A certain degree of neurosis is of inestimable value as a drive, especially to a psychologist.” Sigmund Freud

Siggie says to be a little neurotic. Okay. Check. What else do you need to be a successful psych major? Certain skills are necessary to go into this field of study. The good news is many of these can be strengthened and fine-tuned during your education. You don’t have to be completely self-actualized before you start.

First, let’s do a bit of self-analyzing. Do you fit this profile?


1. Critical Thinking

Analyze concepts, challenge assumptions, identify sources of behavior, evaluate information and ideas, weigh and pursue solutions, approach situations creatively. Does smoke pour out your ears as you grind these gears?

2. Research

Hitting the books, surfing the web, visiting the library, conducting interviews. You will be no stranger to research-writing as a student. You will also need some observing ability as you dig into clients’ psyches. Being skilled at gathering information is vital in both completing your education and conducting yourself as a professional.

3. Mathematical Aptitude

If you’re more than one standard deviation away on this one, you may struggle. As a psychology student, you must have the ability to get through statistics classes. Depending on what you do with your degree, you may need to do more than just get through. If research and lab work are in your future, numbers better be your friends. However, if you’re no Isaac Newton, you will still be okay on most psychology career paths.

4. Diversity

Psychology will bring you face to face with personalities across the spectrum and up and down the disorder scale. At best, you are already comfortable with this. If not, don’t expect to stay in your comfort zone. If your comfort zone was previously narrow, your horizons will be broadened by new ideas and new people. If that sounds terrifying, you are most likely looking at the wrong field. Maybe try a math major.

5. Effective Communication

Completing college assignments, test-taking, filing reports, charting notes, attending staffings, advising clients. The ability to share thoughts, ideas, questions, and answers with your professors, clients, and colleagues is essential. This will involve listening, written, and verbal skills.

6. Drive

Over 74,000 students graduated with a psychology degree in 2000 alone. That’s a lot of competition for the 170,000 jobs held by psychologists in 2008. Many jobs in the field of psychology will also require a master’s degree or a Ph.D. Competition can be fierce for acceptance into these programs. Further, they will require many extra years of dedication to education. Whatever your career goals, you will need perseverance and a little edge to complete the necessary schooling, training, and maneuvering to accomplish them.

7. Self Development

Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.” Carl Jung. Be ready to do a lot of self-evaluating . Identifying values, demonstrating insight, giving and receiving feedback, evaluating thought-processes, and setting and achieving goals are all part of this skill. Know and improve yourself.

8. Thick Skin

In developing yourself, you may discover things you do not like. In collaborating with fellow students and professionals, you will encounter those with differing viewpoints. In working with clients, you may experience a backlash of the emotions you are helping them explore. In research and in therapy, you will encounter situations that can pierce the heart and turn the stomach. Whatever the arena, the field of psychology will require some tough armor. Are you strong enough?

9. Technological Literacy

The inter…what? Like any field today, you will need some tech savvy to survive. You don’t have to be Bill Gates, just be familiar with current advances and have a willingness to learn new ones. Your abilities to research, document, and communicate all rely on your ability to use technology to your advantage.

10. A Love for Psychology

This should be obvious, but we don’t want to make assumptions. You know how that turns out. Psychology is the study of mind and behavior. Are you fascinated by the human brain? Do you want to know what makes people tick? Does studying the theories of Freud, Skinner, and Jung sound exciting? If you have no passion for personality, patients, or Pavlov, this is not the field for you.

 “Knowledge is of no value unless you put it into practice.” Anton Chekhov

Now that you know what it takes, what will you do?

This is my profile.

Tell me more.

It’s not for me.

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