Those who wish to pursue a postgraduate qualification in psychology can rest assured that there is no shortage of options available to them. But does the successful attainment of such a qualification open up a wider range of career options for participants?
Dr Mark A Elliott, a Senior Lecturer in the School of Psychology at the National University of Ireland, Galway, explains: ‘The answer is neither yes, nor is it no. Psychologists do specific things and so the field itself does not really change in scope, or breadth.
‘On the other hand, psychology is a very diverse discipline and – partly because it includes practice-based training – can encompass a wide range of postgraduate taught, professional and research degrees. ‘While the British Psychological Society have found that almost all psychology graduates find employment, 20 per cent find employment within psychology. This proportion is likely to be very significantly higher for postgraduates. This is likely for two reasons: firstly that practice-based qualifications lead deliberately to quite specific professional activities, while students tend to take postgraduate degrees in psychology because they would like to be psychologists.’
He continues: ‘In addition, the field of academic psychology is populated by people who started with degrees outside of psychology and migrated in through their research interests.’
There are a whole host of postgraduate psychology options available at NUI Galway. For instance, there is a MA and Postgraduate Diploma in Arts in Applied Behaviour Analysis. This course is pursued on a full time basis over one year (for the PGDip in Arts) or two years (for the MA), and applicants must have a second-class honours degree or its equivalent.
There are also postgraduate options available at the college for those who have already pursued study in this area. There is a Doctor of Psychological Science (DPsychSc) in Clinical Psychology which is pursued on a full-time basis over three years. Candidates must usually hold a degree or postgraduate diploma in psychology recognised by the Psychological Society of Ireland (PSI) of at least upper second-class honours level, or its equivalent. At least one year of relevant practical and/or research experience is also required.
NUI Galway also offers a Master of Science (MSc) in Health Psychology, pursued on a one-year, full-time basis. Applicants must have at least a second class honours primary degree in psychology.
There is also a Higher Diploma in Arts in Psychology, which is a one-year full-time conversion programme for students who have completed the BA in Psychological Studies at NUI Galway – or its equivalent. After the HDipPsych conversion programme, students will have covered the course content equivalent of the BA Psychology programme.
There are also a whole host of research degree opportunities available at NUI Galway to candidates who have obtained a degree in psychology to at least upper second-class honours level, or its equivalent.
In a period of great upheaval such as the one we are currently experiencing, many people will be curious as to whether any area of postgraduate study they are interested in pursuing has been affected by the economic slump. But is the study of psychology, generally speaking, an area which is particularly prone to change? Or are there constants in the content which remain, regardless of external factors?
When asked if the content of the NUI Galway courses has to be regularly updated, Dr Mark A Elliott says that professional programmes should ‘follow national and where possible international accreditation guidelines’. He adds: ‘however, and particularly because it is an internationalised discipline with more-or-less common teaching and research foci, this (changes) would not necessarily happen very frequently. On the other hand, psychology is a central discipline within the cognitive neurosciences, which is a rapidly evolving field of enquiry and subject to a massive global research effort.’
He adds that ‘perhaps most research in psychology goes on in this field’ and that ‘it is, not surprisingly, extremely competitive with respect to funds’.
‘Taught academic and research programmes would need to be very much on the ball to remain in the competition,’ Dr Elliott adds.
There are a whole host of other psychology postgraduate options available throughout Ireland, including programmes at Trinity, UCD and University College Cork. There is also a Postgraduate Higher Diploma in Psychology available from Dublin Business School. This course is pursued over two years on either a part-time or full-time basis, and is geared towards graduates who do not hold a degree in psychology. Applicants must have a primary honours degree of at least pass level in an unrelated subject.
So, psychology postgraduate options in Ireland provide both a way into the sphere for people who previously studied unrelated subjects, and a host of possibilities for those who have already attained qualifications in this area.
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