Your Path to a Psychology Career


Psychology is a well-sought after skill and many people aspire to qualify in psychology. Here we explain how you can acquire the psychology knowledge you desire.

The arts and the sciences are often presented as opposites, especially in schools. Students are thought of as English kids or Maths kids, dramatists or accountants, artists or scientists. This split is actually relatively new and quite misguided as many professionals require the abilities of a scientist as well as the skills of communication, creativity and confidence. Psychologists are one of my favourite examples.

Psychology is the scientific study of the mind and human behaviour. As a psychologist, you will be a scientist of human behaviour. Whilst studying psychology you will learn from and study experiments to find out how and why people behave the way in which they do. In your career you will try to understand what motivates people and use this to help tackle personal and social problems.

Psychology as a Career

Your career options having studied psychology – whether as a major or as an extra module – stretch widely and into many industries. There are clinical psychologists, medical psychologists, educational, forensic, industrial, sports, developmental, military. Even if you don’t become a psychologist, understanding human thinking and behaviour makes you valuable to many organisations and businesses.

Alta Coetzee has been practicing psychology for 17 years. She is currently working as an educational psychologist for the government. She got her MA (Masters) from the University of Pretoria and works primarily with children.

She answered a few of our questions on what it means to study and work as a psychologist.

What type of person would be suited to Psychology?

Are you naturally curious? Do you have an interest in human motivation? Psychology is a human science, so you should be prepared to study case studies, read a lot and, if you decide to get a degree, write a thesis. This kind of learning has particular challenges and some people are more suited to it than others. But psychology degrees are some of the most popular because many people find the work interesting and it offers a broad range of employment opportunities.

“When you have an interest in understanding the factors that influence human thoughts, behaviour and interaction, psychology is a good field to study,” Alta tells us. “Because the field is so diverse it is possible to focus on specific aspects that you find interesting. Whether it be children, neuropsychology, social psychology or research – the field is wide open and some fields don’t even require direct contact with people. It helps if you have an inquiring mind and you like to find explanations for the seemingly inexplicable.”

If you’d like a brief idea on what you’ll be studying, watch this:

How do you begin a career with psychology?

To actually practise psychology as a registered psychologist you will need a Masters degree. Short of that, you can get your honours or a BA in Psychology and use this as a qualification to work in industries that require people with an understanding of psychology but not fully qualified psychologists. Finally, you can get a range of certificates and diplomas obtained from short-courses, many of which only take a year to complete.

If you plan on becoming a registered psychologist you will have to consider studying towards a Bachelor of Arts degree. Alta told us about the process she went through to become a psychologist.

“To become a psychologist – educational in my case – I studied BA(Ed), a 4 year degree in education. I then did my B(Ed) honours and after a stringent selection process where they take your academic performance and personality traits into consideration, they observe your behaviour in various situations for a week. You then write an aptitude and other psychometric tests, undergo and take part in many interviews, and after that they select a few candidates for the masters programme.”

While studying through a university is perfect for some people, others may not be as suited to the academic lifestyle university provides. Whether this is due to needing to work straight after school or because the thought of studying full-time for another 4-6 years makes you cringe. However, all is not lost for those who can’t attend a university. Intec College offers an array of psychology-focused courses that might be the answer you’ve been looking for.

Study with Intec 

Intec is a well-known distance learning college. They offer affordable courses in a wide range of faculties and work closely with consultants and development specialists to support students throughout their time of study. They have branches in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Pretoria, Port Elizabeth and Durban.

Intec offers a few psychology certificates and diplomas, including short courses specialising in general, developmental and industrial psychology. These qualifications are suited to industries that soak up psychology students. They will set you up to enter into the particular industries that you are interested in. There isn’t enough time to go through all of these different qualifications here, so go have a look at the ones that look interesting to you on Intec’s website. Each course has a well organised and informative webpage detailing the entrance requirements, the course duration and content, fees and other important material.

What kind of skills will it equip a person with?

  • Understanding of how and why humans operate and behave the way they do
  • Insight into your professional relationships, your personal life and your own life
  • You will learn about basic scientific and psychological principles
  • Understanding the values of scientific inquiry such as critical reasoning, rigorous testing and the value of evidence and argument will develop your critical thinking

Alta feels that studying psychology has developed her as a person.

“Apart from the academic knowledge I gained, I think the process of studying helped me to grow tremendously as a person. I learned to look objectively at the behaviour of others, I learnt how to behave with empathy, be non-judgemental, without imposing my view on any other person. I am more tolerable and understanding when looking at others, and even when looking at the person staring back at me through the mirror.”

In which careers can you use psychology skills?

As Alta tell us, many organisations require individuals with an understanding of human behaviour.

“It can be used anywhere where the need arises to understand human behaviour – from brain function, childhood development, social interaction, predicting behaviour, profiling…the list is almost never ending.”

Psychology graduates end up in a wide array of occupations, applying what they learnt about human behaviour and applying it across a wide spectrum of industries. Individuals with psychology degrees can be found in social work, mental health, medicine, education, research, sports, management and many sectors of business. With a Masters degree, you will have the option of actually practicing psychology as a registered psychologist.

Any advice for an individual looking to study psychology?

“Do not be scared when you hear about the hard work that is required. If understanding yourself and others really interests you, it is worth it. Like the saying goes: you will never work a day in your life.”

EduConnect 2Cents

Whether you intend on becoming a full-time psychologist or simply find the subject interesting and wish to expand your knowledge on it – a course of some kind in psychology will never go to waste. You can apply the knowledge and skills you’ve learnt into pretty much every situation you find yourself in. You may find yourself becoming more empathetic to those around you as you learn to understand people and their situations.

Related Articles

Social Science

Interested in Social Science? Here’s a whole bunch of tips and info on this field, like student experiences, a peek into related careers, and cool videos!