Understanding how and why humans behave as they do is a hugely desirable skill in a wide range of fields. Gaining this understanding through the study of psychology can put you on the path to many different careers, possibly even more so than the technical skills and knowledge you will gain.
Certain attributes are essential if you are to become a successful psychologist. You will need to have a good sense of empathy in order to understand the often complex internal problems people face, as well as the patience and problem-solving ability to get to the bottom of their issues and offer effective solutions. You will need to have a good moral and ethical compass and be sensitive to racial, cultural, political, and religious differences. Above all you will have a passion for the subject and a commitment to lifelong learning: this is a constantly evolving field that you will need to evolve alongside to be successful. If you think you have what it takes, read on.
A psychologist can choose to specialise in a number of sub-disciplines. A clinical or counselling psychologist would be most people’s image of the profession – they talk to clients about mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression, or life events such as bereavement, and recommend treatments or therapies to aid in their recovery.
Forensic psychologists aid criminal investigations through criminal profiling, as well as working closely with offenders and victims in rehabilitation programs.
Sports and exercise psychologists may work with sports teams or individual athletes to train their minds to better deal with pressure situations, allowing them to perform to the best of their ability.
Industries that need to carefully assess the psychological well-being of potential employees are always in need of psychologists. The aviation industry is one example, where pilots must be evaluated for their mental stability and ability to react with a clear mind to pressure situations.
If you enjoy the theoretical side of the subject, experimental psychology could be for you. It involves designing and carrying out experiments to test new psychological theories, driving forward advancements in the field. This is often twinned with teaching the subject at higher education level, although if you want to teach the subject to younger students (at GCSE or A Level), you will also need a teaching qualification.
It is not just within the psychology profession that studying the subject can come in handy. Understanding how the human mind works and why we do what we do will be a useful skill in any career that involves working directly with people, as will the attributes of empathy, problem solving and others mentioned earlier. Jobs in the police and justice system, social services, market research, advertising, human resources, and management are just a few examples.
If any of this sounds like it’s up your street, studying psychology can be a highly rewarding experience that can lead to equally rewarding career prospects. Get started by applying for a Psychology GCSE or A Level course with Oxford Open Learning.