How to become a Psychologist
Psychology is an increasingly popular degree choice at undergraduate level. Its focus on strong written and verbal communication, data analysis, and interpersonal skills mean psychology graduates are well equipped for a wide variety of different career options. Some of the most common disciplines that psychology graduates go into include marketing, human resources, banking, and social work.
In order to become a licensed psychologist, a further three years of graduate study is required on top of your undergraduate degree to obtain a doctorate. Once trained to this level, psychologists can work in a whole variety of fields from being a forensic psychologist for the police, to working as an educational psychologist in the teaching sector.
Day to day life in each of these roles varies greatly, but all psychologists will work with clients, patients, or suspects to identify particular psychological issues and, through their knowledge and research, look to work through these problems with therapy and other techniques. Unlike a psychiatrist, who is a trained doctor, a psychologist does not prescribe medication for psychological issues but instead focuses on treating people with psychotherapy and behavioural intervention. Working with clients and patients is therefore a large part of the job of a psychologist, making it challenging yet also highly rewarding.
What subjects do you need?
Whilst a number of schools and colleges offer psychology courses, most university psychology departments prefer applicants with broader science subjects like Chemistry, Biology, Maths and Physics as their primary A-level (or equivalent) options. Some even include some of these as essential subjects so it is worth checking with each individual university about what they require.
Although psychology is a science, it involves a lot of qualitative analysis so additional subjects that can be useful include essay-based subjects such as English, History, and Sociology.
How do I get there?
Psychology courses are offered at a large number of universities worldwide but you must make sure the undergraduate course you take is accredited by the Psychological Society of the country in which you wish to work.
After obtaining an undergraduate degree it is very common for those hoping to become professional psychologists to gain work experience before continuing on with the necessary postgraduate degree. This can be in a variety of areas, but applying for post-graduate psychology is extremely competitive and so ensuring your work experience is in a relevant area is vital. A number of universities suggest work experience like working on a research team, working in social care, or shadowing a practicing psychologist.
Once you have been accepted onto a postgraduate course and completed your doctorate, you can then register as a chartered psychologist and begin practicing in your field of choice.
What books can I read?
Daniel J. Levitin
(2008: Atlantic Books)
Charles M. Duhigg
(2013: Random House Books)