Interested in psychology but not really sure what it’s all about? Sounds familiar. Trying to decide whether or not psychology is for you, can be an extremely difficult decision for many people. In this short post, I’m going to share some of my personal experiences with making the decision to study psychology.
Not fantastic at English? Not a deal-breaker.
One thing that always held me back when deciding whether or not to go for psychology was the belief that I was never very good at English in school. Even though it’s my first language, I always struggled to gain rich vocabulary and develop my writing skills. Don’t let this put you off psychology — with some work, it is still possible. When I talk about studying psychology, people tend to make comments about how intelligent I must be and expect that I hold a high standard of English. This is certainly not the case. For my final exams before university, I studied English at “ordinary level”. For those of you who do not understand what this means, ordinary level is a step below honours level, the equivalent of pass level. Since beginning university, my writing skills have improved immensely through some concerted effort. However, there is always room for improvement! Seeking advice and feedback from my peers has really helped me with this. Also, most universities have services set up to guide students in the right direction when it comes to writing (e.g., The Writing Centre at the University of Limerick). Just remember, practice is key and a thesaurus will always be your best friend.
The myth about psychology being ‘wishy-washy’
Here’s the thing – a lot of people think psychology is very wishy-washy, or basic common sense. While as a matter of fact, psychology is a scientific study. By definition, this means the material is based on empirical or measurable evidence that is subject to the principles of logic and reasoning. From my experience, there are some aspects of psychology that one could consider slightly ‘abstract’, but this is the case with almost every course. I have always been a “believe it when I see it” kind of person, and psychology has definitely exceeded my expectations in terms of how plausible it would be. It opens your mind to a new way of thinking and provides you with a different outlook on life, as well as developing useful skills such as critical thinking. In Ireland, psychology is perhaps less developed than some other countries and unfortunately, it is only in recent years that career paths outside of clinical psychology becoming more widely understood and recognised.
An extensive range of career opportunities
Most people are not aware of the many and varied career opportunities that arise from studying psychology. Personally, although I have always wanted to work with and help people, I knew the role of a clinical or counselling psychologist wasn’t for me. At first, this caused me to panic because everyone I talked to wanted to go into clinical or counselling psychology. However, studying psychology provides you with a solid base to pursue a career in any type of psychology, you can then choose to specialise in a specific domain with masters or doctorate degree. These can range from counselling or clinical psychology to working with a business as an organisational psychologist or with protection services as a criminal/forensic psychologist. Many psychology graduates do not continue their studies to become professional psychologists, but instead use their skills in other settings such as human resources, marketing or business settings. The skills and knowledge gained from the course can benefit people in the future, no matter what career they end up pursuing.
Overall, choosing to study psychology has really opened up a world of opportunity for me. It has not only helped me understand myself but also understand the behaviour of others. It’s important to be properly informed about such courses before deciding to take the plunge because it can be very difficult to learn something you don’t enjoy.
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About the Author
Alanna Heraty (@AlannaHeraty) is a 3rd year undergraduate student on the BSc. Psychology programme at the University of Limerick, Ireland. She is currently on research placement (via the cooperative education programme) in the Department of Psychology and RISE lab (@risetoresearch), supervised by Dr. Elaine Kinsella (@elainekinsella). Alanna is particularly interested in the psychology of group dynamics and human development.