There is a distinction between the academic and the practitioner route in Psychology, Industrial and Organisational Psychology and Educational Psychology. The academic route allows one to pursue a professional career in research, teaching and some fields of psychological practice, excluding psychological testing, psychotherapy and counselling. The practitioner route means training as a registered counsellor, psychometrist or psychologist in order to register in one of the registration categories offered by the Professional Board for Psychology. Currently, the following categories are available: register counsellors (in various practice areas) or a registered psychologist (clinical, counselling, research, educational or industrial psychology). Provision is also made for registration as a psychometrist (independent practice).
It is important to do career research about the various options available. Poor research could lead to your having unrealistic expectations of what a career in psychology entails. Thorough research in terms of career options would enable you to broaden your knowledge about alternative careers should you not be selected for, or not wish to continue with postgraduate studies in psychology.
Many people believe that a degree will lead directly to a career specifically related to the major(s)/ specialisations for that degree. The fact is that degrees do lead to careers, but that the relationship between the major(s)/ specialisation you choose and the career you build for yourself is complex. Many graduates follow careers that are seemingly not related to their chosen major(s)/ specialisations. There are various career management techniques that will assist you with managing your career in psychology.
Start with a career management portfolio
Your career management portfolio could help you keep track of the information that you need to gather in order to manage your career. It could include information about yourself, about job opportunities, occupational information and about the different fields in psychology.
As a volunteer, your studies in Psychology will come alive and you will be enriched and in a position to build up an important network of people who could comment on your professional abilities. Volunteers normally work under the supervision of psychologists and social workers. Organisations making use of volunteer counsellors include Lifeline (counselling); Nicro, Childline and Rape Crisis (abused women and children); Alcoholics Anonymous (addictions); Hospice Association of SA and St Luke’s Hospice (death and dying); FAMSA and ACVV (relationships/family counselling); ATICC and AIDS Helpline (HIV/AIDS) and Triangle Health Care Project (sexuality).
If you are interested in applying for a professional Master’s degree (or for an Honours degree at another university), you will need to provide referee reports. Unisa students who volunteer have opportunities to network with professionals in the field of psychology who would be able to comment on their suitability to be selected for training.
Choose your volunteering opportunities to suit your interests and the skills you still want to develop. Treat your volunteering as any other job experience and ensure that you act professionally all the time – you are building your professional image and how you act will influence how other people perceive you and your skills and the type of recommendations they would be willing to give you.
Note that being trained as a volunteer counsellor, without professional psychological qualifications, does not qualify you to be a professional counsellor or psychologist or to practise independently. Check which volunteer organisations are active in the area where you live. The Department of Social Development has a complete list of non-profit organisations in each province available on their website at http://www.dsd.gov.za/npo/.
Unisa’s Directorate for Counselling, Career and Academic Development runs a peer help programme that trains students to help other students think through and reflect on problems that they might be experiencing. Each regional campus of Unisa trains approximately 8-16 peer helpers annually. Once trained, peer helpers volunteer their services at the counselling office, complete a career portfolio and participate in outreach programmes to different communities.
Investigate volunteer opportunities in your area and field of interest on the GreaterGoodSA website at http://www.myggsa.co.za/.
Research opportunities in Psychology
Investigate the likely possibilities related to your chosen degree by making use of Career Resource Centres, the Internet and informational interviewing. Include your reflections on the information that you find in your career management portfolio.
Develop your transferable skills
Your degree will equip you with subject-specific knowledge and a number of work-related skills (transferable skills), for example the ability to learn fast in new situations, to work independently, and to analyse, evaluate and interpret data. You should be able to identify and articulate the skills that you feel you are gaining through your studies.
Read more about the skills developed by psychology graduates here and reflect on what you still need to pay attention to.
Develop your employability skills
Your employability refers to your ability to gain initial employment, maintain employment, and obtain new
employment if required. In simple terms, employability is about being capable of getting and keeping fulfilling work. There are many aspects with maximising your employability, including: managing your personal brand, job-searching skills, networking, writing a CV, writing a cover letter, include networking, CV-writing, cover letter writing and how to
manage job interviews.
Why is your employability important?
Today’s careers are not what they used to be:
- Lifetime employment is a thing of the past: It is not unusual for an individual to hold about six different occupations during their careers, each with several jobs. The reasons for this are technological advances, economic shifts and changing social norms.
- Careers are boundaryless: your career can cut across different industries and companies. Instead of seeing your career as a ladder, you can view it as a web.
- Career success is defined in many different ways: The big house and fancy car are not the only measures of success. Some people choose to follow a more balanced lifestyle with more time to spend with their family.
- Where, when and for whom you work are not necessarily fixed: Flexible work hours, working from home, part-time, temporary and contract work are all part of today’s world of work.
Source: Greenberg, J. & Baron, A. Behaviour in Organisations. 8th edition. Pearson Education Inc: New
How can you develop your employability skills?
There are a vast number of resources available for you to develop your employability skills. There are employability self-help materials available on the Unisa website to help you get started. You can also e-mail email@example.com for us to send them to you.
Further on-line resources to explore include:
Do your own employability check now to see where you still need to spend some time to be more employable.
Next part: Your career development at Unisa