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Study the Mind

The discipline of psychology is wide and varied, and so are the career opportunities.


A graduate degree in psychology from a U.S. university can open the doors to a career with many rewards—exploring the intricacies of the human experience, advancing theoretical research and helping individuals in need. Psychology is also a fast-growing and well-paying field. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, for instance, estimates that jobs for psychologists in the United States will increase 14 percent from 2016 to 2026, with a median yearly income of $79,010 (Rs. 54 lakh approximately) in May 2018.

Students interested in pursuing a degree in psychology can choose from hundreds of highly-regarded schools. Many of these also offer financial assistance in various forms.

Although most psychologists work in health care facilities, schools, government organizations and similar settings, a psychology degree can be utilized in many ways, notes Sethuraman Panchanathan, executive vice president of knowledge enterprise development at Arizona State University (ASU).

“An education in applied and clinical psychology can certainly be utilized in a variety of professions that require a working understanding of human behavior, beyond the traditional avenues. This might include business, law, education, marketing and communications,” says Panchanathan.

“Understanding how the human mind works will also be an asset in occupational environments where the symbiotic relationship between human and machine continues to evolve,” he adds. “The more we understand the capacity humans have for adapting, handling change and thriving in a changing workplace, the more seamless the integration of artificial intelligence will be.”

“Indian students planning to apply to ASU should have the equivalent of a four-year bachelor’s degree, with an equivalent of 3.0 GPA [grade point average] in the last two years of coursework,” says an ASU representative, noting that “many students from India have a three-year bachelor’s and a two-year master’s, which are equivalent to the U.S. four-year bachelor’s. Applicants must take the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE). Students from India need to also demonstrate English proficiency through the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or other mechanisms.”

Students who complete ASU’s two-year Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis program will spend about $102,000 (Rs. 70 lakh approximately) overall, including living expenses and health insurance. Those who complete the Ph.D. program, which includes a master’s and provides for significantly reduced expenses for students who take research or teaching assistant jobs, will spend about $55,000 (Rs. 38 lakh approximately) overall if they finish in five years and $66,000 (Rs. 45 lakh approximately) if they finish in six years. The Ph.D. is a good investment, notes Laurie Chassin, director of graduate training in psychology at ASU.

“The overwhelming majority of our doctoral students secure a position immediately upon graduation. It is rare that a student would not have a job or post-doctoral position already lined up before graduation,” she says. “Graduates of our doctoral programs take up jobs as faculty members in universities or teaching colleges, which combine their skills as researchers and teachers. They may also take up research jobs in industry, government, medical schools, health care or other nonprofit settings. Graduates of our clinical program may also take up jobs providing clinical services in hospitals, schools or community mental health facilities or as supervisors or program evaluators in these settings.”

The road to these and other occupations often starts with an undergraduate degree in psychology, says Richard Lewis, chair of the psychology department at Pomona College, a liberal arts institution located in Claremont, California.

“Our program’s emphasis on critical thinking, data analysis and communication skills prepares students for a broad range of careers,” says Lewis. “Most of our graduates eventually go on to obtain an advanced degree, with a third of them earning a doctorate.”

Pomona College’s admission requirements are demanding, but flexible.

“Pomona does not have GPA or standardized testing minimum requirements,” says Adam Sapp, director of admissions. “Applicants from India who are interested in Pomona should complete either their national curriculum or international high school curriculum. In addition to high school transcripts, Pomona requires letters of recommendation from a counselor and two teachers, standardized test scores (SAT or ACT), two student-written essays and a completed Common Application.”

Pomona is a four-year college, with the total cost of attendance for the 2019-20 academic year being $76,836 (Rs. 53 lakh approximately), including tuition, fees, room and board, books and personal expenses. Almost half of all international students receive some type of financial aid, which could include student work allotments and grant-based scholarships, the latter coming directly from Pomona and not subject to repayment.

“Students from India are well-represented on campus,” says Sapp. “Our admissions team spends time in India nearly every year to recruit students. On average, international students make up between 11 and 13 percent of all students at Pomona. The college enrolls students from about 60 foreign countries, and India is always near the top of the list of overall international student enrollment.”

 

Steve Fox is a freelance writer, former newspaper publisher and reporter based in Ventura, California.