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Careers advice for psychology students

James Davis

Careers Commentator
If you’ve got an interest in the human mind, there are plenty of career options available. We’ve assembled some of the most popular choices for your consideration.

Psychology is one of the most alluring social sciences, as human minds are something we’re all subject to! The desire to understand ourselves is a calling many can’t seem to shake. If you count yourself among the thousands who’ve chosen psychology as their major, we’ve got a few suggestions in mind for career paths. In this article, we’ll outline a few popular career choices, what they entail, what they pay and the sort of skills required to do them. All either directly or indirectly make use of psychology qualifications. Remember: this is quite general advice. For specific careers advice, always seek a professional career counsellor to be absolutely sure. At the end of this article, you’ll have a much better idea of what you can ask your counsellor about and have more information regarding your options. Let’s get to it.

Clinical psychology

These professionals assist clients from all walks of life in dealing with their unique mental and emotional problems. Day to day, they use their expertise on theories of human behaviour and motivation combined with empathetic lines of questioning, hypotheses and tests to diagnose or treat these problems. They help clients define goals for their personal development and monitor their progress through regular meetings. In addition to client duties, they may also work alongside courts and policy-makers to assist in legal decisions, conduct psychometric tests or run group therapy sessions. On average, clinical psychologists in New Zealand make NZ$74,098 p/a according to PayScale.

Education requirements are a little steeper for this than others on this list. You’ll need a master’s degree in addition to 1,500 hours of supervised practice as administered by the New Zealand Psychologists Board. You can find a list of accredited master’s degrees here. If you have a criminal record, you can’t work with children under the Vulnerable Children Act, but may still be eligible for other areas of practice depending on the offence.

The required skill set for clinical psychologists is quite varied, from knowledge of statistical methods and relevant laws to psychological assessment and intervention. These are developed throughout the course of a master’s degree and supervised practice, but the professional empathy required of clinical psychologists may come easier to some than others.

Social services

Social service workers or case managers use their knowledge to have meaningful interactions with the local community. They utilise empathy and sound theoretical grounding to assist those who may be struggling with emotional or personal issues. As such, clients can vary quite significantly, from children in distressing home situations, people without homes or young people struggling with addiction to victims of sexual assault or abuse. Careers in this field are not for the faint of heart, but offer the chance to be a positive influence in many lives.

Day to day, social workers and allied professionals have a variety of duties dependent on the needs of clients. Their jobs revolve around seeing and interacting with these clients, driving to wherever they live to help in whatever ways available. They also write reports, help find accommodation and navigate benefits. They make NZ$50,866 p/a on average according to PayScale New Zealand.

Registration with the Social Workers Registration Board is mandatory for becoming a social worker in New Zealand. This entails checking the eligibility of your qualifications. Feel free to check your qualification against the schedule of recognised qualifications. At time of writing (2019), psychology graduates also need some sort of bespoke social work qualification to become a social worker, but becoming a case manager, youth or support worker is still on the table without one.

If you’re someone with a great deal of compassion, but at the same time know how to cope with emotional stress and laugh off dark circumstances, this could be for you. If you only have one or none of these qualities, you’ll could find these careers difficult for different reasons.

Human Resources

HR managers organise and coordinate the human resources of a company. They do this through the use of intricate plans, budgets, employee appraisals, ensuring legal compliance, maintains guidelines set by management, recruitment, employee development and much more. As a result, day to day activities can be quite varied depending on current organisational needs. The nature of the work makes it quite distinct from others psychology grads may encounter. HR managers in New Zealand make NZ$80,144 p/a on average according to PayScale.

Your psychology qualification will be a great help in this role, but supplementary education in the form of business management or a bespoke HR diploma or certificate can make for useful supplements. Those without the desire to study further can pivot into HR consulting or organisational psychology and assist HR managers in selecting potential employees and evaluating or developing current ones.

This is a profession for the exceptionally organised. It’s necessary to juggle the strengths, weaknesses, needs and preferences of potentially hundreds of employees. If you’re not that sort of person, you may struggle with HR fields. If you are, they might just be your cup of tea.

Sales and Marketing

A natural fit for psychology graduates, sales provides numerous applications for knowledge of human behaviour. As a sales manager, for instance, you’ll set quotas, manage the sales team, communicate effectively with clients and observe a number of HR protocols. It’s a chance to be the beating heart of a business. Adjacent areas such as marketing are also viable pivots should you desire, which provide the ability to examine markets, devise campaigns and collect data to assist in meeting sales goals. Sales managers make NZ$68,784 p/a in New Zealand on average, but the variety of roles available entails a variety of salary packages.

Marketing qualifications of some sort are a nice supplement, but aren’t necessary. Provided you can demonstrate interest in the field and a propensity to learn, your psychology degree should be sufficient.

If you’re interested in principles of psychology and statistics, but also want to apply them to business, this is a great hybrid. Sales and marketing professionals are people with a passion for meeting the needs of consumers. If that sounds like you, it’s worth looking into.

Summing up

These careers are by no means the full extent of opportunities available to psychology grads in New Zealand, but they are among the most popular. To close things out, there are general precautions to keep in mind:

  • See a career counsellor in person. They’ll be able to take your circumstances into account and make a more informed career recommendation. You can use this article to guide questions you may wish to ask them.

  • Learn all you can about these fields. We’ve given you a short primer, but drinking in all the information online will help you make a more informed career decision.

  • Feel free to give these companies a ring. They’ll likely be happy to answer your questions about life on the job. If they aren’t, no harm done.

That’s all for now! You should now be better acquainted with the opportunities available to you, what they entail and who they’re suited to. If you’re interested in getting stuck right into some graduate job applications, we’ve got a comprehensive guide to graduate jobs in New Zealand that’ll but you in good stead.