Turning your MSc into a career in Occupational Psychology

April 12th, 2011 by Sarah Green Leave a reply »

Dr Amanda Potter, Owner and Managing Director of Zircon the Occupational Psychology Consultancy, is passionate about providing others with the opportunity to learn, develop and grow in their careers. As a result Zircon’s Business Psychologists always have its eye on the future, seeking out new talent and providing work placement opportunities for Psychology Graduates to experience Occupational Psychology from a Consultancy perspective.

We therefore thought we would blog this useful guide of evidence based tips, adapted from an article in The Psychologist. We have also added a few suggestions of our own!

13 Practical tips for studying and applying your MSc in Occupational Psychology in order to gain the right experience as a Occupational or Business Psychologist:

1. Select an MSc Course that is BPS recognised.
You won’t believe how many Psychologists get to the end of their education only to find their MSc is not BPS recognised and therefore they cannot apply to the Division of Occupational psychology and start their journey to becoming an Occupational Psychologist without completing a one year conversion course.

2. Adapt a growth mindset
Revisit your theories on human intelligence. Research has found it is important to recognise that we are able increase our intelligence levels. By viewing intelligence as a fluid concept which can grow and develop we do not restrict ourselves to beliefs that intelligence is a fixed entity which cannot be changed. Therefore, seek new ways to learn that work for you.

3. Sleep well and Learn how to Nap
Studies have found that a lack of sleep impairs memory, even of simple things such as remembering pictures or lists of words. Therefore remembering complex psychological theories when sleep deprived is going to be much harder! However tempting it is to ‘pull all nighters’ it is likely to be more effective to get a good night sleep. In addition, research has found that napping can help boost concentration and reduce fatigue. A study found that a 20 minute nap after lunch increased performance during a simple auditory task. And it didn’t matter if you napped lying down or hunched over your desk! Sleep is also thought to consolidate memory.

4. Forgive yourself for procrastinating
Everyone procrastinates, however feeling guilty about it may impair your performance in exams. It has been found that those who forgive themselves for procrastinating are likely to procrastinate less in the future.

5. Test yourself
Time spent testing yourself will help you to remember the facts and theories which you need to, this is when compared to spending the same amount of time merely reviewing/re-reading the same material. However, it is important to know when to test yourself. The best time is not when you have just looked at something as the memory will be quite fresh in your mind and so too easy to recall. It is best to wait until the primacy effect has worn off and the information has left your short term memory. Testing yourself at this point will determine if the information has transferred to your long term memory!

6. Pace your studies
The best way to remember what you learn is to review it periodically rather than cramming just before an exam. A study found that the best time to review work is 10-30% of the period you want to remember it, after you learnt it. For example, it you want to be able to know and recall it in 5 days time, you will need to revise the information 1 day after you were taught it.

7. Vivid examples may not always work best
In 2008 a study found that when students were taught vivid/unforgettable examples of mathematical rules they were not able to transfer their learning to other situations, unlike those who were taught the mathematical rules in realistic ways. Therefore, whilst vivid examples may be memorable they are unlikely to allow you to transfer knowledge to other situations.

8. Get handouts prior to the lecture
A study compared students who did and did not have the lecture notes prior to the lecture. Those who had notes prior to the lecture, wrote less but performed the same or better than those who did not have notes prior to lecture and wrote more. Furthermore, having notes prior to the lecture enables you to prepare more effectively and hence understand and follow the lecture more effectively. Good preparation is to read the recommended reading before the lecture, therefore you can prepare any questions you have beforehand.

9. Believe in yourself
Believing in your ability to complete or achieve something is known as self efficacy. Studies have found that self efficacy is very important to performance, therefore try to have confidence in yourself and your abilities. It is also important for lecturers to build students’ confidence, and provide relevant and constructive feedback to help improve performance.

10. Read the Research Digest and the Psychologist Magazine
This will help you to stay up-to-date with all the latest findings and advancements within psychology. Knowing about the latest research and theories will not only help you with your essays and coursework, it will also help you once you get a job in the workplace, as it is so important to bridge the gap between theory and practice. (www.researchdigestblog.org.uk/blog) & (www.issuu.com/thepsychologist)

11. Get a Mentor
Angie Ingman, Convenor of the DOP ‘Career Development Group’ is working on a mentoring program where experienced Occupational Psychologists can volunteer to mentor newly qualified Occupational Psychologists. This is a great way of meeting and getting to know people in the profession, building your network and gaining further understanding of the field of Business Psychology by asking questions and getting advice.

12. Get a Chartered Supervisor
Once you have completed your Masters, in order to become a chartered Occupational Psychologist, you need register as a member of the Division of Occupational Psychology as part of the BPS. Once you have registered you will need to locate a registered Supervisor who can guide you through the chartership process. Being chartered is a great way of demonstrating that you have trained to a particular standard and adhered to this in the practical work you deliver. It is a really good idea to keep a diary of all the work experience you gain, and identify how this can contribute towards your chartership.

13. Find a Summer Placement
Approach Business Psychology organisations that you are interested in and ask them for 2-4 weeks work experience over Easter or the Summer holidays. Volunteering is a great way of getting relevant experience whilst also providing a valuable contribution to the organisation. However, don’t just apply to all organisations with a blanket CV and letter, instead research each organisation and decide which you are most interested in. When you apply state why you are interested in working for them specifically- this will have a big impact.

Remember that not all these tips may work for you, it is more about finding your own preferences and working with these.

Adapted from:

Written by: Melissa Tyson, Occupational Psychologist.

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