Psychology. Career Options. Issue No 29 August 2004

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1 Psychology Issue No 29 August 2004 Psychology has something for everyone. It is the scientific study of human and animal behaviour. It concentrates on the relationships between brain function and behaviour and between environment and behaviour. It encompasses how people learn and remember, solve problems and use language; how different brain structures control behaviour and what happens when these are damaged or affected by drugs; how humans develop throughout the lifespan; how individuals interact with their social environment, why they affiliate with different groups and are influenced by other people; and because it is a scientific discipline it includes research methods and statistical techniques. As a discipline, Psychology straddles both Science and the Humanities. Psychology graduates will have completed either a Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree or a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree. Courses of study are therefore flexible and allow students to structure their degrees in accordance with their interests and intellectual strengths which usually mean your academic record does you justice. Career Options Psychology graduates have a lot to offer, however, like all graduates they need to think about how they re going to present their skills and knowledge to give that competitive edge. Job ads might not specify a Psychology degree but with a bit of decoding it is possible to work out the basic functions of the job and relate those back to topics you have studied. Some jobs, of course, may require additional qualifications or experience and Psychology is highly compatible with other courses of study. worker, or occupational therapist, you might stress your understanding of memory processes, behavioural conditioning and theories of motivation. If a basic function is to influence people, such as with sales, advertising, market research, or public relations roles, then your knowledge of attitude formation, personality, and group identification should be relevant. If it s to provide information, as in help desk and technical support roles, librarian, policy adviser, economist, science technician, lawyer or systems analyst, then your knowledge of research methods, learning, cognitive functioning, or data analysis could be emphasised. If it s to extract information, as with recruitment consultant, journalist, police officer, accountant, or immigration officer, your understanding of psychometrics, abnormal behaviour, and the relationship between language and thought, could be appropriate. Topical coverage of career related issues brought to you by Victoria University Career Development and Employment. Areas covered include how degrees and courses relate to employment opportunities, to life/ work planning, graduate destination information and current issues or material relevant to the employment scene. Your comments and suggestions always welcomed. For example, when one of the basic functions of the job is to encourage and support people such as youth worker, manager, teacher, careers adviser, social worker, counsellor, sports coach, child care If the job involves working with groups, as in management positions, coaching, coordinator roles,

2 2 Career View teaching, or human resources, mention group dynamics, attribution theory, social comparison, and your understanding of cross cultural psychology. If there s a creative element involving sensory perception, as with website designer, artist, sound engineer, actor, film-maker, copy editor, or architect, draw on your understanding of visual perception, meaning and metaphor, and brainbehaviour relationships. Psychology graduates also have an edge with government and community social service agencies, such as Work and Income or the Mental Health Foundation, and are employed in a range of positions including administration, case management, funding, and research roles. Recent surveys show the range of employment destinations of Psychology graduates with a bachelor s level degree. A sample of these include: Alcohol and drug counsellor Cabin attendant Education consultant Human Resources adviser Management trainee Project co-ordinator Enrolment officer Researcher Recreation officer Corrections officer Careers adviser Marketing co-ordinator Animal behaviourist Conference co-ordinator Qualitative research executive Operations manager Fashion editor Family support worker Becoming a Psychologist Psychology graduates can also advance through postgraduate study to attain professional credentials and become a registered psychologist. You are not allowed to call yourself a psychologist in New Zealand unless you are registered. This process is monitored and administered by the New Zealand Psychologists Board which lays down four pathways to registration that combine different postgraduate study and supervised work experience options. The minimum requirement for registration is a Bachelor s degree with Honours in any field of psychology, other than educational psychology, together with a period of two years supervised practice. For full details of all options check the website (www.regboards.co.nz/psychologists/). Psychology is a broad field with a diversity of applications, many of which involve specialised roles and work environments. Some roles may require postgraduate qualifications or additional training. Always check with the relevant professional body for full details. In general, psychologists can expect, or be prepared, to: work with individuals, couples, families, hapu, iwi, government agencies and a diversity of social groups and community organisations work with children, adolescents and adults identify or diagnose problems, sometimes using assessment techniques introduce appropriate therapy or intervention to induce positive change, including long-term maintenance strategies work to prevent psychological difficulties developing write reports have a good understanding of cross-cultural perspectives and issues administer and interpret psychometric instruments (tests) VUW Career Development and Employment

3 Career View 3 work in multidisciplinary teams be aware of relevant legislation and statutory responsibilities enter into professional supervision arrangements maintain ethical standards and adhere to a professional code of conduct keep up with new research findings engage in ongoing professional development consider working on contract to organisations instead of being employed by them Clinical psychology requires a Postgraduate Diploma in Clinical Psychology and registration with the NZ Psychologists Board. Clinical psychologist refers to a professional qualification as well as being a job title. Psychologists who are clinically trained may therefore work under a specialised job title, such as criminal justice psychologist. Clinical psychologists are employed in a range of government and community organisations, such as District Health Boards, the Department of Child Youth and Family, community mental health centres, addiction rehabilitation agencies, private clinics, in business and industry and, increasingly, private practice. Depending on experience, they may also work in schools and prisons. Counselling psychology: A counselling psychologist is a registered psychologist who works with people to bring about and make positive change in their lives. Rehabilitation counselling is a growing field. Additional counselling or psychotherapeutic training may be useful. Counselling psychologists are employed across a range of government and community social service agencies and educational institutions, many are in private practice. Educational and Developmental psychology: Requires a recognised postgraduate qualification in Psychology or Educational Psychology, plus additional postgraduate study or work experience approved by the NZ Psychologists Board for registration. Many educational psychologists are employed by the Ministry of Education under the group Special Education. Others may work as private practitioners or under contract to schools, marae or other social service agencies. Forensic psychology is a specialisation within the legal and criminal justice system. The work includes risk assessment reports and the provision of expert opinion to the courts. Most forensic psychologists are employed by the Department of Corrections. Registration is a requirement and a Postgraduate Diploma in Clinical Psychology is highly desirable. Positions are available for interns undergoing registration as part of a recognised postgraduate course in clinical psychology. Organisational psychology focuses on working environments and work issues, such as recruitment and selection of staff, training, performance appraisal, career development, occupational safety and health, and organisational restructuring. Employment is in human resources departments in large organisations, some government departments such as Ministry of Defence, and private companies and consultancies. Clinical Neuropsychology explores the relationships between brain systems and behaviour. They may study the way the brain creates and stores memories, or how various diseases and injuries of the brain affect emotion, perception, and behaviour. Neuropsychologists often work with health teams to help braininjured people resume productive lives. They are employed in major hospitals, rehabilitation centres, psychiatric services and private practice. Community Psychology is mainly concerned with person-environment interactions and the ways society impacts upon individual and community functioning. Researchers examine various social issues including poverty, substance abuse, school failure, community development,

4 4 Career View risk and protective factors, empowerment, diversity, prevention, intervention, delinquency, high risk behaviours, aggression, violence and many other topics. Many community psychologists work in areas of social need such as with the homeless and people who are socially, mentally or physically disadvantaged. Sports Psychology focuses on performance enhancement, personal development, and wellbeing and adjustment skills through the use of psychological skills training. Sport psychologists are concerned with social and developmental factors that influence sport participation. Employment opportunities exist in sports institutes, tertiary institutions and private practice. Sports psychologists work with athletes, coaches and sports teams, and often function as part of a multi-disciplinary sport science and medicine team. Health Psychology looks at how biological, psychological and social factors affect health and illness. Health psychologists study how patients handle illness; why some people don t follow medical advice; and the most effective ways to control pain or to change poor health habits. There are two main specialisations: health promotion, which is concerned with illness prevention; and clinical health psychology, which is concerned with diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation. Other specialisations for psychologists include academic psychology, research psychology, experimental psychology, quantitative and measurement psychology, evolutionary psychology and engineering psychology. Increasingly, many psychologists work as part of a team and consult with other psychologists and professionals. Many experience pressures due to deadlines, tight schedules, and overtime work. Their routine may be interrupted frequently. Travel usually is required, in order to attend conferences or conduct research. Skills Psychology graduates possess all the skills employers expect of graduates, plus some that uniquely reflect their course of study. Communication skills are hugely critical to almost every employer. Psychology graduates are typically alert to verbal and nonverbal cues and stimuli, making them able to read situations accurately and make appropriate responses. Written communication skills are also well developed, particularly when training in the experimental method translates into concise, well structured and to-the-point report and letter writing. Relationship management skills: Psychology graduates understand interpersonal processes, including the intention and motivation behind individual actions and reactions. This is helpful in roles that involve a lot of personal interaction, such as management, teaching and counselling. They are also likely to understand group dynamics and thus be effective in team situations. Analytical problem solving: Psychology is a scientific, problem solving discipline whose raw material is maddeningly complex. Its graduates are therefore trained to work logically with information which appears contradictory, to discriminate between what is normal and what is aberrant, to establish linkages between cause and effect, and to formulate conclusions and action plans based on valid data. People who can solve problems without a lot of fuss tend to do very well in every work environment. Critical judgement is a higher order thinking skill which underpins the ability to make decisions. Psychology graduates are usually good observers, able to pick out relevant information and assess its significance according to a particular frame of reference. People who make good decisions and exercise good judgement are typically skilled at extracting a lot of information from their environments. Good judgement is VUW Career Development and Employment

5 Career View 5 fundamental to a range of organisational processes such as strategic planning and performance management. Statistical understanding is necessary to evaluate and interpret a range of quantitative data. Many jobs from policy analyst to market researcher require an understanding of basic statistical concepts, such as the properties of a normal curve, the significance of different levels of probability, and what is meant by a margin of error. Psychology graduates have learnt these things whether they wanted to or not. Research skills, whether interrogating data bases or simply knowing how to put information together, are valuable in many jobs. The body of psychological literature is extensive, much is computer-based and Psychology graduates are trained to access it. Expertise in such matters often means you can take the initiative in projects that are dependent on information gathering. Taking the initiative often indicates leadership potential. Assessment skills are developed in the context of learning about psychometric testing, which, apart from being relevant professional knowledge, helps develop confidence in formulating clear-cut conclusions from complex and detailed information. Psychology graduates are also unlikely to be intimidated when job selection processes include a day at the Assessment Centre. Professional self-awareness: Psychology graduates typically have a level of insight and self-awareness that allows them to discriminate between personal and professional behaviour. They therefore adapt well to roles in which ethical standards and codes of conduct are governing principles. This awareness and a capacity for professionalism also make for effective leaders and managers. Graduate Profiles Angeline Pearson Human Resources Officer, Broadcast Communications Ltd My decision to study psychology at university was a relatively easy one. I wanted to study something that I would truly enjoy. And what other subject could teach you about such varied and interesting topics as how our memory works or how a damaged brain copes or how criminal behaviour develops? I found my undergraduate years to be challenging, but more importantly they stimulated a real interest in the major I had chosen. This, along with the need to distinguish myself from others with psychology degrees, prompted me to apply to the psychology honours programme. Completing an honours degree is one of the best decisions I could have made. Honours gives you the chance to learn in quite a different environment. I particularly enjoyed the interaction with lecturers and the ability to debate issues with them. I also learned a lot from presenting seminars to fellow students and carrying out my own research project. When I began studying psychology I had given little though to the career it would lead into. Although I had never done more than a first year stint in organisational psychology, I was lucky enough to be employed at Broadcast Communications in their Human Resources department, initially as an HR Assistant, but quickly moving into the HR Officer role. This role is both varied and challenging, with a large part of my work being devoted to providing advice to managers and colleagues on issues such as parental leave, employment law, pay,

6 6 Career View disciplinary matters, health & safety and recruitment etc. Looking back on my time spent studying psychology I can see that the skills I learned benefit me every day in human resources. For example, completing confidential focus group interviews for my honours project taught me how to deal with the sensitive issues that can arise in human resources, such as sexual harassment. Likewise, the skills learned by thoroughly researching a topic and analysing the information for an essay are helpful for writing a piece of legislation into a process that all employees can use. I would certainly recommend completing a psychology degree to other students as I believe that the broad range of skills that a psychology degree teaches you are the most important skills that employers are looking for...and that s coming from someone involved in recruitment! Tangihaere Walker Social Policy Researcher, The Family Centre Ko Hikurangi te maunga Ko Waiapu te awa Ko Ngati Porou te iwi Ko te Whanau-a- Ruataupare ki Tuparoa, Ngati Rangi, Te Aitanga a Mate, Te Whanau-a-Umuariki, Ngati Hinekehu nga Hapu Tena koutou Looking back, I feel that chance played as much a role in influencing my decision to study Psychology as did skill or planning. I studied a range of papers in my undergraduate years including Philosophy, Law and Maori Studies; however it was Psychology that I stuck with. Both my parents were social workers and I was interested in what they did, but I wanted to avoid the follow in the parent s footsteps deal. Since I wanted to eventually work with people, Psychology looked like the way to go. I also thought that reading people s minds would be kind of cool. Unfortunately the mind reading did not eventuate but I still enjoyed the time I spent studying, finishing with a BA (Hons) in Psychology. It wasn t until my final year that Psychology really came alive for me. I had gained the confidence (and perhaps some knowledge!) to begin to critique and analyse what was being taught and also to further explore areas in which I was interested. My interests whilst studying lay in abnormal and social psychology, with a specific focus on opening space within the field of psychology to recognise knowledge from other cultures. This interest continues today in my work at the Family Centre. My current role at the Family Centre primarily involves social policy research; looking at issues such as unemployment, the effects of bad housing, and poverty. However, the Family Centre also works in the areas of family therapy and community development, and conducts training and education initiatives around social justice issues, such as the disadvantages experienced due to gender, race or socio-economic inequalities. Because of this wide range of activities, each day involves new challenges. Within a week I might facilitate a focus group investigating the cost of living for low-income households, give a lecture on the interface between Maori and Psychology, and assist with a family coming for therapy. Although it can be tough on time management skills, it is never boring. Based on what I ve been through, and the things I ve fallen into, I m not sure what advice I could offer to anyone thinking about studying psychology. The field is so broad there are many different directions one can take with it. However, if you have an interest in people then psychology is definitely something you should think about - you never know where it might lead you (and do not be put off by the statistics, even that can become interesting after a while!). VUW Career Development and Employment

7 Career View 7 Angelique O Connell Clinical Psychologist, Youth Specialty Service, Capital and Coast Health Ltd Growing up I was interested in why people behave the way they do, and as I got closer to leaving school I began to think seriously about the potential benefits to studying psychology. When planning my first year of study at university I ended up enrolling in Psychology at undergraduate level with the hopes of eventually becoming a clinician. Oh, and it fitted into my timetable just nicely - leaving me plenty of study time. I also studied other subjects including education, biology, geography and statistics. While I enjoyed these, my passion was for psychology. Attending lectures and reading books opened up an intriguing and challenging world to me. I had always thought of psychology as therapy, however I learned that there is so much more to the subject. While I studied a variety of subjects within psychology (almost every psych paper available to me at undergraduate level), my interest in clinical psychology remained strong. This interest led me to the Postgraduate Diploma in Clinical Psychology. This course of study was very challenging and I was grateful for having studied a wide range of psychological perspectives in my undergraduate years. The diploma course involved class work combined with the practical application of knowledge and skills within the working environment. By the end of my studies I was a qualified clinical psychologist. Since becoming qualified I have been working in the area of adolescent mental health, and I love it! However, at present I am taking maternity leave from this job to take care of my infant son...and I love it! If I were to offer any advice to future students it would be to avoid limiting yourself in your first year of study. Take a diverse range of subjects to avoid restricting your choices as you move through your degree, and study subjects you find stimulating as well as entertaining. Michael Duggan Risk Assessment Coordinator, Ministry of Health I started university studying Accounting and Law, not because those topics particularly interested me but as those were the degrees I was told were best to have. Initially, Psychology was more of a filler subject. However, I soon realised I disliked Accounting and lacked enthusiasm for Law but found the study of human behaviour fascinating. I also undertook Commerce papers and found a means of combining these with Psychology within a Masters in Organisational Psychology. Within postgraduate studies I developed a flair for the numerical analysis of organisational behaviour and continued on with a Ph.D. in the cost-benefit analysis of human resources. I gained a number of skills through my studies such as research and writing skills but perhaps the greatest of which was the ability to turn human behaviour into numerical analysis and produce meaningful results. Many students of Psychology dislike the numerical side of the discipline but I really enjoyed and thrived on it. My analytical and numerical skills got me employment working as an analyst within the Audit and Compliance unit of the Ministry of Health. My success within the position, and promotion to Risk Assessment Coordinator, was a direct result of the combination of Psychology and numerical analysis. I am currently responsible for assessing the financial risk within $4 billion dollars of health expenditure.

8 8 Career View The skill of turning human behaviour into analysis and results has translated well into the task of assessing risk and analysing data in order to manage and mitigate that risk. In essence, through understanding the human condition (our motivations, failings, limitations, and distortions - including policies developed and systems designed by such humans) and the ability to turn that understanding into data analysis, I have had success at finding non-compliance, fraud, and systems issues within health expenditure. The net effect of which has been literally saving millions of taxpayers dollars. When the word Psychology is mentioned people often think of head shrinking and clinical psychology, but the study of human behaviour is diverse and can lead to many other branches of Psychology and other careers such as human resources, analysis, research, policy, and as I have found, risk. At a fundamental level the understanding of human behaviour is essential in every occupation and for all walks of life. Psychology helps with that understanding and our journey through life. Psychology at Victoria The School of Psychology teaches a full range of undergraduate courses in many specialist areas. The School has a large group of students who benefit in their coursework from excellent facilities and dedicated staff. The study of Psychology spans the areas of both Science and the Humanities, and overlaps with other disciplines in which an understanding of behaviour is important. Special thanks to: The School of Psychology, in particular Prof Susan Schenk - Head of School, Dr Maree Hunt - Deputy Head of School and Stephanie Simpson; graduates Angeline Pearson, Tangihaere Walker, Angelique O Connell, Michael Duggan and all those people who contributed to this publication. Career View is published by Career Development and Employment Victoria University of Wellington, Te Whare Wananga o te Upoko o te Ika a Maui PO Box 600, Wellington, Tel: or , Fax: August 2004 ISSN For students choosing to study at postgraduate level, the School offers a number of programmes including GradDipSc, Honours, MA, MSc, PGDipClinPsyc and PhD study. In addition to the Clinical Psychology programme, programmes are expanding in Developmental and Family Psychology, Criminal Justice and Forensic Psychology, Behavioural Neuroscience and Neuropsychology, and Cross-Cultural Psychology. Those interested in pursuing a research career can obtain experience in one of the School s active research laboratories from their third year of study. The School maintains excellent links with Capital Coast Health and its mental health units, the Roy McKenzie Centre for the Study of Families, the Department of Corrections, the Family Centre, the Centre for Applied Cross- Cultural Research and senior psychologists in private practice and in the public sector. Many researchers in the School maintain relationships with other groups within the University such as the School of Biological Sciences, the School of Government and the Institute of Criminology. If you are planning to study Law, Criminology or Commerce and are interested in people, a second major in Psychology will give you an edge. Many students also study Biology, Statistics, Computer Science and Biomedical Science. For more information, please check out the school s website: or pay the friendly staff of the School of Psychology a visit! VUW Career Development and Employment

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