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What is psychology?

Psychology is the study of the mind, our consciousness, behavior and social interaction. The discipline has moved from focusing mainly on the ill, to paying ever more attention to our functioning under normal conditions, and how to prevent illness from occurring. A career in psychology is no longer necessarily connected to the clinical branch. Today, psychology is used within organizations, education, forensics and health care to name just a few, meaning a psychology degree has the potential to lead to many exciting and rewarding careers.

Careers in Psychology

In addition to providing you with valuable knowledge in direct connection to the field, a psychology degree also provides you with valuable skills, transferrable to seemingly unrelated areas. The knowledge and abilities you gain within organizing research, interview techniques and statistics make psychology graduates popular within a range of areas, such as:

  • Marketing and research
  • Social work
  • Teaching
  • Nursing
  • Advertising
  • Sales
  • Media and broadcasting
  • Human resources

A dummy skull and brain stands on display

If you are wanting to focus on a career more specific to psychology, you will most commonly require at least a bachelor's degree in psychology. As the field has become such a wide concept, a master's degree within your chosen area of specialization is a common choice. Should you choose to focus on clinical psychology you will, in most countries, be required to fulfil a postgraduate training course of up to three years. Entry requirements to these include work experience in the field. Psychology is a very research intensive discipline with frequent open opportunities to continue into an academic career, should this interest you. No matter what you choose, the constant developments ensure that working within psychology means you never stop learning.

Here are some average stats for psychologist jobs in the U.S. according to PayScale.com and bls.gov:

Number of jobs

166,600

Job outlook, 2016 - 2026

14% growth (faster than average)

Average salaries (based on years of experience):

0 - 5 years

USD $65,000

5 - 10 years

USD $80,000

10 - 20 years

USD $89,000

20+ years

USD $98,000

Studying a psychology degree - which one to choose?

Psychology has come a long way from the days of Freud, and although his theories are still taught for perspective, they are no longer in focus. Psychology is offered at most universities worldwide. Generally each country has its own classification society, which approves the standard of each university's psychology department. Where you study in the world, is mainly up to you. Psychology degrees are very universal and highly transferrable between countries. An exception to the rule may be clinical psychology where practitioners will be required to fulfil country specific requirements, in a similar way to physicians. As to your choice of university, you may want to consider which branch of psychology you find most interesting. Not all branches are taught at all universities, and most schools have their specialties with particular research focus. It is also worth mentioning, that if you are looking to continue into clinical psychology, not all psychology courses make you eligible. Ask each specific school before you apply to avoid later disappointment.

Clinical Psychology

In order to gain qualifications to practice clinical psychology, a degree as well as work experience is required. Most countries require a license to practice, often gained through a postgraduate training course lasting for approximately three years. Counseling psychology could be referred to as a modern form of psychotherapy. Counseling psychologists help patients deal with difficult life events such as death of a loved one, divorce and unemployment. There is a wide variety of counseling techniques that all require different training.

Educational Psychology

Educational psychologists deal with the challenges of enhancing children's learning and development. They often work with teachers and parents to help students with learning and behavioral difficulties to fulfil their true potential. Training requires a degree in psychology, a teaching qualification followed by work experience within teaching. This leads into a postgraduate training course. Requirements may vary between countries.

Forensic Psychology

Forensic psychologists often provide support to the police, probation services, health service and social services. Training requires a specialist forensic psychology master's degree of usually one year.

Health Psychology

Health psychologists help patients deal with the challenges of illness and treatment. They study how illness affects people and how patients deal with it and adapt to it. How patients deal with and perceive health care professionals is also of interest, and how people cope with pain and various treatments. Training requires a postgraduate course, generally one year.


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