Have you ever wondered why a person behaves or thinks the way s/he does? Psychology as a field of study has fascinated scholars for a long time. Although it finds a mention even in the Vedas, the subject became a favoured topic of scientific research only after Sigmund Freud proposed his theory of the unconscious mind and subsequently went on to set up the school of psychoanalytics. Researches suggest that the unconscious and sub conscious mind play a key role in affecting the way the conscious mind functions. Psychology attempts to understand such patterns of the human brain that lead to several behavioural traits. It is indeed a fascinating field since every individual is unique and has a unique way of thinking; after all the thought process cannot be defined in a fixed formula.
In today’s competitive world, psychological disorders like stress and depression have become a common phenomenon, resulting in careers related to the study of human behaviour and thought process becoming a sought after one. Psychiatrist, counsellors, researchers and even psychology teachers are much in demand. So if human behaviour and thinking patterns fascinates you, then perhaps you could make a good career out of it. Here’s an overview of some of the careers in this field and what it takes to become a successful professional.
To start off, one can opt for Psychology at the junior college and undergraduate level. However, renowned career counsellor Jayanti Ghose says, “The basis would be a Master’s degree with a specialistaion. One is referred to as a psychologist only after gaining mastery over the subject of specialisation through post-graduate study. A MPhil and/or PhD would be preferable for long-term career and growth prospects.” Today there are several specialistaion to choose from: clinical psychology, industrial/organisational psychology, applied psychology, social psychology, counselling psychology, etc. Apart from the degree courses, several universities across the country offer diploma courses as well. Some universities like Mumbai University also offer distance-learning courses.
When it come to handling human behaviour, interpersonal skills play a more important role than academic qualifications. Careers in this field are all about communicating effectively and winning over your client’s trust. Therefore, excellent communication skills will be your trump card. It is important to be patient, understanding and empathic. Moreover, you should be convincing, be good with words and have the ability to build a rapport within the first few minutes to ensure that things work out effectively. “More than anything else, it’s important to have an interest and inclination to work with people of all ages,” suggests Malini Shah, senior counsellor, Avishkar Centre.
Students with a psychology background can explore a wide range of fields. These diverse options can be categorised into three areas, namely, therapy, human factors, and research.
Clinical psychologist: Clinical psychology is perhaps the most common and largest area of practise. According to Malini Shah, senior counselor, Avishkar Centre, “Clinical psychology is a diagnostic tool to understand human emotions.” Clinical psychologists predominantly work with people facing difficulties due to stress, anxiety, depression, phobias, etc. Experts in this field understand and analyse the thought process of the person before helping them alter their thinking pattern, thus helping them perceive situations with a positive outlook. Thus, the basic job profile would include:
1) Assessing and analysing behavious patterns
2) Choosing and planning an apt method of treatment
4) Maintaining reports to decide on further actions
Counselling: Counselling requires a lot of endurance. When it comes to counselling, you can choose from several fields ranging from child counseling to marriage counselling, health counselling, rehab counselling, community counselling even academic/career counselling, etc. Given the current social scenario, the most popular fields are child, academic and marriage counselling. Depending on your specialistation, the skill sets you need may differ. For example, when it comes to child counseling, one needs to be much more sensitive and understanding since getting a child to confide in a stranger is definitely not an easy task, especially when it comes to sensitive issues like sexual abuse or failure. Children may not always absorb or reciprocate to the spoken word. “Therefore, based on the age of the child and his/her area of interest, counsellors may have to indulge in techniques that children can relate to as part of the treatment This could be anything from drawing/colouring attractive pictures to playing fun games and story-telling,” explains Shah. It is important to be creative and vivacious while dealing with children.
Industrial/organisational psychologist: As the name suggests, industrial/organisational (I/O) psychologists are employed by firms, industrial set-ups, etc to help their employees cope with work-related stress or problems. “Apart from working with employee-related issues, I/O psychologists are often a part of recruitment, training, mentoring and work with the HR team,” explains renowned career counsellor Jayanti Ghose. Professionals also work on strategies and techniques that help improve productivity and maintain a healthy work environ. These psychologists analyse the personality of candidates to ensure that are able to gel with the work culture.
Teaching/research: Teaching and research are other lucrative options for those interested in psychology.As mentioned earlier, this is a booming field and more and more students are opting for this subject, thus increasing the demand for qualified teachers. Based on which grade you are interested in teaching, the eligibility criterion will vary. As a teacher, one can find employment with various universities that may also facilitate research. As a researcher, you investigate the cognitive, emotional, physical or social aspects of behaviorial traits. Researcher are employed by both brivate and government research agencies.
According to Ghose sports psychology and cognitive psychology are two emerging field that have immense potential. She says, “Sports psychologists work with sports participants and athletes to help them prepare psychologically for competition and to deal with the psychological demands of both competition and training. This is one of the fields with strong potential. Cognitive psychology, on the other hand, is concerned with all mental processes including memory, language, reasoning, problem solving, and thinking and this is a strong area for research.” Ghose also predicts that media psychology, health psychology and various other applications of psychology would become important as complexities arise with the growth of these and other sectors.
Remuneration offered is subject to one’s qualification, experience and field of employment. A fresher usually starts off with a package of Rs 6,000 to Rs 10,000/month. Eventually with qualitative experience, the pay packet gets heavier. In this sector, private practise yields better money as compared to an employment with a firm.
Speaking about the employment opportunities in this field, Ghose says, “Psychologists may take up jobs in teaching, clinical practice, basic research, applied research, psychological testing, industrial counselling or may work for businesses, career services, at centres for the developmentally disabled, in consulting firms, correctional facilities and prisons, social welfare organisations, defence services, family and health services, government organisations, hospitals, market research organisations, mental health organisations, educational institutions, in training and development services and youth services. However, there are many applications of each speciality, and psychologists investigate a wide range of topics,” she signs off.