LET'S CHAT: THINKING ABOUT A PSYCHOLOGY DEGREE? READ THIS FIRST



Since I was a kid, my parents had always been "prepping" me to find a some what decent career pathway, however being anything but a high achiever I wanted to be that person who sold bus tickets on the bus. Throughout my high school years my heart was set on being an artist or a musician, however during my final year in high school, I had a sudden interest in psychology, why people behave the way they do and all the reasoning behind individualism and conformity. Social and Abnormal Psychology was a topic of interest. By miracle I got into a Bachelor of Psychology and soldiered through 4 years of uni and completed a degree that I no longer formally use.

University is expensive, 4 years of your life is a long time. I am hoping that this post will provide information to those who are looking to do a psych degree and to rececive all the information before you reach your 4th year. I had a lot of negative experiences from my degree, but will try and keep it civil and balanced!

B ARTS (PSYCH) vs B PSYCH
When I did my degree, the University Admission Index was a lot lower for B. Arts (psych). While the kids in B.A (psych) will not have received as much exposure in terms of different psychology units as you would in B. Psych, but you can still become a psychologist.

My psych degree consisted of a mixture of psych units (Abnormal, social, environment psych), Biology (neuroscience, genetics etc), logical thinking/psych theories and a LOT OF STATISTICS. A lot of B.A (psych) kids were able to transfer across to B. Psych given they reached the minimum GPA.

 
SCIENTIST NOT A PRACTICING PSYCH
Throughout my 4 years, I was taught to think logically, rationally and how to make an educated guess. Essentially, a step by step guide to become a researcher following the scientific model.

Throughout the entire degree, at no point was I or any of my classmates was ever exposed to any elements on how to actually be a psychologist (a part from rote learning diagnoses/treatments from the DSM). At no point was I taught how to engage with a client, how to make the correct recommendation or anything related to how to become a practicing psychologist.

No work experience is provided in the 4 year undergrad degree.

THE 4TH YEAR
The 4th year is the research year, you more or less spend the entire year writing your thesis, conducting experiment, gathering your data and analysing your stats.

The fourth year is a pathway to further education, again builds up your skills to be a researcher, NOT a psychologist.

At the end of my fourth year, I was able to apply for my Provisional Psychologist Registration, but don't be fooled, my knowledge on how to be a practicing psych is as good as those who haven't studied psych I was able to tell you why and how things happen, but I did not have a clue as to how to provide Psychological interventions.

At the end of the 4th year, we were told that our job options were limited - I will elaborate on this below.

POST GRAD (4+2, 5+1, PHD, MASTERS)
After you have graduated from your 4 years Psychology degree (good work btw - it's not easy) there are a few options:

- Masters: This can be in Clinical or Organisational Psychology etc. both are extremely competitive, unless you obtain a fantastic GPA in your 4th year with a great proposal and recommendation by a lecturer, it may be difficult to get in. When I was studying, each course took 4-6 students per masters degree. Clinical Psychologists are generally highly regarded and recognised, their pay is also significantly higher. Alternatively you can study at ACAP (but they don't provide HECS, only FEE-HELP I believe, and there is an entry requirement of applicants to have graduated with Honours class 2 - HOWEVER, having said that I knew people who have got into this course without doing Honours and completed a Post-Grad-Dip with Distinction Average instead).

- PHD: This is a great option if research is your forte . Again, a very competitive path and a long and in-depth thesis.

- 2+4 and 5+1:

4+2 means 4 years undergrad and 2 years supervised work experience/internship
5+1 means 4 years undergrad, 1 year at uni doing coursework and prac + 1 year supervised work experience/internship

Most people who have graduated from their psych degree would have ended up taking this option. Why? Because this is possibly the only option to become a Psychologist without looking at grades, you'll only need 3 things, MONEY, TIME, and COMMITMENT. This is not an easy path, because you have to find your own supervisors and pay them (can cost up to 20k p/a I believe?). You will be expected to find your own "work experiences" yes, more than one. A lot of companies cash in on this and require new grads to PAY for work experience. However, there are paid employment that can be accounted for as hours towards your work experience.

At the end of your work experience, you will be able to complete your full psych registration, however you will be a General Psychologist. As foramentioned, pay is significantly less than a clinical psych. Also keep in mind that there are a lot of General Psychologists around.


JOB OPTIONS 
This is for those who decide not to pursue further education after your psych degree. The good news is, your degree is highly adaptable, it's a great sales pitch, you can shape and mould your knowledge to fit a lot of different jobs. Two months after I graduated, I winged my way through to the final round of interviews as a Point of Entry Officer for Immigration paying up to 80k p/a, which was a lot for a 22 year old with no experience - FYI, I did not know a thing about policy/legislations/immigration. Unforutnately I fell short (which was expected), I did not get this job and kept applying, I got an interview as an employment consultant paying 45k, and later a Psych clinic admin that offered a measly hourly rate. I had an extremely difficult time finding a job.

The bad news is, your skill set is so broad that you won't be able to ease your way into a specialised profession. You'd be like jack of all trades. Unless you have the gift of the gab, you may find yourself either pursuing further eduation or studying something different altogether.

All in all, a psych degree is not a 4 year commitment, it's a 6+ year committement.

WHAT AM I DOING NOW
So I gave myself 3 months to find a job - I had my eggs in the point of entry role and was ready to be deployed to wherever they wanted me to go. Unfortunately, I was young and grossly inexperienced.

It didn't take a lot for me to change my career path, I found a few Masters degrees I can get into, went on seek and typed in the different positions and picked the degree with the most job searches on seek. Logical huh?

I am now a full time Occupational Therapist, some times I like what I do, other times I don't and occasionally I'd look back on my Psych degree as if it's a long lost best friend whom I no longer see. One thing I know for sure is that I can never see myself as a conventional practicing Psychologist.

Sometimes it takes 4 years to figure out something is not right for you, my psych degree was invaluable in a way that it acted as a very expensive self-help guidance/4 years of intensive treatment for my own mental wellbeing.

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