Why do I (or should I) do my Honours or 4th year in psychology?

Ok now for the 4th year in a degree in psychology. This is with the assumption that your bachelors course do not come with the Honours degree. If it does, good for you, you can continue your bachelors straight into the Honours year.

so what is the Honours (or 4th year)? Is it still a bachelors?
Yes, it is still a bachelors, however an extended year. Usually the honours year is an extended year where you learnt extra stuff in most courses. In psychology, the honours year is usually focused on the research part, where you will learn a little more on research and other psychological areas depending on the institution. YES research; You will be taught how to do and what to do for a thesis and you will have to prepare to do a thesis in the honours year.

Question: I am enrolled in a postgraduate diploma (PGD) for psychology. Is that still a 4th year program? What is the difference from a PGD and honours?
Yes the PGD is a 4th year program. I am commenting this for Australian courses (I am not sure about if there are PGD from other countries and their information). The Australian universities usually offer them to in order to have students to go through the 4th year, rather than just the Honours batch. Each batch of honours will have about 15-20 (or more or less, depending on the universities), and hence the PGD batch will have about the similar number of people.

It really depends on the universities on whether there will be a difference for the PGD and honours studies. I would believe the coursework would be very similar across both of the programs. For some universities, the main difference is that the Honours students do their theses alone and the PGD students do a group work for the theses. For some others, it is totally the same for both the honours and PGD students.

It is really up to you which one you wish to do, but I think it depends on your grades from the first 3 yrs as well. You may want to check for more information from the institution you are applying with.

Question: Now for the why? why do i need to do this 4th year studies?
Answer: If you wish to enroll into an accredited postgraduate course, you will need your 4th year results to get in. To get into the postgraduate courses, the usual minimum is a second lower class honours.
If you think that psychology is not for you, probably you should not enroll into the 4th year. But if psychology is what you want, I would say the 4th year is a good step for you to explore further and improve your skills in research.

So what am I going to study in Psychology? (Diploma/Bachelors)

Some of you may be just starting off in your studies in psychology or deciding whether you want to take up psychology or not. So this is probably the first post you should be reading if you find the earlier posts a little too heavy for your liking. Some people may enroll into a psychological course or program, but may find it rather tough so it has things that they did not expect to have, hence this post would look into what you will see in a psychological program (such as diploma or Bachelors). Hope this post enlightens you onto your choice of psychology.

Ok so what are you going to study in Psychology?

Basically, most programs (I am not sure about all of them hence I will not use "all programs) are based on a model: the scientist-practitioner model. From Wikipedia, "According to this model, a psychologist is a scientist and a competent researcher, and also a practitioner who applies knowledge and techniques to solve problems of client". This means that a psychologist should be a good researcher and a good practitioner at the same time. Is it possible? Yes. It sounds difficult to do; is it difficult to do? Of course. That's why the minimum recognised training (aka education) is so long.

Let's talk about the things people expected to study first. The common topics you might see are:
Biological Psychology; Developmental Psychology; Social Psychology; Personality and Individual Differences; Cognitive Psychology; Abnormal Psychology, etc.. and the list goes on..Why so much? This is because you will need to know the different aspects of psychology and how the the different aspects may affect the different people. Like I said before in a previous post, bao ga liao. The subjects that you may do in your diploma/bachelors will depend what the core subjects are as chosen by your institution.
This is to build up your knowledge for the "practitioner" part.

Now for the researcher part. To be able to do research = write reports, conducting experiments, collecting data, and analysing the data (and probably critical thinking). This are the 4 (or 5) main parts. Let's go through them. Writing reports: even if you are bad at writing, you will get used to it at the end of 3 years (for Bachelors). Conducting experiments: you will learn to do that over time. Nothing much to be afraid of as most of them are mainly questionnaires or surveys, unless you choose to do interviews or physical experiments. Collecting data: simplest of all, just writing down the figures that you found, and saying Thank You to your participants at the end of the day. Last one, analysing data: you will need to have a knowledge of statistics (not numbers, thank you) in order to do analyses. Fear Factor: A lot of people are afraid of maths...Can you do stats if you are bad at maths? Yes, but stats to some extent still require some level of maths ability, such as knowing that 0.05 is bigger than 0.001. If you can do that, you probably can do stats. They are just huge chunks of numbers and formulas, which you are looking for just a result of a few numbers.

Hope this is clear enough explaining the scientist-practitioner model. See the next few posts to have more understanding of this model.

To be a psychologist: Part 3 (Membership and Registration)

Now after you have got your postgraduate certifications (accredited ones, of course!), you may want to start thinking about being a member of your local psychology society or association, or even be a member of the overseas society where you took your studies. [I am not advocating for the societies or association, but more of providing a link if someone is interested]

SPS Membership types:  Student, Affiliate, Associate, Full, and Overseas members
For more information on SPS membership, please view here
Please refer to the websites of the other societies and associations for their respective memberships.

To be a "Registered Psychologist" in Singapore (Yes, you have to register to be called a "Registered Psychologist" in any country), you need to have (1) A Masters or Doctoral degree in applied psychology from a recognised institution, and (2) minimum of 1000 supervised practical experience, and (3) to be a Full Member of SPS. Information from SRP.

From my current knowledge, it is not a rule that you have to be a member or a registered psychologist to practice as a psychologist in Singapore. However, for clinical psychologists, this might be the case now where they might have to be registered in order to practice, as a result of the Allied Health Professions Act 2011.  

In my opinion, this is a major issue for the other areas of psychology, as this is no regulation and control, and hence may be an issue of lack of duty of care for potential clients, and Professional Responsibility, where psychologists should : "(a) act with the care and skill expected of a competent psychologist;(b) take responsibility for the reasonably foreseeable consequences of their conduct;  (c) take reasonable steps to prevent harm occurring as a result of their conduct" (APS Code of Ethics, p. 20). I should discuss this in future posts.

The need of a postgraduate program and Competence

Why am I stressing this that a postgraduate program is essential for a psychologist?
Probably to me, as a psychologist, the motto is "To do no harm"..hence I believe that we should be competent before we even start to treat our clients.
Having accredited courses is one of the ways to justify that competence of the lecturers and the programs to educate future psychologists. To be registered provides that recognition and identity of a "psychologist". And most importantly, the competence of the psychologist.

According to SPS Code of Professional Ethics,Principle 2. Competence
"The maintenance of high standards of professional competence is a responsibility shared by all psychologists, in the interest of the public and of the profession as a whole.
  1. Psychologists discourage the practice of psychology by unqualified persons and assist the public in identifying psychologists competent to give dependable professional service. When a psychologist or a person identified as a psychologist violates ethical standards, psychologists who know first-hand of such activities attempt to rectify the situation. When such a situation cannot be dealt with informally, it is called to the attention of the appropriate committee on professional ethics, standards, and practices.
  2. Psychologists recognise the boundaries of their competence and the limitations of their techniques and do not offer services or use techniques that fail to meet professional standards established in particular fields."

According to the APS Code of Ethics (p. 18)

Section "B.1.2.    Psychologists only provide psychological services within the boundaries of their professional competence. This includes, but is not restricted to:
(a)  working within the limits of their education, training, supervised experience and appropriate professional experience; (b)  basing their service on the established knowledge of the discipline and profession of psychology; (c) adhering to the Code and the Guidelines; (d)  complying with the law of the jurisdiction in which they provide psychological services; and (e)  ensuring that their emotional, mental, and physical state does not impair their ability to provide a competent psychological service."

So you have to be competent as a psychologist, and believe that you are a competent one. So why are there only 183 registered psychologists in Singapore (SRP as checked on 27 July 2011)? Are we only saying there are 183 competent psychologists in Singapore and the rest are incompetent, in terms of "education, training, supervised experience and appropriate professional experience"? 
(If you are a psychologist practicing in Singapore, please ask yourself: Why are you not registered? What is stopping you from registering in the SRP? Why do you not to be registered and given that recognition?)

Hope this post provide some light towards the competence of the psychological arena for those budding psychologists.

To be a psychologist: Part 2

Ok. So what is the next step after the bachelors?

If your bachelors degree comes with an Honours (such as this from NTU or those from overseas), good for you. You may proceed directly to take up a Masters or a postgraduate degree.
If your degree does not come with a Honours, you will then need to take an Honours degree before moving on.

After the Honours year, you can then proceed to the Masters program (I think minimum entry into Masters is a 2nd class honours for most universities).

You may ask: "What is the difference between the Bachelors, Honours, and Masters?"
Ans: In Bachelors, you learn EVERYTHING..(bao ka liao)...in Honours, the year is usually more focused on the research component, teaching and training you to do research, so that you can do a thesis..in Masters, it is usually more focused on the practical side of a psychologist, teaching you how to become a psychologist, and also having to do a thesis as well.
Like engineering (and some other areas), there is a specialisation that you will have to choose. In an engineering undergrad (Bachelors), you choose your specialisation on your 2nd year, or during your program (I am not too familiar with other courses other than psychology). But in psychology, you only have your specialisation in the Masters, which means that you choose a side of psychology to pursue in. (For the different types of psychological specialisations, see Types of psychologists)

Qn: Do you have to do until Masters to be able to be a psychologist?
Author's ans: This is where the conflict comes in..In Singapore it is not a requirement, depending on your employers. But if you are planning to take up a government job or a public job, it is most likely a requirement of a Masters degree. However, if you plan to be a psychologist in Australia or UK, it is a minimum requirement. Please see the previous post.

After my degree, Can I be a psychologist now?

"Can I be a psychologist after my bachelor's degree?" You may ask...
Ans: "No!"
"Can I be a psychologist with my Honours degree?" You may ask...
Ans: "In US, DEFINITELY NOO!!  In Australia and UK, NO! In Singapore, maybe yes.."
"Why the difference?"
Ans: Because there is no FIXED regulation (or law) in Singapore that you need to have at least postgraduate training to call yourself a psychologist. Worst still, it is not compulsory for a person to be registered with the Register of Psychologist in SPS to be able to work as a psychologist in Singapore.

The only statutory control of any psychologists in Singapore is only the Allied Health Professions Act 2011, which controls over the clinical psychologists but not the others. Too bad for you clinical guys..But in my opinion, there should be an act to have control over all psychologists.

Ok. Rather than telling the story of the requirements of psychologists in Singapore, let's first start with those in Australia and UK. Why? Because they are more advanced countries in terms of psychological areas and hence would be good examples to follow.

In the UK, to be a Chartered (aka Registered) Psychologist, BPS says "Postgraduate study and training is a requirement to become a Chartered Psychologist and to register as a practitioner psychologist with the Health Professionals Council (HPC). " So you need to have at least a Masters degree or some postgraduate degree (at least!) and it has to be accredited by BPS.

In Australia, APS says "Becoming a psychologist requires at least four years of full-time university study. Common courses are a four-year Bachelor of Psychology or a three-year degree followed by an Honours program in psychology. Graduates must then complete two years of either study in a specialist area or supervised practice. Completing this six-year sequence is a requirement for registering to work as a psychologist in Australia." SO you still need an accredited Masters program too. Accreditation from where? See the Australian Psychology Accreditation Council.

So enough said. Ok back to Singapore. Why is there no regulation again? Can someone (like SPS or the Government) do something?

I rest my case.

To be a psychologist: From the start....

Okay let's go from the start...

Obviously everyone knows that to be a psychologist (or any other jobs), you will need the education first. Firstly, I will not comment on the psychology diplomas as provided by the different polytechnics and institutions, as I am not familiar with them. However if you wish to ask any questions about the different diplomas, feel free to ask and I will try my best to answer them.

So we'll start from the bachelor degrees in Singapore. There are a few ways to go about getting them.
1) Local Degrees from NUS (Department of Psychology), NTU (Division of Psychology), and UniSim (School of Arts & Social Sciences)
[I am not sure of the SMU's Bachelor of Social Science as a fully psychological program as I think it is a broad program based on the "disciplines of Psychology, Sociology and Political Science" (from the SMU School of Social Sciences website)]

2) Private courses: There are quite a number of private psychological programs in Singapore, which currently there is a government council (Council of Private Education) which oversees the control of these courses and their institutions who provide these courses.
To see the universities that provide these courses, go to: Home - For Students & Future Students - Find a course and check whether it is permitted by the Council for Private Education
In "Course Title", type "Psychology" and tick "Bachelor" for "Course Level". The approved courses will be shown below and in the next few page(s). They currently include JCU, Kaplan, SIM and others.You will see on the same that that degree is awarded by its original overseas university (from Australia or UK or others).
However, that DOES NOT mean that these courses are definitely accredited programs in their original countries. More research have to be done if you wish to find that out. How? You may ask. Just go back to the governing body for the courses of APS/APA/BPS, and the information should be there. While looking at the original information of the degree from the oversea university, they should also say if the course is being accredited or not.

For the full updated list of programs, please view here: Updated: Comparison of Bachelor Degree programs in Singapore

Why should a course be accredited? Being accredited means that the society/association recognises that program as a proper program that uses the right techniques and have the appropriate modules to allow the student to have the right skills. So by being taking an accredited program, this means that your program provides you with the right pathway towards being a recognised psychologist. So if the program is not accredited, even if it is a postgraduate program, you will still not be recognised as a psychologist in the local country (US/Australia/UK).

About Psychology and Qualifications in Psychology

What is Psychology?

From the SPS:
"Psychology is one of the fastest growing university subjects around the world, and it is becoming more and more available as a service in the community. There is an increasing number of psychologists in Singapore. The general public and organisations want to be more fully informed about who psychologists are and also their professional skills. Psychologists specialise in a number of different areas within the field and identify themselves by many different names.

Statement on qualifications in Psychology
‘Psychology is both an academic discipline and a profession. Both as a discipline and in its professional practice it is based in scientific research. Individual psychologists are specialists either in a branch of academic study or in a professional application of the subject or both. Such a specialisation is acquired by appropriate postgraduate qualifications in psychology, following a first degree in which psychology is the sole or major subject. Professionally qualified psychologists are those who have obtained a postgraduate qualification in a specialised field in psychology from a recognised academic institution. Such training courses include a supervised practical training in a variety of settings. Academic qualifications are not a sufficient basis for recognition as a professional psychologist’ "

So what does it mean? Who can become a psychologist?
What the above is saying is that there are many types of psychologists (for a better list, see here). But to become a psychologist, you need to have "appropriate postgraduate qualifications" in your "specialised field in psychology" from "a recognised academic institution". But what quantifies for the appropriate postgraduate qualification (a Masters, PhD or just merely an honours)? and who gives recognition to the academic institution? In my opinion and according to the Singapore Register of Psychologists and the Psychology Board of Australia (document), to be a REGISTERED (yes I am stressing the word REGISTERED) psychologist, you need to have (1) at least a Masters degree from (2) an accredited institution with (3) at least 1000 hours of supervision. All 3 of them.

Okay. Now for the part of the accreditation of the programs, SPS does not accredit any programs. For the accreditation of programs, please see the accreditation guidelines and institutions as written by the APS, APA, and the BPS. They are the only 3 psychological societies that accredited programs. 

Most accredited Australian Masters programs in psychology are of 2 years. If you see a program or someone that tells you that the Masters is finished in a year, CHECK AGAIN!! They may not be accredited. (Extra Note: Some BPS accredited Masters programs are done in 1 year)

About this blog

The focus of this blog is to educate and inform people who are interested in psychology and/or wish to pursue a career in psychology in Singapore, i.e. to be a psychologist or any other related career. This blog is not affiliated to any psychological association or societies (such as the SPS or SRP in particular).
Some of the topics mentioned may be controversial and not similar to the common thoughts of the local psychological community. If you feel offended by any of the topics, you have the choice of clicking the "X" at the top right of your browser window. I hereby apologise beforehand if you are affected by any topic in any way; however that does not indicate my serious attitude towards the written topic.
If you wish to contact me and/or have any views about the topics/issues mentioned in this blog, please leave me a comment and leave your email (if you wish to be contacted).