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Psychology student, not sure what do do after final year.

(18 Posts)
Emrae Thu 13-Aug-20 09:41:28

This is quite a long and possibly self-indulgent post about myself and my future so I’m sorry if I come across that way, I’m just very muddled at the moment and would appreciate some advice.

I’m hoping to get some advice on psychology postgrad study and on psychology jobs. I am 32, entering my final year of BSc psychology and have experience working as a nanny and volunteering with disadvantaged youth. My problem is, I have no solid idea on what to do afterwards, I know I want to do a PhD eventually or at least a masters, surprisingly to me (because I was rubbish in school) I’ve been doing really well in my undergrad and getting firsts in a lot of my assignments (essays mostly) with statistics being my weakness (low 2:1). I think if I choose a really good dissertation I’d have a decent chance of getting an honors degree or at least a high 2:1, meaning I’d be able to go straight into a PhD if they taught I was experienced in the field. I just don’t know what I want to do though, there’s so many postgrad studies out there and so many jobs in psychology, I’m interested in so many things. I seem to jump from wanting to do counselling psychology one day to education psychology the next. The whole way through my degree I’ve been saying ‘I think I’d like to do research.’ However, I don’t really understand the ins and outs of working in academia, I wouldn’t like teaching as I wouldn’t have the confidence and I don't know if jobs in academia are very stable. I guess you need to do research in a masters and PhD anyway so no matter what I end up doing, I’ll have to do research to get there. Does anyone have experience in any of these fields? I think I’m the type of person that likes my job to be different almost everyday where I do projects and work independently without being managed too much. I get bored easily and enjoy learning and helping people 1:1. I’ve volunteered as a youth mentor and really enjoyed it, I think I’d like to work with or do research on disadvantaged youth.

Also if anyone has done interesting dissertations around children and psychology I’d love to hear as I’m struggling to make a decision on what to do for my dissertation, not because I have no interests but because I’m interested in too many things; child trauma, poverty and child development, parenting, mental health problems (ADHD, emotional/ behaviour problems). My supervisor has warned that I mustn’t focus too much on vulnerable children as it’s difficult to gain access to them as an undergrad, I understand that but I really want to focus on something that I’m passionate about and on something that gives me direction for when I go onto study further.

Thanks in advance 😊

OP’s posts: |
stripes416 Thu 13-Aug-20 10:01:50

I have no experience as I'm just about to start a degree but with your psychology and your work experience, how about play therapy?

dreamingofsun Thu 13-Aug-20 10:17:40

my son wanted to go into research after his psychology degree and masters. he struggled to get a job as there were always people with experience applying. he is now working in a psychology related job and they are paying for him to do a phd (he tells me that most phd students where he is also do some teaching). I am glad (and i think he is too now) that he didnt go into research as it seems to be very contract based depending on if they have funding or not - so there is no job security and also the pay didnt sound great

Emrae Thu 13-Aug-20 11:18:51

I did think about play therapy before but went to an open day and you first of all need a masters and tonnes of experience in therapy before you even do a play therapy post grad. So it’s something I could do after I did a PhD I think. or at least after a couple of masters degrees. @dreamingofsun thanks for your advice, I’ve heard a lot of mixed opinions about working in academia. Also noticed quite a high turnover of lecturers at my university so maybe that’s a bad sign. I’m wondering if I did a research PhD just because I think I would enjoy it, would I be limited in my career choices then because I would only be qualified as a research psychologist and not clinical or educational. I’m a bit naive with all of this, I don’t have many people to ask as none of my family ever went to university and a lot of my friends stopped at degree level. I genuinely enjoy learning and want to always be learning something and focusing on new interventions etc for children.

OP’s posts: |
dreamingofsun Thu 13-Aug-20 11:43:44

have you spoken to your lecturers? that's what my kids have done when they arent sure about future choices

runningtogetskinny Thu 13-Aug-20 11:47:47

You could go into residential work with young people, you don't need your degree but it's definitely an advantage and would help you progress. To be an educational psychologist you also need to be a qualified teacher. Clinical psychologist is another career option?

chargeorge Thu 13-Aug-20 11:55:21

Hi, well done so far! I would think a good start would be to ask your tutors for advice on this and also around the university department. Also I have to say, as a teacher, there is a lack of decent Educational Psychologists - depending on whether you want that job or not of course!
Let us know how it goes

BeaUnder Thu 13-Aug-20 12:23:22

Is there an option to do a masters in social work ? Is that a direction you would be interested in ?

ejecoms Thu 13-Aug-20 12:31:03

I think the exact field doesn't matter so much as finding the right person who is willing to take you on and mentor you. You need to start speaking to lecturers who supervise PhD students as well as speak to PhD students. Successful research is more about the support you get than the precise field that you are interested in. A good supervisor will help you progress in your career and help you out when you have problems. But you also have to demonstrate that you have the qualities they want in a PhD student.

fruitpastille Thu 13-Aug-20 12:34:43

I considered ed psych so went into teaching. Still there! As far as I'm aware it's very challenging to go into clinical and there aren't that many ed psych posts. I got a 2.1 hons but so did many others! This was a long time ago when firsts were rare. To be honest I wish I had done a different degree sometimes but I'm happy in my career.

biscuitcat Thu 13-Aug-20 12:43:39

You don't need to be a qualified teacher any more to train as an Ed psych - that changed when it became a doctorate, so could be worth considering, especially as it sounds like you've got experience working with children?

Or otherwise, would speech and language therapy or occupational therapy be of interest?

PastaAndPizzaPlease Thu 13-Aug-20 12:53:08

I think a visit to your university careers service might be very helpful. They will also be able to help highlight opportunities for you to take part in this year which might help you decide.

Emrae Thu 13-Aug-20 14:20:01

Yeah I’ve had a chat with the career guidance counsellor but find they don’t have a lot of experience themselves and just direct you to vague information on careers websites/ booklets etc. I wouldn’t do social work but would consider occupational therapy or speech and language. I think my problem is that I don’t really know what these jobs are like day in day out and think I’d like research because you’re constantly learning aren’t you? Instead of just being stuck in an office or school where nothing never really changes or evolves.

OP’s posts: |
parietal Thu 13-Aug-20 14:53:38

A typical academic career in psychology is
BSc - 3 years
MSc -1 year (not required but 90% do & self-fund)
PhD - 3 years (with funding from the university)
Postdoc - 2-5 years (this is the tricky bit - short term contracts & you may need to move)
Lectureship - permenant job teaching undergrads & doing research

There are also many other ways to do research in conjunction with practice (e.g. Ed Psych, Clin Psych etc). But if the research itself is your passion, this is the path you want to look at.

As a starting point, look at and see if you see projects that you think look interesting and that you could do.

Emrae Thu 13-Aug-20 15:48:16

Wow @parietal is it really that long? I thought I’d be more or less qualified after a PhD and research expenses but didn’t know about the post doctorate. Showing my naiveté now 😬

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PastaAndPizzaPlease Thu 13-Aug-20 16:29:25

Just to say as well 3 years is the minimum for a PhD, and the amount you’ll be funded for if you’re awarded funding. I don’t know anyone who finished in less than 4 to be honest and quite a few people who took 5.

parietal Thu 13-Aug-20 16:59:25

@emrae - if you want a research focused career at a top university, that is pretty much the standard path. Fellowships instead of postdoc are also possible (similar status).

But bear in mind that you will be doing research from day 1 of your PhD, so it is not that you are waiting years to do research. By the time you are a lecturer, you don't have time to do the hands-on data collection yourself, but rather you supervise students who collect data and think more about big-picture aspects of the research, including writing grants applications and papers.

It is a really fun career and never repetitive, but it is also a long slog and needs a combination of luck and hard work.

It is possible to do a PhD and then go to a lectureship at a lower-ranked uni but you will probably then spend 90% of your time teaching with very little head space left for research.

Emrae Mon 17-Aug-20 10:13:41

Thanks @parietal, this really helps me understand what a career in psychology academia would be like.

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