Never has the human mind been as much the focus of discussions and practices as in the 21st century. From counsellors in schools becoming ubiquitous and organisations deploying psychometric tests for recruitment to newspapers frequently reporting the results of experiments in human behavior, the study of the human psyche has taken center stage.
What is psychology? What does a psychologist do? Psychology is a branch of science that deals with human mind and thought – it is a systematic study of the processes, motives, reactions and feelings of human beings. Psychology is a diverse field and therefore actual work performed by individual psychologists can vary dramatically. So, while knowledge of the human mind and behavior is what all psychologists have in common, their areas of specialisation can be very specific and different from each other. Hence, the answer to ‘What does a psychologist do?’ is not that straightforward – the table that follows gives you the picture:
Personality traits required A must-have quality for an aspiring psychologist is a genuine interest in people. All successful psychologists are curious about matters related to human beings. They are also great team players and are ready to collaborate amongst each other. A clinical psychologist, for example, usually works along with psychiatrists and social workers. Good communication and interaction skills are therefore as important as knowledge of the subject itself. Apart from this, there could be additional traits that map uniquely with certain specialisations – a person who enjoys solving applied real-world problems will take to industrial/organisational psychology readily. Patience is a “must-have” attribute to be a clinical psychologist while it is not so critical for an experimental psychologist. The Practitioner Interviews in this feature throw more light on this topic.
Preparing for a career in psychology – Education For those teenagers who have a strong inclination for, and are certain to pursue psychology at college level, most boards offer the subject as an elective in Grades 11 and 12. Kamini Kumar, a teacher at The Valley School, Bangalore, gives some very pertinent advice on how to go about mixing and matching subjects at the higher secondary level. It is not mandatory, however, to have opted for a psychology elective at school level to pursue a bachelor’s degree in the subject. Bachelor’s level courses usually provide a broad foundational level understanding while master’s programmers give scope for specialisation and research. The latter is typically offered only to students who have graduated with psychology as a major subject of study. Super specialisation can be pursued at the doctoral level – M Phil. or Ph. D. One good way to ascertain a student’s specialised areas of interest while pursuing the bachelor’s degree is to try out internships. In the Practitioner Interviews section, Nithya Hariya Mohan talks about how her various internships helped her identify her area of specialisation for the master’s programme. Indian colleges offer plenty of good options for interested students. Please see the list below, for select colleges, and websites that offer more information: