Psychology is the study of the human mind, and is a particularly fascinating topic for many people. All of us want to understand more about what makes us and other people tick, and a degree in psychology can potentially provide some amazing insight into that question.
But before you go ahead and sign yourself up, it’s important to understand more about what a psychology degree will actually entail. What career opportunities will this qualification provide? Is it a sought after degree? And what skills and knowledge will you gain?
Read on, and we’ll address everything you need to know about getting a psychology degree in 2020.
What Does a Psychology Degree Involve?
First, let’s take a close look at precisely what a psychology degree actually involves.
There are actually two types of undergraduate psychology program. These are: BS (bachelor of science) and BA (Bachelor of Arts). A BS degree takes a more scientific approach, with heavier emphasis on research methods, neuroscience, and cognitive psychology. Conversely, a BA will rely more on interpretation and comprehension, with greater emphasis on psychodynamic theory and philosophy.
Already you might be feeling a little lost!
Suffice to say, that the BS program is by far the more common, the better respected, and the best in terms of career prospects.
There are also a number of related degrees that you can take that may focus on specific areas of psychology, or tangentially related topics. These include: sociology, health psychology, neuroscience, etc.
Aspects of Studying Psychology
To better understand the dichotomy, consider that – like any subject – psychology can be broken down into many smaller subjects and approaches1. These commonly include:
- Behavioral psychology – This is a “school” of psychology that believes we learn primarily by forming associations. The model is generally thought to be incomplete today, but it is nevertheless still a useful component to consider.
- Cognitive psychology – A more modern approach to understanding the human brain, that looks at the role of our inner narrative, and the processes our brain uses to understand information.
- Health psychology – This field is concerned with the role of psychology in health outcomes. How should a doctor approach a patient? How can patients be better motivated to complete their courses of medication?
- Social psychology – Social psychology looks at the influence of those around us on our behavior and beliefs. For example, can social influence make a person more or less aggressive?
- Sports psychology – This field is concerned with the role of psychology in sports performance. How do things like confidence and focus influence athletic performance?
- Developmental psychology – Developmental psychology focuses on the brain as it develops, looking at distinct stages children go through, and what this can tell us all about our own brains.
- Forensic psychology – Forensic psychology is focused on the psychology of criminals, and how it can be used to aid an investigation.
- Neuroscience – Also called biological psychology, this focuses on the physical and chemical structure of the brain.
- Evolutionary psychology – A school of thought that focuses on the role of evolution in shaping the human mind.
- Psychodynamic theory – The approach to psychology put forward by Freud and his contemporaries. Breaks the mind into three distinct entities and relies on the influence of unconscious beliefs.
- Clinical psychology – This involves the use of other
- Research methods – Also called experimental psychology, this is the study of the scientific method as applied to psychology. You will learn how to conduct research by collecting data, analyzing data for significance, and writing up reports.
Students will study a number of these areas at any given time, and will be required to complete tests and write essays for marking. Students will also be required to conduct their own research, demonstrating their ability to collect data (being mindful of confounding variables and other errors that could result in unclean data), and to objectively critique their own findings.
Is a Psychology Degree Right for You? Choosing the Right Course
If you are interested in taking a psychology degree because you think you’ll learn to influence the thoughts of others, or “read minds,” then you are likely to be disappointed. Likewise, you will learn little practical advice for dating, leading, or handling conflicts.
Psychology as a subject offers very few “hard” answers, with every theory being cast into doubt by a lot of research. While some aspects of a psychology degree are fascinating, others may seem boring or even tedious. Your job is to learn how to study the human mind, and how to analyse findings in order to find flaws.
While this may not make you into Sherlock Holmes, what it does is to help develop an analytic and logical mindset, and to provide skills such as comprehension, essay writing, data collection, statistical analysis, and more. This results in a particularly well-rounded graduate, and an attractive prospect for many employers.
In order to ensure you will enjoy the course, it is important to carefully read the modules that are involved and what amount of freedom you will have in choosing to pursue areas that interest you most. If you wish to become a sports psychologist for instance, then you should look for a degree that includes this module. You will also benefit from health psychology, clinical psychology, and neuroscience.
In particular, many positions will benefit from the statistics you’ll learn from your research methods modules, as well as the literacy required for essay writing. There is also an assumption that someone with a psychology degree will hold good interpersonal and communication skills, which are essential for any workplace.
Common roles and industries that can benefit from a psychology degree therefore include2,3:
- Data analyst (may require additional on-the-job training)
- Human resources
- Sales/Marketing manager
- Administrative assistant
- Logistics manager
- Site manager
- Play specialist (will require additional training)
- Accounts manager
- Research assistant
- Customer service representative
The broad range of skills provided by this degree mean that it can provide an advantage when applying for nearly any kind of work.
In general, psychology is a highly sought-after qualification, with employment rates being particularly high.
Jobs Relating to Psychology Degrees
If you are surprised to learn that many people with psychology degrees go on to fulfil general office job roles, that is likely because additional/further education is generally required for many of the more specific job roles.
With further training, a psychology degree can lead to a position as a:
- Speech and language therapist
- Clinical psychologist
- Sports psychologist
- Industrial-organizational psychologist
- School psychologist
As a sports psychologist, you could be earning over $100,000 a year, while a clinical psychologist can earn $115,000 and above4.
Keep in mind that these positions will typically require at least a Master Degree (MA) and likely a PhD. These qualifications require years of additional study, and large financial investments. They are also extremely competitive options.
Whatever your goals, a psychology degree is a worthwhile and rewarding qualification. This could lead to a high-paying office job, it could be the start of a specialist career, or it might just be a fascinating insight into the study of the human mind.
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