Back from the SMU Information Session about their PhD in Psychology program

I thought I better wrote this post in case I forget the information from the session earlier this evening. This session helped to clear some questions and doubts that I have about the courses and programs in SMU. Most of the relevant information you will need to know are from their webpage or the brochure as available on the webpage. If you have any further questions about the program, please DO NOT email me; rather send your enquiries to Ms Joyee Yan (

About this program:
This is a 4-year full-time program, which you will be able to drag it up to a maximum of 7 years (though not recommended). The curriculum is as stated on their webpage so I will skip that.
Things to note:
  1. If you managed to join the program next year, you will be the 2nd batch of student undertaking this program in SMU.
  2. The number of students that SMU would be taking for this program would range from 0 to a maximum of 6.
  3. You will be awarded 2 degrees upon graduation, a Masters and a Phd certificate.
  4. The ideal timeline is 4 years, but to finish the program in that timeline would be very hectic. Usually you will have to extend it for a couple months to a year. 
  5. Coursework are done in the 1st and 2nd year, with the focus to be diverted to the 2 theses from the 2nd to 4th year.
  6. You have to do 2 theses, a Masters thesis and a PhD thesis. They can be related or different from each other; however, you can not use the data you got from the Masters to be re-used again in the PhD.
  7. There is a Qualifying Exam to be done in Term 1 of Year 3. You may not be allowed to proceed in the program if you fail the exam, though you may have ONLY one (1) chance to redo the exam.
  8. If you fail the qualifying exam or did not managed to proceed to the 3rd year for whatever reason, you will not get any certificate at all (not even the masters), unless under special consideration for specific reasons. 
Specialisations for the thesis component: Experimental, Social, Personality, and Organizational psychology.

Fees: SGD$10,000 for local students and higher fees for foreign students. However full or partial scholarships are available for students. Also as a scholarship holder, you will also receive a monthly living stipend. Please refer to these admission and scholarship pages.

Application: Please refer to this general instruction page. The application is to be done online. Other than having a good bachelors degree, you will also require your GRE test scores (for the General test and the Psychology subject test - so you better prepare to do this first), your TOEFL/IELT scores (if your undergraduate studies are not taught in English), your 2 (or up to 3) referees' emails, and a personal statement for why you want to do this program, your specific research interests  and the faculty member(s) you are keen to work with. You have to do some research about the faculty members' research interest in the webpage so as to find the one that you will be interested to work with.

Please also refer to the FAQs page, as most of your questions may be answered there.

Additional note: You will not be eligible to be registered in the SRP, as there is no practicum component in this program. However probably you could find someone to supervise you for the 1000 hours of practical experience in order to be registered as a qualified practitioner in Singapore.

SGPsychStud: Is Psychology useful at all?

You may hear some of your friends say that what they learnt in university and earlier years of school to be not useful in work at all. However, is it the same for psychology? Will everything (if not, some) of what you learn in your psychology degrees to be not useful when you go out to work?

Now, the main questions:
Can we use what we study? Can we even use them in our daily lives?
Psychology courses tend to be all-rounder courses; that is why it seems like you have to learn about a lot of things, from statistics to life and death to pretty much everything...But do you need so much things?? Answer: Yes. Psychological programs are actually based on a model (see this post), that is supposed to teach you to become a psychologist, like all other courses where engineering and IT programs teach you to be engineers and IT people. However, this model is a very huge model, because there are myriad reasons for why your clients may come to you, hence you are "supposed" to have all the answers. (Wow. That sounds like someone we all know whose name starts with G, so let's not go there.) This is the reason why you will have to learn about almost everything. But the questions is will we use them?

You will definitely use that knowledge in your jobs, but by then it will become a question of "Are you able to remember what you learn and apply it?" The wide range of subjects that you study is also partially the reason for the huge range of jobs you might get.

You may not notice that yet; but as you do the program and go through your years of training in psychology, you might see some changes in you. Some people who I have spoken to have told me that people who study psychology tends to think and speak differently. "Huh?? I don't feel much difference." That's our normal response. However, there might be some subtle changes in you.

As we all know, the way you think may actually affect the way you behave. I think one of the main changes would be that you might get used to being rational in your thinking, taking up different perspectives and hypotheses when discussing a topic or issue. This is part of the critical thinking training that you go through during your psychological programs. And with this training, you may tend to look at the world and things a bit differently from before you start the program. So is this useful?

(I used to joke with my classmates that male psychology students are better boyfriends, because they learn about the other sex and the differences about males and females. And because they are able to think critically, they "might" be able to take up the female perspectives and the way that females think, hence making them more sensitive to the subtle changes in the girl's moods and feelings. What do you think, everyone?)

Jobs (Part 3): Which job is suitable for me?

As we know, there are many psych-related jobs out there, and as we know, not all of us get to be psychologists, and some of us may be studying psychology not because we want to be psychologists. The studies could be just an interest for some, or just a stepping stone for others, and for the rest of them, a pathway to their careers.

"But which job should I choose??" "Can I even choose?" You may ask.

As mentioned in a previous post, there are actually many areas (even more than on that post itself) where you actually find some jobs in. However, not all of them may be areas which you might be interested in. In my opinion, it might be better to find jobs where you are familiar with or more interested in, e.g. if you come from a business background, you might tend towards the Human Resource department in the different organisations looking for jobs with your psychology qualifications, and if you are into nursing and want to stay in that industry, you may still choose to go back to the hospital or work in a psychiatric ward. It all depends on your level of comfort with that position.

It also depends on your level of skills and knowledge which you have gained through your degrees (Bachelors / Honours), and your past work experience. I would say the main difference between a Bachelor degree and a Honours degree would be the research skills that one would have gained, hence for those with a Honours degree, this might open an extra venue into the research section for you.

Work experience makes a difference as well, as the same for all other careers areas. If you come from a teaching background, and you wish to go back into that area with the application of your psychological knowledge, you might then choose to change to a special school where your knowledge could be better used and applied.

Some people may not even change jobs. It is really up to you.