How to become a psychologist in Ireland

Psychology is the study of behaviour and mental processes. Psychology is a very popular course choice both at undergraduate and postgraduate level in Ireland. There is a Bachelor of Science in Psychology available at University of Galway, ATU Galway, and TUS Athlone. All of these courses are four year (Level 8 ) degree courses, offering work placements in a variety of settings in year 3, which will improve any student’s employability.

It takes roughly six years to become a psychologist because a masters is now the minimum qualification required to work as a psychologist. There are a number of different masters available in Galway and around the country which will allow you to specialise in specific fields within psychology. These specialities include: clinical, organizational, counselling, health, coaching, applied behavioural analysis, consumer, educational, forensic, sports, and neuroscience. Psychologists work in a range of settings including police forces, the military, prison services, health services, educational services, NGOs, universities, community development, HR in private industries, health promotion, media, marketing, and of course many psychologists set up their own business in psychotherapy and consulting.

Psychology has traditionally been a high points course, which sees a select number of school leavers secure a place in denominated psychology. This means that students will gain direct entry into the Bachelor of Science psychology degree but must complete first year of the programme along with two other subjects. After first year, psychology students drop their other subjects to focus purely on psychology subjects. Psychology students graduate with a Level 8 degree in psychology and can then specialise in their chosen area.

Psychological studies as part of arts

The other route to becoming a psychologist, is to choose psychological studies in first year arts as part of your arts degree in University of Galway. Then in second year, psychological studies students will specialise in psychological studies with one other arts subject. It is important to note that second year places are limited to 100 and allocated based on academic merit. After completing a three year degree in psychological studies, graduates must complete a one year ‘conversion course’ to allow them to gain the equivalent of a (Level 8 ) degree in psychology. Only after this ‘conversion course’ will psychological studies graduates be deemed suitable to study psychology at postgraduate level (Level 9 or Level 10 ) and to specialise in a specific area of psychology, as well as be allowed to apply for membership to the Psychological Society of Ireland.

The study of psychology offers many transferable skills such as communication, project management and particularly research skills which many graduates bring with them to work in areas other than psychology. The Psychological Society of Ireland lists many jobs and has many committees and working groups providing CPD, advocating and regulating psychology as a profession as well as advising the Government on policies and procedures. Some psychology courses in Ireland also allow entry to the British Psychological Society which carries out the same functions in the UK.

Convert to psychology

For many graduates, the appeal of studying psychology begins after they have completed their degree in other fields, or for those who considered psychology at undergraduate level but did not secure enough points, there is a two year full time diploma (Level 8 ) or ‘conversion course’ in psychology for those who have a degree in another area, eg science, engineering or business. This diploma is also offered as a masters (Level 9 ) in other universities such as UCD, TCD, DCU, Dublin Business School, and UCC. Be careful to check as many universities do not offer these courses every year so do research and plan in advance, as different universities may also have different names and different subjects.

While psychology is deemed a rewarding and interesting career, many graduates and students do not realise the length of time it takes to become qualified as a psychologist. Graduates are also often surprised at the competitive nature of psychology and although there are more and more psychology jobs being created, it can sometimes be difficult to secure employment in certain psychology fields. However many psychology graduates love their jobs and career and would highly recommend it to others.

Claire Murphy obtained her Masters in Career Guidance and Counseling in Trinity and has over 10 years' experience working as a teacher and a career guidance counsellor at both second level and third level. She is currently working as a consultant career guidance counsellor in Psychmed. To get in touch with Claire, email her at [email protected].


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