There are a few bachelor’s degree programmes that are popular because they allow students access to some interesting information, and psychology is one of those. Many young undergraduates sign up for psychology degrees because the coursework is fascinating, not because they have a particular career path in mind.
However, it is possible to put your psychology degree to use – and what’s more, you can use your psychology to improve the world around you. Here are a few steps you can take to give yourself and your psychology degree an important purpose.
Get a master’s degree
In the field of psychology, there is not much you can do with a bachelor’s degree alone. Rather, a bachelor’s program provides a foundation of knowledge upon which you will build your understanding and skill with advanced degrees. A master’s degree in psychology typically requires two years of study, after which you will be properly credentialed to work with clinical patients in a counseling setting or begin experimental research. With a master’s degree, you can also progress into a doctorate program, where you will become an expert in your field and influence other psychologists and mental health practitioners. Fortunately, you can pursue an online master’s in psychology, which reduces the expense of the program and offers greater convenience.
Specialisation is an essential step in practicing psychology, regardless of whether you intend to enter the academic space or perform clinical work. Because psychology is so subjective, dependent on an individual’s genetics, life experiences, upbringing and more, diagnostic strategies and treatment techniques often vary. By specializing in a type of mental disorder, a type of patient or a type of treatment, psychologists can provide the most updated knowledge and highest quality of service to their clients.
There are dozens of specializations you might consider, and you should explore different options during your master’s program to determine which field is right for you. Some of the most common specializations include:
- Developmental psychology, or how growth and change affect a person’s psychology
- Industrial/organizational psychology, or how to use psychology to resolve conflicts in work settings
- Sports psychology, or how to help athletes master the mental game
- School psychology, or how to help children address emotional, social and academic issues
Work in the field
Perhaps the most crucial step in putting a psychology degree to good use is getting to work. Working in the field of psychology will look different for psychologists with different specializations and different interests. But all psychology work is valuable and contributes to greater knowledge and understanding of the human mind.
If your passion lies in clinical work, your day-to-day experience will almost entirely focus on meeting with clients. You will talk with clients, assess their mental, emotional and behavioral symptoms, offer diagnoses and develop treatment plans. You might work in a private clinical or counseling psychology practice, or you can perform your services in mental health centers or hospitals.
If you are more interested in psychology research, you will probably remain in an academic environment for much of your career, though some experimental psychologists find work with government agencies or private businesses depending on their specialisation. A significant portion of this work consists of writing – applying for grant money, drafting experiment plans, maintaining records and reviewing results. However, your effort could contribute to important shifts in the practice of psychology.
A good psychologist is well-aware that the knowledge in this field is not currently set in stone. Psychology is one of the youngest sciences, and there is precious little we truly understand about the human brain. Fortunately, an increased awareness of the importance of mental health is channeling more funding into psychology research, and groundbreaking discoveries about human emotions and behaviours are occurring with greater frequency. Thus, it is imperative that you commit to continuing to update your psychology knowledge and skill throughout your career.
If you became utterly enchanted by the field of psychology during your undergraduate studies, you aren’t alone. Fortunately, you can turn your passion into a rewarding career by returning to school for a master’s degree and committing to helping others in the field of psychology.
Ellen Diamond did her degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. She is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.
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