11 Jun 2018

Five things you need to know before enrolling into a Psychology Degree

Psychology is the scientific study of the human mind and behaviour. It’s a fascinating and varied subject that encompasses everything from theories of effective leadership and interpersonal attraction to diagnoses and treatment of psychological disorders. This variation means that it’s very difficult to provide a single definition of what a psychologist is and what exactly it is that they do. There are many types of psychology, and therefore there are many types of psychologists.
If you’re considering enrolling into a psychology degree programme, here are a few key pieces of information that will help you make a more informed decision.

  1. It’s not about mind-reading
If you tell someone that you’re a psychologist, you can almost guarantee what their first response will be: “So does that mean you can read my mind?” For some reason (possibly the popularity of TV “mentalists” like Derren Brown”), many people associate psychology with intuition or the reading of body language.
The reality is very different. Psychologists are either research scientists or evidence-based practitioners (more on this distinction below), not magicians or performers! Although they seek to develop, test, and apply theories that explain human behaviour, they don’t have a supernatural ability to read minds. In truth, no-one does!

  1. Not all psychologists are practitioners
Another common misconception is that all psychologists are practitioners. A practitioner is someone who “practices” a particular discipline or profession, meaning that they apply psychological principles to help individuals or groups in a real-world context.
While many psychologists are practitioners, many are better characterised as researchers. This means that they use the scientific method to generate and test theories that can explain some aspect of the mind or human behaviour. Research psychologists are often employed in academic settings like universities, where they combine research with teaching in their domain of expertise. Some research psychologists are also employed in the private sector, where their role often overlaps with that of the practitioner.

  1. There are many different sub-fields of psychology
Beyond the researcher-practitioner distinction, there are many different specialisations within the field of psychology. Generally, these specialisations are defined by the types of issues that psychologists in that area strive to explain or solve.
In the research camp, social psychologists seek to explain how their thoughts and behaviours are influenced by the social context (i.e., other people), whereas cognitive psychologists study mental processes such as attention, memory, and perception. In the practitioner camp, clinical psychologists seek to understand and treat mental dysfunction, while educational psychologists seek to understand and improve learning in various settings.
It’s beyond the scope of this article to discuss all the different types of psychologist, but if you’re interested in why people think and behave the way that they do, there is almost certainly a field that’s right for you.

  1. Statistics is important
Students tend to assume that psychology is an “essay-based” subject and hence doesn’t involve much mathematics. Unfortunately this isn’t true. While some types of psychologists do engage in qualitative research, the majority (both practitioners and researchers) take a quantitative approach, meaning that they gather numeric data and analyse it in order to make decisions and derive insight. Statistics is particularly useful in this regard. While you don’t have to be a maths genius to study psychology, it is important to go in with your eyes open so that you’re receptive to acquiring new analytic skills. These will be highly prized by any future employer, inside or outside of the field of psychology.

  1. It can be applied to almost anything involving people
Perhaps one of the best things about psychology is its diverse applicability. You can apply psychological principles to most situations involving human behaviour, meaning that it’s as relevant in a business setting as it is in an educational context. Students are often drawn to psychology and related disciplines because they are interested in people. If you’re truly curious about what makes people tick and why they behave the way that they do, studying psychology empowers you with the tools to really understand and predict human behaviour, using reliable evidence rather than relying on guesswork and intuition.
The undergraduate and postgraduate psychology programs offered at the Singapore campus of James Cook University are accredited by the Australian Psychology Accreditation Council (APAC).  The postgraduate programs also provide a pathway for registration as a psychologist in both Singapore and Australia.
Start your journey towards a career as a Psychologist with the only Australian Institution in Singapore to be recognised with University status!