Defining Psychology in general terms is “the study of the human mind and human behavior”. This opens numerous investigation possibilities such as; the brain’s functions, how it changes in response to environmental fluctuations (for example in stressful events), how it processes information and taking it further, how it encodes it permanently in the brain (if, it can store it permanently) and finally how mental illnesses impact such complex cognitive process.
Most people believe that Psychology is simply learning how to understand human thoughts and behaviour, when it is in fact a science that undertakes an empirical approach through experiments and evaluations. By undertaking such approach, major importance is given to methodology: what type of experiments are being conducted, what procedure is being undertaken, what experimental design is chosen, who the participants are, why they have they been chosen and what type of sample has been used. In doing so, quantitative against qualitative research is gained and most importantly, by analysing strength and weaknesses of such research/ methodology, the student acquires critical skills in the process. Thus, the skills developed in Psychology are widely applicable to future employment sectors whether it is directly linked to the subject itself.
Perusing Psychology at the International Baccalaureate gives a more holistic approach to such study, obtaining more of an overview of everything rather than deepening in one of the many branches of Psychology.
At university however, it is different as one can choose to focus on health, clinical, educational, research and teaching, occupational, counselling, neuro, sport and exercise psychology whilst having a general idea of all of them. Such often lead to careers of psychologists, social worker, psychotherapist, educational psychologist and possibly teacher. It is also possible to pursue a medical degree if considering to be a psychiatrist yet, all of the employments listed above are the ones which are most commonly associated to when someone says they are currently studying Psychology at the undergraduate level.
Given the wide range of transferable skills (psychological and analytical) acquired during the IB and graduate course, as mentioned previously, one must not limit themselves and associate psychology with only being a psychologist. Media, criminal justice, rehabilitation, advertising, business and managements as well as sports are all fields which can be entered with such study. Starting with media and advertising careers are quite common given the insight into human behaviour and the capability to analyse problems, undergo perspective taking and act with empathy and reason. Furthermore, having the ability to discuss and evaluate quite complex problems shows impressive communication skills which are very repeatedly used in this sector. Understanding human behaviour means understanding what individuals, more broadly, society wants and specifically to advertising, what the consumers most desires to which successful campaigns are constructed. However, once again the advertising sector is a very general term, it is split into smaller sub sectors including management, production, scheduling and writing are well within reach for psychology graduates. Following the knowledge and understating related to people and how they think, usually human resources and communications careers fit with what individual learn in their psychology course. Such careers enable to work in both the public and private sector.
Business and management is another job which is rarely associated to Psychology given the preconception that only having a degree in Business and Management will enable the student to enter in such sector. Due to statistical knowledge and the additional understanding of human behaviour, having a Psychology degree allows the transfer of these skills to a slightly different employment sector, even though some further training might be required before undertaking managerial roles. Yet, a starting point could be business consultancy, marketing, sales, advertising or business development, before working your way up the ladder. Nonetheless, Psychology also provides a strong ground for IT careers, finance, the legal sector, government administration and market research.
In conclusion, when one is thinking about future careers, they should try to go beyond the subject studied at the IB, A level or any other academic programme, and reduce the preconception that what one studies is the equivalent of what careers they will pursue. It is true that some undergraduate studies have a very clear and direct path into what type of profession it is leading into e.g. medicine, or law but again also in these fields there are many different specialisations. When discussing broader subjects which might be slightly more holistic in terms of their content, one should explore what they can do with the skills acquired during such program.