Q: I am interested in pursuing psychology in college. Can you give me more info on what the subject covers and what the career opportunities are?
Simply put, psychology is the study of the human mind and behaviour. The objective is to explain, predict and control mental behaviour. Psychologists use their knowledge to solve mental illness, behavioural problems, learning difficulties, depression and anxiety through psychotherapy. They also work as social scientists to conduct psychological research and teach at university.
[Explainer: pursuing a career in neuropsychology]
While the profession does involve studying all elements of human behaviour and factors that motivate human behaviour, it also encompasses specialty areas such as animal research and organisational behaviour.
While both professions treat people for mental illness, a psychiatrist unlike a psychologist is a qualified doctor. A psychiatrist can understand and diagnose the link between mental and physical problems and is authorised to prescribe medicines. Psychologists can only address the problem through psychotherapy, which may involve cognitive and behavioural interventions.
In school it is advisable that you study maths, biology, chemistry or physics. In college you will study cell biology, human anatomy, genetics, and evolution — topics all covered in high school biology courses.
You have a wide gamut of options to choose from. Clinical psychology is a stream whose applicability lies mainly in healthcare. A clinical psychologist diagnoses and subsequently treats psychological disorders such as depression, personality disorders, anxiety and trauma. An educational psychologist supports teenagers attain life objectives and also understand and help deal with emotional difficulties stemming from family, social or peer pressure. Many large corporations today use the services of an organisational psychologist to advise management and workers how best to improve relationships between peers, increase productivity and combat depression.
In the corporate world graduating with a business psychology degree could help you join the Human Resources team.
Another interesting career is that of marketing psychologist, which involves understanding consumer behaviour to predict product suitability and consumer spending habits.
In addition to Ivy League and Oxbridge Universities, psychology on its own or as a dual degree combined with business can be studied at King’s College, Anglia Ruskin, University of Chicago, University of Melbourne, University of Toronto, University of British Columbia, to name a few.
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