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The basics
Study abroad : Subject Guides

10 things you need to know about studying psychology

Thinking of taking up psychology? We tell you ten important facts to help you make that decision.

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So you’re interested in this field, but unsure as to what it really encompasses? Psychology can come across as a vast and daunting topic, but understanding some basic facts will make it easier. We’ve come up with a guide to help you get a better grasp of this wonderful subject area.


What is psychology? 

Psychology is the study of the mental processes that take place in your brain and its behaviour. The term itself comes from the Greek word psyche which means “breath, spirit, soul” and logia which means “study of”. The field of psychology came from biology and philosophy and is closely linked to other disciplines such as sociology, medicine, linguistics and anthropology.


Psychology employs scientific analysis

It’s common to hear people dismiss the study of psychology as a ‘pseudo-science’ claiming that it is just ‘common sense’. This is not true. Psychology relies on scientific methods to investigate questions/problems and arrive at conclusions/suggested solutions. Empirical methods are used by researchers to discover relationships between different variables. Psychologists use a range of techniques to study the human mind and its behaviour, including naturalistic observation, experiments, case studies and questionnaires.

There are many perspectives

Topics and issues in psychology can be viewed in several varying ways. For instance, the inclination to murder can be looked at through biological influences or how other factors such as culture, family relationships, and other situational variables influence this inclination. Some of the major perspectives found in psychology are:

  • Biological perspective
  • Cognitive perspective
  • Behavioural perspective
  • Evolutionary perspective
  • Humanistic perspective


Psychology has many subfields

There are many branches of psychology, during your first year you will be exposed to the basics of these specialty areas and will only go further in depth when you decide on which course of study to pursue.

Different types of psychology include:

  • clinical psychology
  • personality psychology
  • cognitive psychology
  • developmental psychology
  • social psychology


Not just therapy

When you think of psychology it’s a frequent scenario that will pop in your head will be that of a therapist in a tweed jacket sitting in a chair with a notepad occasionally writing notes as their clients share their childhood experiences with them. While therapy is a sizable component of psychology, it is not the ONLY thing that psychologists do. Did you know that many psychologists don’t even work in the field of mental health? There are other areas that you can work in such as research, teaching and consulting. These settings include:

  • Colleges and universities
  • Private corporations
  • Hospitals
  • Government offices


It is all around you

The realm of psychology doesn’t just exists in classrooms or research labs, but they can be seen everywhere and in normal, everyday situations and interactions. In fact, the television and print advertisements that you’re bombarded with everyday rely on psychology to develop marketing messages that influence and persuade people to buy the featured products or services. Even how shopping malls and websites are created based on the consumer psychology- how we think, read, perceive and interpret the information presented to us.


It explores both real-world and theoretical issues

When you’re just beginning, psychology might seem purely theoretical and research. Remember that psychology is both an applied and theoretical subject. Some research focus on supplementing and adding more information to the established well of knowledge about the human mind and behaviour, while others choose to focus on solving problems and applying psychological problems to real-world situations.


What psychology careers are there?

There are many career paths available for you to choose from for someone who has a degree in psychology. These paths also largely depend on your educational level and work experience, so it’s imperative that you accumulate the relevant training and acquire the licensing requirements of your chosen specialty area. A few of the possible careers that you could enter would be forensic psychology, clinical psychology, industrial-organisational psychology and health psychology.


What are the goals of psychology?

Psychology has four main goals-

  • To describe human thought and behaviour
  • To explain why these behaviours occur
  • To predict how, why and when these behaviours will occur again in the future
  • To modify and improve behaviours to better the lives of individuals and society as a whole


Now that you know these basic facts about psychology, what are you waiting for? Check out the psychology courses available here.


Want to know more about a certain university? Download a university’s prospectus now!


Useful links

Choosing a course to study

Ace that presentation with these tips

How to choose the perfect major

10 universities where you can study abroad in English

5 ways to make the most out of your study abroad

Things to do before embarking on your study abroad trip


Photo credits: Ms Sara Kelly, Mads Voedker, Julien Sister, Dumbledad and Khara Woods

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