READ This if You Want A Psychology Degree in Malaysia
Back in my hometown (Sandakan, Sabah) the decision to pursue a bachelor’s degree of psychology in Malaysia, especially in 2012, was not welcomed by the people around me. This was largely due to the misconceptions towards psychology in my hometown. The common comments that I have received are:
1)If you study psychology, later on, you will become mentally insane.
2)Can you find a job with a psychology degree?
3)Aiyar, very sayang (wasted). You should have tried medical or law with your good results.
Common misconceptions such as “psychology = mind reading”, “psychology is about mental disorders”, “if you study mental disorders, you will get mental disorders soon” are still prevalent nowadays. Never underestimate the impact of these words / comments (aka “ignorance”), as they can ‘help’ people to kill their own interests from pursuing a psychology degree. To a larger extent, they can discourage people to get support from mental health services. Apart from educating them what a psychology degree is really about, what can we do to prepare ourselves in this journey?
What to do if you want to pursue Psychology?
Understanding. Nothing is more important than understanding yourself in relation to the course as well as the future career prospects.
1) Ask your seniors and learn about the contents of the course
I started to become more aware of my own interests in studying psychology after reading an article about clinical psychology when I was in Form 3. However, being aware of your interests does not mean that you will like to study the course or pursue a job related to the field. ‘Being interested’ can be just another word for ‘feeling curious’. For instance, I am interested in learning some of Albert Einstein’s theories but I won’t pursue a Physics degree because I know the course contents and future job prospects are not going to interest me. My interest became more salient when I discovered myself sacrificing my recess time to have ‘sessions’ with friends (I listened to their stories about distresses in academia and relationships).
I was very grateful to have Sin Yee as my senior during that time. Bringing me a brochure, she was very patient in explaining every course of the degree. I was fascinated by the terms “Cognitive Psychology”, “Social Psychology”, and “Research Methodology” (I can conduct experiments to test human behavior). After knowing what the whole course was about, I obtained a greater picture of what to expect and study in the course. That is important.
2) Approach professionals in the field
Earlier on, my mother wished that I could become a lawyer (like Karpal Singh, Nga Kor Ming and etc), possibly because I joined debate competitions before. So, I was lucky to have a short session with one lawyer who happened to be my mother’s friend. He explained the details of obtaining a law degree, his journey of pursuing that, including the Certificate of Legal Practice (CLP) exams, and also his career. In the midst of the conversation, I dozed off because I know this was not what I wanted.
A clinical psychologist came to my high school for a speech, and I approached her to ask for a discussion after her speech. I remembered her explaining to me thoroughly about the differences between psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, counselors, and social workers. From her working experience, I understood better what I would like to become and expect in the future. Yes, dang it, clinical psychologist. (Side news: I just finished my masters of clinical psychology in June 2018, my dream came true. Click here to know more).
I asked her “Will I get a job after completing a psych degree or a Master’s degree?”
She pointed to a newspaper and replied, “There are always jobs available, it depends on whether you want it or not.”
It is vital for you to explore what kind of career you want to pursue in the near future because studying psychology is different from working with a psychology degree. In general, psychology degree holders can work in various fields such as human resources, sales and marketing, research, working with special needs children, making films etc. I have many friends working in different fields and psychology helps them to advance in their career because of their deeper understanding about human beings.
In short, a psychology degree does not actually limit you to only one direction. Knowing your career interests can help you make better decisions in applying for internships during your degree years.
3) Know the Course Entry Requirements
The course will only take those who are eligible to join. Previously, I have done my research about the course entry requirements, requiring me to obtain at least 6 B’s in my Unified Examination Certificates (UEC), Form 6 exams in Chinese Independent Schools. Hence, in my last two years of high school, I have a clear goal to achieve. A pass with Minimum Grade B in six subjects.
No matter how hard it is, I WANT TO GET INTO THE COURSE.
Keep in mind that not all universities in Malaysia have the same entry requirements. Some are open to Science and Art students, some are open for Science students only possibly due to the course structure. For instance, my friend, Jackie shared with me that Cyberjaya Universiti College of Medical Sciences required a pass with Minimum Grade B in five subjects including Chemistry, Biology, or Physics for UEC.
Do more research with the entry requirements.
4) Be aware of SUNK COST EFFECT
People change. The decision that you made yesterday may be fundamentally different from today’s decisions. Don’t be afraid of changing your decision last minute if you think pursuing psychology is not really what you want despite your earlier promise to yourself to pursue a psychology degree. Alongside our life experiences, our perceptions and interests change over time. If you think psychology is not your cup of tea, don’t force yourself to pursue it just because you are afraid of betraying your past self who wanted to study psychology.
It is okay to change.
I have friends who almost chose the wrong course because they based their decisions on their earlier investments of time and efforts but not based on their present perceptions / interests. If you follow your past self who made decisions based on the past and let go of the present decision which you think better suited you, think again. Discuss this with your friends and family to get a broader perspective. Sometimes, it could just be the fear of uncertainty or an unknown feeling in the background. Put it on the table and openly discuss about it.
Sunk Cost Effect is a psychological phenomenon where we continue investing or giving in something that is clearly not working due to earlier investments of effort or time.
Same goes to the time when you are pursuing a Psychology degree, if you have tried every means and figured out that psychology is not really your thing, pursuing another path is really not a bad choice.
I hope this article can give you a glimpse of my preparation and experience before pursuing a psychology degree. Wish you all the best in your future endeavors. If you want to take up psychology as you major study, good, be prepared. If you aren’t remotely interested in taking up psychology as a course, I would still encourage you to use your free time to know more about psychology because psychology is not about aliens or psychic stuff, it is the scientific way of understanding human beings, ourselves.
Psychology for everyone.
With you, MY Psychology
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