Career choices are endless with a psychology degree

The University of New York In Prague offers Bachelor and Master degrees in psychology. Every year, we meet future students at the UNYP Open Days who are interested in a degree in psychology. However, our experience is that not all of them are fully aware of the specifics of a career in this field. As we want potential students to make the right choices considering their future educational and career path, here are some valuable insights to think about when preparing questions for the UNYP Psychology department representatives at the Open Days. 

Many people all over the world find psychology interesting. However, what is it like to work in psychology?

This is a complicated question to answer because the field is so incredibly diverse. Typically, when we think of a career in psychology, an image of a psychotherapist comes to mind; a doctor conducting psychotherapy sessions in a small office with a few comfortable chairs. However, a career in psychology is not limited to psychotherapy; it also can include career paths such as academic research or child development. In fact, some psychologists do not even work directly with patients; they work with data. A psychometrician has very little connection to the stereotype of the mental health professional that is popularized by the entertainment industry.  

Careers in psychology can have varying stress levels (imagine the day of a forensic or criminal psychologist vs. a career counselor); and while some careers in psychology are currently in high demand, others are relegated to the background.  

Even within psychotherapy, mental health professionals work with different groups of patients in many different settings: couples, families, adolescents, elderly, terminally ill, convicted criminals, the list goes on. Unfortunately, media and television often provide us with an illusion that psychotherapists only work with the "worried well" who are unnecessarily anxious about their physical or mental health. These might seem to be the ideal clients: middle-class and upper-middle class people who are interested in self-improvement and who choose to hire a therapist to help them work on everyday problems to improve their quality of life.

However, real therapists might have to work with clients who are very angry and bitter, who might not want to be at the session and who may refuse to talk at all, especially if they have been mandated to attend by the court. Working with adolescents from the streets can be a shocking experience due to their anger and rough life experiences. However, imagine how fulfilling it could be to help vulnerable people redirect their energy into something positive and useful. Let us not forget about depressed people with no energy or power in their lives. It will be hard to get them to cooperate, but when you manage to make some progress, you will understand that there is no career more rewarding than one which can decrease suffering and improve quality of life. In fact, some good research for a future psychology student to do is to watch videos which are aimed at medical students, showing psychotherapy sessions with various kinds of people.

Other psychology fields worth researching about are industrial psychology, environmental psychology, and psychometrics; professions that are needed in the big corporations. Those may be jobs that you are unfamiliar with. A lot of psychologists work in the higher education system; this is where you can find developmental psychologists, social psychologists, and biopsychologists.

We asked Dr. Edel Sanders (Chair of the Psychology Department at UNYP) if she had any advice for someone who is looking into studying psychology. 

E.S.: "Everything starts with an interest. I have one student who was unsure about this major, so I let him borrow my General Psychology book, which is a great book because it has all the different types of psychology covered in it. He came back a week later, very excited about the field.  Reading around the area helps you to make an initial decision about choosing your university program, but only studying in-depth will help you to choose a specific career path. The great thing about the UNYP's four-year program is how extensive it is, between requirements and electives we cover pretty much every type of psychology, so the students have a clear idea about what they would like to do in the future."

E.S.: "More and more spheres are hiring people trained in psychology. In the corporate world, HR could be a great area for a psychology graduate, because they have learned about human behavior and have been trained to make better judgments. A degree in psychology increases the odds that these young professionals will get along better with people. They know how to observe and how to analyze their observations because they have learned how to do research. Understanding statistics makes them comfortable with numbers and graphs, which is also a plus.”

E.S.: "Other good examples are the film industry and dramatic arts. We had a student who pursued her master’s in film-writing after getting a degree in psychology because psychologists are trained to put themselves into other people's shoes. That's an excellent foundation for writing scenarios, and it helps to create plausible characters. We also had a few students pursuing careers in education and coaching.  A degree in psychology becomes useful when you are working with students or clients of any age group."

You might have had this amazing experience of helping another person, or you might be considered the go-to person for a piece of advice among your peers and friends. These are indicators that this might be a field for you.

We want you to enjoy psychology as much as the professors and students at the University of New York in Prague. In addition to reading about the field, it is essential to go out there and talk to psychologists, ideally from different domains. You need to talk to as many people as you can and get a sense of what this profession is all about. Most of all, you need to know what to expect. 

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