Whether you realise it or not, everything we do, say and think is a byproduct of psychology. If you’re one of those people who are fascinated with the human mind and interested in learning exciting theories, then pursuing a psychology course could be the right choice for you.
But is psychology a hard degree? And is there a demand for psychology graduates? We answer some of the top questions students have about studying psychology
#1. Is psychology hard?
Psychology can be a fascinating topic and rewarding career choice, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the best course for everyone.
For starters, a psychology student’s workload can be overwhelming. You’ll be spending your days doing extensive research, conducting class experiments and writing research papers. If what you’re working on doesn’t make sense to your lecturer, be prepared to spend extra hours redoing it. Plus, the course material requires memorising terms and theories that are crucial in your exams, which means there’s no room for slacking off.
While it may seem challenging, the curriculum is designed to hone your analytical and critical thinking skills. With the right time management skills, passion and lots of hard work, studying psychology may not be as difficult as you think.
#2. Does psychology require maths?
Many are often taken by surprise at the amount of maths required in a psychology degree. After all, psychology is the science of the mind and behaviour and is often associated with emotions. So what does maths have to do with psychology?
For starters, you’ll be conducting a lot of research and experiments throughout your studies. In order to get accurate results on your theories, you’ll have to collect and interpret a great deal of information and data. For example, if you want to investigate the hypothesis of whether people who like chocolate ice cream are smarter, you’ll need to take into account their age, gender or background to draw certain conclusions.
This is where mathematics, or statistics, in particular, comes into play. In fact, there are various methods and terms to measure different results such as Pearson’s correlation, Factor Analysis and Classical Test Theory — all of which to know how one variable impacts others!
If the mention of numbers gives you anxiety, don’t fret — it’s not as daunting as it seems. You don’t necessarily need to be a math whiz but having a basic understanding of maths is important. In fact, you’ll learn the ropes as you progress in your degree.
#3. What subjects do you study in psychology?
As part of your psychology studies, you will learn not only the fundamentals of psychology but also the specialised subjects — all of which will require you to grasp complex concepts.
For starters, you’ll pick up cognitive psychology that involves the study of internal mental processes such as perception, memory and language, and how these things affect human behaviour. You’ll also learn social psychology, which deals with social interactions and how group behaviour can influence and affect each other.
Not only that, you’ll also touch on the medical aspects of psychology — especially in clinical psychology, abnormal psychology and psychobiology. You’ll learn more about the disorders (e.g. schizophrenia, depression, ADHD), how their brains function and the right treatment and medication.
Other subjects you’ll study include counselling psychology, industrial and organisational psychology and research methods.
#4. Is psychology just common sense?
These two terms may have been pitted against each other but there’s one key element that separates them altogether — scientific approach.
Common sense would be not lifting a pot right after cooking knowing that it’ll be hot. It’s often your “instincts” telling you to make good judgements and to behave in a sensible way. Psychology on the other hand relies heavily on scientific methods to find the truth. There needs to be a lot of empirical evidence from experiments or case studies to form theories and facts.
In fact, psychology investigates common sense to see if they can be proven. For example, common sense would believe that anger can be relieved by “letting it out” from punching something or screaming loudly. However, scientific research has shown that this approach tends to leave people feeling more angry, not less.
The reality is psychology is a fascinating field that lets you explore and experiment with the wildest and even simplest idea to see whether it’s true or not.
#5. Is a psychology degree useless?
Ever heard people tell you that studying psychology is useless and a complete waste of time? Unfortunately, there is a notion that psychology isn’t a “hard science” and is considered a “fluff degree”, especially compared to programmes like medicine and pharmacy.
The truth is that a psychology degree is a key stepping stone to becoming a mental health professional (e.g. clinical psychologist, counsellor). If your goal is to become a psychologist, a basic psychology degree is insufficient as you’ll need to pursue postgraduate qualifications. However, the same can be said for the medical field where further studies are required for doctors to become neurosurgeons, cardiologists and paediatricians.
Even if you choose not to become a psychologist, there are plenty of transferable skills that you pick up in a psychology degree, enabling you to land jobs outside the mental health field. This includes human resources, recruitment and learning and organisation development, all of which are in-demand.
#6. Is psychology in demand in Malaysia?
Despite the increasing awareness in recent years, the mental health field still falls short in terms of specialists.
In Malaysia, there is currently a severe shortage of clinical psychologists with a ratio of 1:980,000 — a figure far below the ideal 1:5,000 ratio. In addition, there are also insufficient registered counsellors in the country. These roles are important to help cope with the rise of mental health issues, especially given the fact that 7.9% of youths have mental health problems and 2.9% of adults are suffering from depression.
So if job prospects are important to you, clinical psychology and counselling are good psychology specialisations to explore.
#7. What jobs can I do with a psychology degree?
No, you don’t necessarily have to be a psychologist, though there are plenty of psychology specialisations for you to explore. In fact, the best part about graduating with a psychology degree is being able to carve out a career in other fields.
A psychology degree often equips you with useful and transferable skills, particularly problem-solving, strong numeracy, analytical and critical thinking skills, and good communication. These skills are highly desirable in a number of industries such as human resource, marketing, consulting, business and education.
#8. Is psychology the right course for me?
If you’re wondering whether psychology is a good fit for you, here are some questions to ponder on:
- Do you enjoy learning about the human mind?
- Do you genuinely care about the welfare of others?
- Do you consider yourself observant and analytical?
- Do you enjoy conducting experiments using scientific methods?
- Are you a good listener?
- Do you like helping people solve their problems?
If you’re nodding your head in excitement to most of these questions, then a psychology degree may be the right choice for you.