Code of Ethics - What is it? General Summary and General Ethical Principles

The reason why I encourage people to be members of their respective associations and to be registered under their respective psychological boards is to enable youselves to be recognised as qualified persons of the psychological profession, and articulates to the public that you, as a member and registered psychologist, are guided by specific standards towards what is considered ethical professional conduct by psychologists in the world.

So what is the code of ethics?  For the laymen and those who do not know yet, the code of ethics is a guide for psychologists towards their ethical practices in psychology, and "expresses psychologists’ responsibilities to their clients, to the community and society at large, and to the profession, as well as colleagues and members of other professions with whom they interact" (APS Code, 2007).  So if you are a member of the respective associations and societies, you will have to abide by their codes of ethics, whether you are a student member, full member, or associate member.

So in this post, let's look at the General Ethical Principles across the APA, APS and BPS.  [The ethical standards may tend to be a little longer (and boring), so just stick to the principles for today]

APA:

  1. Principle A:  Beneficence and Nonmaleficence (To benefit those with whom they work and take care to do no harm)
  2. Principle B:  Fidelity and Responsibility (To be aware of their professional and scientific responsibilities to society and to the specific communities in which they work, regarding their conduct, professional roles and obligations, referrals, and compliance of scientific and professional conduct of themselves and their colleagues)
  3. Principle C:  Integrity (To promote accuracy, honesty, and truthfulness in the science, teaching, and practice of psychology)
  4. Principle D:  Justice (To recognize that fairness and justice entitle all persons to access to and benefit from the contributions of psychology and to equal quality in the processes, procedures, and services being conducted;  To exercise reasonable judgment and take precautions to ensure that their potential biases, the boundaries of their competence, and the limitations of their expertise do not lead to or condone unjust practices)
  5. Principle E:  Respect for People's Rights and Dignity (To respect the dignity and worth of all people, and the rights of individuals to privacy, confidentiality, and self-determination; To be aware that special safeguards may be necessary to protect the rights and welfare of persons or communities whose vulnerabilities impair autonomous decision making;  To be aware of and respect cultural, individual, and role differences, including those based on age, gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, culture, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, language, and socioeconomic status and consider these factors when working with members of such groups)
BPS:
  1. Ethical principle:  Respect (To value the dignity and worth of all persons, with sensitivity to the dynamics of perceived authority or influence over clients, and with particular regard to people’s rights including those of privacy and self determination)
  2. Ethical Principle:  Competence (To value the continuing development and maintenance of high standards of competence in their professional work, and the importance of preserving their ability to function optimally within the recognised limits of their knowledge, skill, training, education, and experience)
  3. Ethical Principle:  Responsibility (To value their responsibilities to clients, to the general public, and to the profession and science of Psychology, including the avoidance of harm and the prevention of misuse or abuse of their contributions to society)
  4. Ethical principle:  Integrity (To value honesty, accuracy, clarity, and fairness in their interactions with all persons, and seek to promote integrity in all facets of their scientific and professional endeavours)
APS (APS Code of Ethics, 2007):
  1. General Principle A:  Respect for the rights and dignity of people and peoples (To regard people as intrinsically valuable and respect their rights, including the right to autonomy and justice, and respect the dignity of all people and peoples)
  2. General Principle B:  Propriety (To ensure that they are competent to deliver the psychological services they provide.  They provide psychological services to benefit, and not to harm.  To seek to protect the interests of the people and peoples with whom they work.  The welfare of clients and the public, and the standing of the profession, take precedence over a psychologist’s self-interest)
  3. General Principle C:  Integrity (To recognise that their own knowledge of the discipline of psychology, their professional standing, and the information they gather place them in a position of power and trust, hence they exercise their power appropriately and honour this position of trust.  To keep faith with the nature and intentions of their professional relationships, and to act with probity and honesty in their conduct)
All in all, a psychologist is a person with integrity, honouring their clients' rights and dignity, and at the same time, practicing within the recognised limits of their knowledge, skill, training, education, and experience, and within the boundaries of their competence, hence doing no harm to their clients, and being aware of their professional and scientific responsibilities.

So if you have all the relevant training and experience as a psychologist, are you a member of your local association or society, and registered with the psychological boards?  If not, why have you not done so yet?

Jobs (Part 2) for Diploma and Bachelors graduates (including Honours)

It is expected some psychology students may not be able to make it all the way to the Masters or postgraduate studies in psychology; this is a disheartening fact however there is always a way out to allow you to move towards the career of your desire..
Options that one may have would be: (1) do a Masters in some other areas that are related to psychology, such as social work or counselling, or (2) go and find a job and earn some money (to save, spend, or even pay those university fees). So today this post is focusing on the second option of jobs and what type of jobs u could look for.

So as mentioned in an earlier post, you (as graduates from degrees and diploma courses) can find work in different sectors, such as:
  • Corporate Sector 
  • Uniformed services 
  • Governmental bodies 
  • Educational Institutions 
  • Research and test development organisations
  • Not for Profit Organisations
However your choice of sector and area of work would be of your own choice, e.g. if you feel more comfortable in an office environment, you may wish to try to look for jobs in the corporate sector. Similarly if you feel more comfortable to work in schools, try the education institutions, or if wish to proceed to more clinical psychology work, you may wish to approach the mental health institutions or hospitals.

Type of work that you might be doing may include administrative level work for the psychological or mental health institutions, social workers, counsellors, mental trainers, workshop coordinators, etc. It all depends on your experience and comfort levels on your abilities to do the positions that you might be applying for. 

Question: Where should I start looking for jobs?
Answer: The SPS website do offer some jobs from time to time. However to really widen your job search, you should be applying with all the job search databases and web portals. I would recommend you to just put in "psychology"  (or social work / counselling, etc.) as the main keyword and see what happens.

Every experience is a good opportunity to learn something, hence do not think that a position that you might not be interested in will never be a suitable job for you. In psychology, you have to try everything and experience as much as you can to allow you to have a good idea of what is happening in the field of psychology, allowing you to experience and have a good knowledge of the real world out there.

If you have any specific areas or sectors you might be thinking of entering (such as educational institutions) but not really sure where to start, feel free to comment and tell me. I will try my best to research and give you some directions towards your choices. 

The work of a psychologist..

Who aspires to be a psychologist? You! Me! and many others out there...
But let's pause here and consider the whole picture. Some of you may already have understood the whole story; however it might be blurry for some, as the story is displayed through bits and pieces from the rest of the posts..

Education required: At least up to postgraduate degree of Masters (which probably the whole period will take up to 5-6 years)
It really depends on how well you do to allow you to proceed from one level to the next, hence overall good results are quite important for your bachelors and honours degrees.

Work criteria: involves doing testing and assessment, research, psychoeducation (such as holding workshops) and psycho-therapeutic counselling [Hence through the education, you will learn or be trained to do all those]

Clientele (type of clients you might get): Depends on the specialisation / type of psychology that you decide to take up; However regardless of specialisation, the psychotherapy skills (not mental skills) you acquire should be transferable between the specialisations.

Question: Will I be able to earn a lot?
Answer: That will depend on your pay which your employer/organisation gives you. I cannot really give you an estimate. However if you are thinking of coming into this field to earn money, I would advise you not to go any further, as there is not much to be earned other than the gratifications and enjoyment you may get from being a psychologist

Jobs and job prospects (Part 1)

I should get this started as this is one of the main issues and thoughts when people start studying psychology. I will use the term "job"" rather than "career" as "career" has an inclination towards a long-term planning to reach a certain position and job.

Will I be able to get a job?? What job will I be able to get??
_______________________________________________________

Quoted from Ngee Ann Polytechnic:
"With your training in psychological knowledge coupled with applied skills, you are well placed to find employment as a programme executive or social work assistant at voluntary welfare organisations, or research assistant at private organisations. You can also assist psychologists, support social workers and conduct social research."
What can PCS graduates do?
  • Be change agents in the society to identify, prevent and improve prevailing social problems.
  • Conduct research and work with social organizations.
  • Assist in undertaking assessment, intervention and counselling for learning and developmental issues in various population groups.
  • Work with law, police and rehabilitation services.
  • Support clients with issues such as personal well-being, relationships, work, health and crisis management for better quality of life.
  • Promote healthy behaviours and the prevention and treatment of illness.
  • Coordinate, promote and manage community-based programmes for various population groups.
_________________________________________________________________________

Yeah it sounds very promising.. and in one line (somewhere hidden between the many lines) it also writes.."With further training, you can become certified psychologists, psychotherapists, social workers, and counsellors.."  Yes there are really double full-stops. Purpose: You decide for yourself.

However You do not have to be disheartened, and worrying about your future and whether or not you will get a job.  People with degrees and diplomas in psychology are of high demand in Singapore. There are many areas where people in a psychology degree can work in. 

A good example would be that as quoted again from the above Ngee Ann Polytechnic website:

"Where can PCS graduates work?
  • Corporate Sector - consultancy, market research, professional associations
  • Uniformed services - prisons, police
  • Governmental bodies - e.g Ministry of Community Development, Youth & Sports; Community Development Council; Ministry of Home Affairs; Subordinate Courts, Family and Juvenile Justice Centre
  • Educational Institutions - Schools, Universities
  • Research and test development organisations
  • Not for Profit Organisations - community and social welfare"
There are actually many areas, however you often will have to look for the right job that suits you.

To end this first post on Jobs, I shall introduce a method of understanding the structure of what jobs you may be able to get when you study psychology. Some of you may remember the Healthy Diet Pyramid that you may have learnt in primary/secondary school? Yes. The idea is similar to it.

Diplomas/Degree holders: A lot of jobs to choose from, however they tend to be more general and of a lower status level and pay
Honours Degree Holders: Jobs may include those of the degree holders as well, but fewer jobs as they now become more specific such as research assistants.
Masters/Postgraduate Degree holders: Jobs now become very very specific and little. Common jobs include psychologists, lecturers and tutors. 

There will be more posts regarding Jobs in the future, so TO BE CONTINUED....

How much am I willing to pay for Membership? (also "What do I get from my Membership?")

Okay I will focus this post regarding Membership just on Full Memberships (not affiliate memberships) and Student Memberships, as there are too much to talk about if all the others are included.

So how much are you willing to pay for Membership?  $20/$50/$100 or $200?
Let's look at the membership prices of the different associations.  Prices are for per annual.
SPS:  Student:  SGD$30;  Member:  SGD$75
APS:  Student:  AUD$85 (SGD$87.75);  Member:  AUD$620 (SGD$640.04)
APA:  Undergraduate Student:  USD$35 (SGD$46.97);  Graduate Student:  USD$67 (SGD$89.92);  Member:  USD$247 (SGD$331.56)
BPS:  Student:  GBP 25 (SGD$43.82);  Member:  GBP 130 (SGD$227.86)
Conversions as produced by XE.com.  As updated on 10th August 2016.

So we can see that the SPS membership is the cheapest, but why?  This is something to ponder on.

Singapore is the top earners or richer countries among others, but we can argue that probably psychologists are not among the top few earners.  Fine.
It can also be argued that the socioeconomic statuses of the other countries are higher, which means the psychologists there earn a higher pay (e.g. Full-time Australian psychologists earn an average of $1500 a week) hence the cause for higher cost for membership.  Okay that's reasonable.

In my opinion, my guess is that it has to do with the recognition of psychologists in Singapore and that there is a vicious cycle to this issue.  The people in Singapore are not very familiar and knowledgeable about the role of psychologists and what we do.  Anyone in Singapore unfamiliar with psychology or about the profession of a psychologist would have a first impression that all psychologists work with mental health patients or in the Institute of Mental Health.  Sorry we are not all clinical psychologists.
From the lack of knowledge, this affects psychologists in Singapore by probably not receiving the adequate prestige and recognition that should come with the role and profession.  This subsequently results in insufficient people and resources (including money) to actually rise this standard of the profession of psychologists in Singapore.  With the standard not risen, public education is not achieved and hence the profession lies low.
Perhaps currently the government is doing something about it, having put out an Act to regulate the clinical psychologists.  I am not sure if this act will cover the other areas of the psychologists, but hopefully something will happen there, so that this cycle will be broken.

So we pay lesser membership fees in Singapore; that is just one good thing. So what do we get from paying this membership?  Please refer to the different societies and association websites (SPSAPAAPSBPS) for their member benefits.
For all of the associations, you will be able to use the acronym in your title, such as MSPS, MAPS, etc., and you will have access to the the online website for documents and resources which only psychologists (or psychology students) need, such as the Code of Ethics, case studies, and access to job information.  Most also provide newsletters, journals and publications (hardcopy) on a bi-monthly (APS), 9 times a year (APA), or even up to monthly (BPS) basis for free.  What are also usually included are: discounts to conventions and books and other products, free access to online databases, and reduced rates for professional indemnity issues (in case you are sued by your client)

So what do you get for being a MSPS?
  • Yes, that name. Tick.
  • Code of conduct... which is available to everyone to see..
  • Professional development meetings and networking opprtunities..for interest-groups and social meetings..
  • Discounts for events..
  • Ezine magazine.. Accessible to all.. 
Putting two sides of the picture, some people may ask:  "So what am I getting (other than the name of MSPS) after I pay that $75?", and some may say:  "Wow so cheap!  It only costed me $75 to get the MSPS, when I need to pay AUD$620 for a MAPS."

Which side are you on?


NOTE to SPS: I am not trying to scorn or disrespect the SPS in any way. I am just stating what I see on the website, and hoping that things can be improved for psychology in Singapore.

Can I get in Honours / Masters?? [Caution: Post may be distressful for some]

There is no explicit rule on how much you need to get into these post-Bachelors education. However, I will try to give you an idea of what happening as you try to transition from Bachelors to Honours to Masters.

Most people who come into the area of psychology somehow will have a dream of being a psychologist, however let us be realistic and understand that it is not as easy as we think. Just the education part take about 6 years, and this is with the assumptions that you do not take any breaks in your studies to work and do other stuff, that you pass all your subjects in every semester successfully, and that you get accepted into the Honours and Masters program successfully.

This is a very competitive field and like any other area, in order to climb to the top, there will always be only a few "survivors" and a lot of "casualities" who do not make it. For those who are more visual, I would say it is like a pyramid, with a lot of people who may finish their Bachelors and may not be able to move up, followed by the top few who managed to go into Honours, followed by the cream of the crop moving up into Masters.

To give you a even better idea, let us assume there are about 100 students in your year / level doing psychology. I understand that there are definitely more but 100 is a nice number. Out of this 100, only about half make it in the Honours / PGD program. After that, out of  that half, only  about 10 make it into the Masters. so probably only that cream of the crop (5% -10%) of your year/level can make it to the finish line. There is also one more consideration. Your university is not the one offering psychology undergraduate studies, and hence competition may actually come from other universities as well. Please understand that this is not the exact percentage but more of a very very rough estimation. No, I am not trying to scare you but this is what is really happening. For the exact numbers, please check with the coordinators of your universities.

As this is happening, some people may also decide to move out of this climb to Masters or postgraduate studies and decide to go to work or study something else, hence sometimes the competition may not be as tough as it seems. This move to work will be covered further in future posts.

Masters in Psychology..Hum..

The focus of this page is to point you to the different areas of psychology, such as clinical psychology and educational psychology, and to introduce the difference of a Masters program to the earlier studies. Hopefully this page provides a further understanding in the world of studying psychology.

Ok. We are done with talking about what the honours program covers. The next level is the Masters level if you can make it there. So what is the Masters program? Like some courses, they have specialisations ( such as engineering has civil engineering, mechanical engineering, etc..). Psychology has specialisations as well.. For the list, see the types of psychologists there are.

So this is what happens..You will take your Bachelors and Honours in general psychology and learn to do everything (almost everything..), and only in the Masters program, you will finally get to that fixed specialisation which you like.

Question: So what do you do in a Masters program?
Unlike the Honours, this time it is more focused on building you up more as a psychologist. Hence you will learn things that lean more towards the practitioner side of the model. Here you probably will do more counselling roleplaying and practices, more sessions and discussions about the different situations and clients that you may encounter. Also not to forgot about the researcher side, you will once more do a thesis which this time goes over 2 years unless the Honours year where you only have about 9 months to 1 year to finish it.

Question: What can I do for my thesis?
Often the thesis topic is something of your choice in your area of psychology. Sometimes people would just follow a topic which their supervisor is interested in.

I am not sure what other questions you may have. Feel free to ask and I shall update either this post or follow up from the comments below.