Could psychology be your true calling? Here are 5 steps for deciding whether you should switch to a degree in psychology.
You’re altruistic and empathetic, and have long held an interest in what makes people tick. You’re a people’s person, yet with a high level of self-awareness, and you’re seeking a career in which you can make an impact on the lives of others. You’re also determined and prepared to commit to the long haul when you find a profession that really suits you. If this sounds like you, perhaps psychology is your true calling. Follow these five essential steps for deciding whether to switch to psychology:
Step 1: Know Yourself
Individual traits that need to be evaluated include your interests (those things which you find most appealing/engaging) and your personality (your enduring and stable preferences in terms of decision-making and engaging with the outer world). There are numerous personality tests out there to help distil the essence of your character and what appeals to you most. If you tend to be an astute observer who is naturally inquisitive and who genuinely cares about others, you may be well suited to becoming a psychologist.
Proceed to step 2 if you think this sounds like you.
Step 2: Assess Your Abilities
Choosing a career in something that interests you is just the first step toward making a decision to switch to psychology. You also need to have a realistic grasp on what you’re capable of. Aside from having to cut it academically, you must understand that you will be entering a profession that requires a process of lifelong learning – both within your field and of yourself. While no one expects psychologists to be perfect (after all, they’re only human), before you can sit patients down on the couch, you must make sure that your own ‘mental baggage’ has been addressed. Your ability to effect positive external transformation is critically dependent on your own personal growth.
If you’re willing to do the work, proceed to step 3.
Step 3: Discover Your Values
Ask yourself, “What are the things I consider most important in the work I will be doing?” If earning a salary tops the bill, bear in mind that private practice doesn’t happen overnight. If, on the other hand, you want to feel that you are making a meaningful contribution to society in a job that stimulates you, psychology may be the route for you. Given the needs in South Africa, there is a rapidly growing demand for graduates with a thorough grounding in psychology, high intellectual independence, applied skills and research capacity. If you want to play a role in improving the overall wellbeing of individuals and society, then think about making the switch.
If you think you do, proceed to step 4.
Step 4: Consider Your Career Paths
Graduates who have studied psychology can build significant careers in areas such as community and social development, human resources and employee wellness, and counselling and mental health services; all areas where having a grounded knowledge of psychology, an applied skill set and well developed research and writing skills will be valued. If you’re considering making the switch to psychology you should be informed of your career options. Make it your business to find out about the different kinds of careers you can pursue as a psychologist practicing in South Africa. Once you’ve become well acquainted with the various registration categories for professional psychologists, as laid down by the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) you will have a better idea of where you’re headed. However, before you sign on the dotted line, take a reality check.
Proceed to step 5
Step 5: Take A Reality Check
Building a career in psychology takes dedication. For example, obtaining a Bachelor of Applied Social Science degree requires 3 years of study, including 200 hours of supervised fieldwork, but in doing so you will develop skills and knowledge that can be put to use in a wide variety of career paths. If you think you have what it takes to enter this demanding – albeit rewarding – profession, you should switch to psychology today.