Interview with 2 psychology students in Singapore

Psychology has always been a fascinating subject to many. How can one possibly resist the urge to delve into the minds of people? What is it that makes us tick, why emotions affect our behaviour, and why on earth is it when people tell you not think of a pink elephant, you think of a pink elephant. Pursuit of such knowledge has been seeing a steady increase within recent years, and if you’re one of these people, you have found the right article. *claps*

Various institutions offers Psychology as either a full time or part time programme. NUS does so within FASS (Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences), NTU in HSS (Humanities & Social Sciences), SIM-GE with multiple overseas universities, and most recently, Yale-NUS. The options are varied, and if you ever want to enrol yourselves in this discipline, you would definitely want to know what you’re setting yourself up for, in terms of academic content and job prospects. To meet this end, aside from troweling the depths of the interwebz for relevant information, I enlisted the help of two of my friends who have intensely studied the subject of Psychology.

Denise recently completed her BSc. (Psychology) with the University of Wollongong at SIM-GE and prior to that, she graduated from Ngee Ann Polytechnic with a Diploma in Psychology & Community Services. Jade is in her final year at NTU’s HSS, BA. in Psychology.

Hold on, Joseph. Sooooo is it an Arts subject or a Science subject? Either way, how similar is the content of their courses? And what job would I ever be qualified for?

Well, it’s a little more complicated than just assigning labels. Read on, and all your questions will be answered!

So what does the study of Psychology actually encompass?

Jade: Psychology is multidisciplinary. It’s the study of humans. Very theoretical and it always requires evidence-based empirical findings. Cognitively, it focuses on the mind and behaviour. If it’s health, it focuses on bio-psycho-social well-being of humans. If it’s social, it’s about how humans behave in social setting. If developmental, it studies your life experiences since birth & applies developmental theories to explain your adaptive or maladaptive growth. If motivational, it studies how you set goals, like certain incentives, processes you engage in to fulfil your needs. It studies holistically about you as a person.

Denise: It encompasses the study of the brain, thought processes, memory, and a lot of looking into different research done and by being aware of the limitations previously encountered, you can perform new research that would improve the lives of others.

There you go, there are several divisions of Psychology, all of which are the make up of our daily lives.

What are the biggest misconceptions you have encountered about Psychology?

Jade: The greatest one is that we can read people’s mind, people don’t mean it in a literal sense but they just think that we can predict their innate abilities, deep thoughts and intentions from their actions and physical behaviours. That’s not true but we can make some inferences if we know a person well enough. Another misconception is that when you major in psychology, you will definitely be a psychiatrist or psychologist although, psychology =/= psychiatry. The worst misconception of all is people who study psychology will grow to be a more empathetic and caring person.

Denise: It would be that psychology enables us to read minds. I think people pick psychology so they can completely predict or read a person and I must say it is a very attractive reason because who wouldn’t want to know?

psychology encompass

Surprise, surprise, there are such misconceptions, no matter how silly they may sound at first like.. reading people’s minds. And as it turns out, Psychiatry and Psychology although similar in knowledge and some professional practices both possess very stark differences from one another. A Psychiatrist is a practicing medical doctor, able to diagnose and treat mental disorders such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Depression. A Psychologist on the other hand, performs research and seeks to predict and improve behaviour and performance of people on different levels, ranging from the child, to the middle aged, to the senior citizen.

What are the advantages to majoring in Psychology?

Jade: You understand people. You can basically work anywhere you desire that involves human interaction & of course, research. You are able to monitor your own words and actions to prevent further misconceptions. One great example that’s easy for you to understand is the term OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). If a psychology major still says a meticulous person is OCD, that’s a total misuse of the term OCD. It has a great impact on people’s perceptions of an actual OCD person and can actually harm relationships if you think about it. This labelling is a no-no, it’s unethical to some extent. It’s just like we shouldn’t go around using the word retarded because there are people with actual mental retardation might be standing next to you. (I can’t phrase properly haha stuck on train).

On personal levels, People feel more assured and intrigued when you can predict one’s future health, future behaviours & development because you always sound like you are erudite in this. Besides, psychology knowledge is often backed up with empirical findings, everything you say, as long as it’s accurate, is beneficial.

Denise: That almost anywhere would accept a psychology degree. From offices to social work sectors. Because of the better understanding of humans, anywhere can hire psychologists to make the office, school or anywhere actually, a better place to be in. I feel that I am more aware of how people would react in situations. It raises my EQ.

Fresh insights into people would certainly on any level improve relationships and work performance. It is interesting to note that while pursuing higher level education, it is not just the practical skills nor theoretical knowledge we receive but also the inter/intra personal skills we form and exercise that can contribute to the building of one’s career.

Do you think this field of study lack practical applications compared to other disciplines like Engineering, Accountancy, or Design?

Jade: Not true? Design is a great example to illustrate my point. Interior design is a great example. Industrial & Organisational psychologists are sometimes in charge of how to design a conducive work environment. For example, a child’s seat should be elevated with a pillow, all humans must sit with perfect posture, chairs must be designed to attain a 90* sitting posture. A designer must also have psychological knowledge and empathy to understand how colours, lighting affect one’s attention span, concentration, memory (biological psychology). Psychology is multidisciplinary, it’s so dangerous to not know enough about humans because you can bring about things that may not help a human, but damage a human.

Denise: Yes, I would have to agree. It’s not very specific. You would have to get until a masters to be able to specialise in a part of psychology while the others, with a diploma or degree in accountancy, you could land a job as an accountant.

Differing views on this point. On one hand, you may have to pursue further studies before stepping into the Psychology field to work or carry out research. On the flip side, because of how one understands humans and their operations, a contributing or supporting role in other sectors such as design, corporate, or even education. It seems you would have to know what appeals to you first before you decide on what to do with your Psychology Degree.

Do I necessarily have to work within the social sector when I graduate?

Jade: No you not have to work in the social sector when you graduate because people have different life purposes and it is just hoped that psychology directs them to the right paths and paths they desire, as with any other major ethical dilemmas will arise in every workplace and psychology majors should have in depth knowledge of ethics in research as well as in life.

Denise: Nope. Like I said, you can go to offices or schools.


What if I want to be a practicing psychiatrist or counsellor?

Jade: If you want to be a practicing psychiatrist, you need a medicinal degree & PHD, qualifications are very different from psychology. If you want to be a professional psychologist, you need a minimum PhD or masters too. If you want to be a counsellor, a degree is definitely required but I think it also requires substantial experience.

Denise: For a psychiatrist, you would have to be awarded a Bachelors and Masters in Medicine before you can be a psychiatrist. If not, you would just be a psychologist. Were you to take a Masters in Psychology, it usually requires Honours or Grad Diploma. For Counselling, Honours in your degree are not needed but a Masters in Counselling is essential.

If your end goal is to be able to diagnose, treat, and prevent mental illnesses, you would be looking to complete a degree in Medicine before moving on to the further qualifications required.

Counselling can be performed at different levels, for basic qualifications to work in the government sector, you can refer to the National Council of Social Services website here. Post Graduate Courses in either Psychology or Counselling can be found at NIE’s website.


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