skills.” Higher Education Research and Development 28 (1): 31–44. https://doi.org/10.1080/07294360802444347.

Cai, Yuzhuo. 2013. “Graduate Employability: A Conceptual Framework for Understanding Employers’ Perceptions.” Higher Education. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-012-9556-x.

Cheong, Kee Cheok, Christopher Hill, Rozilini Fernandez-Chung, and Yin Ching Leong. 2016. “Employing the ‘Unemployable’: Employer Perceptions of Malaysian Graduates.” Studies in Higher Education 41 (12): 2253–70. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2015.1034260.

Coetzee, M, and D Schreuder. 2011. “The Relation between Career Anchors , Emotional Intelligence and Employability Satisfaction among Workers in the Service Industry.” Southern African Business Review 15 (3): 76–97. https://doi.org/10.4102/sajhrm.v8i1.279.

Collet, Chris, Damian Hine, and Karen du Plessis. 2015. “Employability Skills: Perspectives from a Knowledge-Intensive Industry.” Education and Training 57 (5). https://doi.org/10.1108/ET-07-2014-0076.

Council of Higher Education. 2011. Work-Integrated Learning: Good Practice Guide. HE Monitor.

Derman, Lauren. 2002. “Employment Trends in Research Psychology in South Africa: 1976-1998.” University of Natal.

Fourie, Eduard, Fynn, Angelo and Long, Errolyn. 2014. “Self-Evaluation Report: Master’s Programme in Research Consultation (Marc) in Psychology.” https://doi.org/10.2767/39856.

Griesel, Hanlie, and Ben Parker. 2009. Graduate Attributes A Baseline Study on South African Graduates from the Perspective of Employers Ii Graduate Attributes.

Health Professions Council of South Africa. 2017. “Professional Board for Psychology List of Accredited Universities in South Africa.” https://doi.org/https://www.hpcsa.co.za.

Knight, Peter T., and Mantz Yorke. 2003. “Employability and Good Learning in Higher Education.” Teaching in Higher Education 8 (1): 3–16. https://doi.org/10.1080/1356251032000052294.

Kruss, Glenda. 2004. “Employment and Employability: Expectations of Higher Education Responsiveness in South Africa.” Journal of Education Policy. https://doi.org/10.1080/0268093042000300454.

Moleke, Percy. 2003. “Employment Experiences of Graduates.” http://www.hsrc.ac.za/en/research-data/view/1388.

Potgieter, Ingrid, and Melinde Coetzee. 2013. “Employability Attributes and Personality Preferences of Postgraduate Business Management Students.” SA Journal of Industrial Psychology. https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v39i1.1064.

Rascher, Candice. 2016. “After the Degree: Research Psychology in the ‘Real World.’” University of the Witwatersrand.

Robles, Marcel M. 2012. “Executive Perceptions of the Top 10 Soft Skills Needed in Today’s Workplace.” Business Communication Quarterly. https://doi.org/10.1177/1080569912460400.

Stasz, C. 2001. “Assessing Skills for Work: Two Perspectives.” Oxford Economic Papers. https://doi.org/10.1093/oep/53.3.385.

National Council for the Social Studies. n.d. “Appendix I Essential Social Studies Skills and Strategies.” https://www.mcpsmt.org/cms/lib/MT01001940/Centricity/Domain/825/APPENDIX I Essential Social Studies Skills and Strategies.pdf.

Winberg, Christine. 2006. “Undisciplining Knowledge Production: Development Driven Higher Education in South Africa.” Higher Education. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-004-6378-5.

Yorke, Mantz. 2006. Learning & Employability. Learning & Employability. York, United Kingdom.

How to Cite
Fynn, A.W.R., S.N. Dladla, and H. Erasmus. 2019. “A Study on the Skills of Master of Arts in Research Psychology Graduates from the employers’ Perspective”. South African Journal of Higher Education 33 (4), 114-36. https://doi.org/10.20853/33-4-3397.
General Articles