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How to get a career in psychology

The human brain is a powerful computer, made up of complex elements. But rather than simply making calculations, it controls our personalities, regulates our emotions, and influences how we respond to a range of situations. There is much to understand, so no wonder there is an entire branch of scientific study dedicated to it.

The field of psychology is the scientific discipline responsible for the study of cognitive, behavioural activity in humans and animals. It is described by the British Psychological Society as: “the scientific study of the mind and how it dictates and influences our behaviour, from communication and memory to thought and emotion.”

Due to the broad and complex nature of the subject, there are various fields within psychology:

  • Clinical psychology is an amalgamation of practice and theory, aiming to solve any problems which arise from discomfort, adjustment, or disability issues. Clinical psychologists aim to reduce or eliminate distress and dysfunction, promoting an individual’s development.
  • Cognitive psychology deals with mental processes such as memory, problem solving, language, memory, learning, and memory. It encompasses how we perceive and communicate with the world, aiming to understand and improve these processes.
  • Evolutionary psychology charts the many changes to the human psyche throughout our evolution.
  • Developmental psychology examines how our environment influences our language, identity, moral understanding and motor skills.
  • Forensic psychology plays a vital role in criminal investigations, helping to determine the nature of a case, or criminal behaviour.
  • Neuropsychology focusses on the correlation between brain structure and behaviour; sometimes brain injuries can cause behavioural changes, and this is where neuropsychology comes into play.
  • Health – or medical – psychology studies a variety of contexts surrounding background, health status and psychology, such as the impact an illness may have.

…to name just a few!

Why should you opt for a psychology degree?

The old perception of psychology and other social sciences would suggest they are more closely art-related. Despite popular opinion, the field employs scientific methods and approaches, such as a reliance on research and evidence; perhaps not such a breeze as many may think.

Therefore, one of the first advantages of a psychology degree is validity, in knowing you have a degree with real-world applications. Meanwhile, there are some other advantages:

  • Employability has risen in the field itself, with the services of psychologists in high demand today. US Labor statistics suggest an increase of 22%. However a psychology qualification provides enviable career scope for graduates at all levels.
  • Salaries are increasing along with the rising demand for psychologists. Whilst the salary can depend on the specialisation, the average earnings for a graduate with a Master’s in Psychology are £40,000 per year.
  • People are the main subject of your work and studies, so you will have plenty of opportunities to work with them. You will have the chance to make a difference to people’s lives through treatment or research.
  • Specialisations can take your career in different and exciting directions. According to the British Psychological Society, 25% of students go on to further study, which is essential for some specialisations, and to become a chartered psychologist.

Certainly, those wishing to pursue particular specialisations such as psychiatry will need a Master’s degree in order to progress to the higher Doctorate level required for such positions.

Skills you’ll learn with a psychology degree

Some specific skills may depend on your particular specialisation within the field, however broadly-speaking you will develop similar skills and abilities, such as:

  • Critical thinking and abstract reasoning
  • Academic writing and presentation
  • Leadership and teamwork
  • Organisation and time management
  • Communication and interpersonal skills
  • Statistical and analytical capabilities
  • Research and analysis
  • Understanding of disciplines within psychology
  • Familiarity with social, emotional, physiological and cognitive determinants of psychology
  • Specialisation within an area of psychology

What can I do with a psychology degree?

The subject of psychology is particularly broad, resulting in a number of different pathways. Degrees in this field tend to help graduates form an idea of their preferred specialisations. After graduation, you may choose to work in research, healthcare, education, or another less conventional area.

  • Research is often used as by governments to develop policies, to kick-start a non-profit organisation, or contribute to various medical discoveries. With a subject as broad as psychology, research is a popular and necessary component.
  • Education concerns itself with imparting our current knowledge of psychology in a classroom setting, and is a worthy pursuit.
  • Healthcare and therapy includes a number of key roles, such as:
    • Psychotherapists work with people from all walks of life, with some using a variety of different methods – such as music therapy – to help individuals or families through setbacks.
    • Counsellors generally work in a confidential setting, to help people come to terms with life experiences. They will help to explore thoughts and emotions, and should be patient listeners.
    • Social workers put their expertise to use in a broader societal context, providing a range of services such as logistical support in addition to therapy.
  • Unconventional roles which can make use of the knowledge gained from a psychology degree can include any number of positions, in advertising, criminal justice, business management, human resources, and communications, and a great many more.

Are there any disadvantages to a degree in psychology?

Every course has its fair share of benefits and pitfalls. Some of the drawbacks associated with a Master’s in psychology are availability – some positions may require your round-the-clock readiness, which can be a source of; stress – both the courses themselves, and the nature of the work can vary in intensity, which may become taxing in the long run; time – we’d all like more time, but many Master’s programmes require patience, dedication, and a genuine interest in the subject.

If you are planning to study whilst working, you may find your time even more constrained. However, with online learning, which can fit around your existing work or family commitments, you’ll find studying for a MSc Psychology or BA (Hons) Psychology and Sociology becomes a lot easier.

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