Stage 6: Reflections of a Singaporean Masters student

To many individuals, doing Masters would mean an MBA. This is especially so during catch up and
gatherings when I tell different friends that I am currently doing my Masters, they would go all be
thinking about the former. So it would usually become a conversational starter when I tell them, “uh nope, I am actually doing a Masters in Applied Psychology”. And about 50% of the time I get comments such as “so you can read minds right, I need to be careful of you”. Some go ahead further and joke about how you’d be a master in mind reading. Yeah I lost count of the number of witty responses I’ve generated depending on my mood for the day. And as we know studying isn’t exactly the best thing in the world, so sometimes I just give brutually honest answers which make the uninformed feel more informed albeit not in the best way.

So I started the journey of this Masters programme about a year and a half ago, and I’ve probably
another year and a half to go before I don that funny looking headgear which makes me a Masters graduate. It had been a great adventure so far; we have the usual sleepless nights, hair tearing moments, painful thumb syndrome (all from texting your classmates and checking in on how each of them is progressing in their assignments when you’ve yet to even go beyond typing your matriculation number at the top of the page,yes it happens!) and the heart in throat moments when you receive a text message telling you that results are out. It's all part of student life, undergraduate or post graduate, they’re all the same. The only difference between my undergraduate and postgraduate studies is perhaps the course in my Masters programme is more hands on and refreshing as there are 2 practicum modules which makes it way more interesting and exciting than just attempting to swallow your textbook and regurgitate it in the same form.

Practicum last for a year for the applied Masters programme and during this time, we get placed at
schools (special,mainstream) or hospitals. Practicum is probably the most exciting part of the course
because the textbooks which you’ve been reading suddenly come to life as you get assigned to cases by your site. Aside from dealing with children with all kinds of behavioural problems and issues that are awaiting their diagnoses, you may deal with overly-anxious parents (yes, tiger mothers and kiasu parents included), teachers and sometimes cases that are referred by doctors (we are the side kicks, yeah! ). The practicum provides for hands-on practice in using the various assessment tools, and also for the Y-generation who is always facing their Ipad and Iphones: a chance to practice and hone their communication and interpersonal skills. So really, an applied masters programme is 50% application, 30% coursework, and 20% communication skills sharpening.


Sport Psychology and Sports Success: Introduction to Sport Psychology

Sport Psychology and Sports Success

Frank Jing-Horng Lu
National Taiwan Sport University

Recently I finished a book’s chapter titled “Golf in Taiwan: A Case of Social and Family Influences on Talent Development.” I use Taiwanese women elite golfer Yani Tseng’s story as example to depict how social others and family members contribute to her success. This book is tentatively titled “Secrets of Asian Sport Psychology” will be published soon in an open access.

One of the missions of sport psychology is to study why people success in sport (under a label of “talent development.”) In my chapter, I found Yani’s success comprised many social-psychological components. One of these components is her parent’s role in cultivating her talent---unconditioned care and love, provided with sufficient sources, and planned with high quality education, all of these make her success. Also, her parents arranged experts in golf and language so promote her abilities in every aspect. Also, they sent her participating in many youth golf development programs either in domestic or abroad such as Australia Hill Academy and U.S. Youth Golf Tours to accumulate her experiences and skills. These developmental opportunities make Yani unique and exceptional.

In addition to social influence, I also introduced some examples of how sport psychology skills underlie her success. She is not success all the way to her peak. She encountered many set backs and slumps in her career. The most significant psychological skill lesson she learnt was from a well-known sport psychologist ---Dr. Deborah Graham. In 2009, Yani came to see Dr. Graham with a terrible set-back because she could not enter a qualified round in the middle of that year (actually she was pretty sharp in the beginning of the year). At their first meet, Dr. Graham tried to find Yani’s problems by interviews. After several talks Dr. Graham completely understood the major problems, she used a combination of goal setting and concentration skills eliminated Yani’ negative thoughts and altered mental state. The program was very successful. Later, Yani improved quite a lot and became concentrated and confident in every shot and competitions, and had a successful outcome in 2010, 2011, and 2012.

Sport psychology is an interesting field in sport sciences. It includes many topics such as psychological skills, motivation, personality, group dynamics, social influences, moral development, burnout, psychology of sport injury, positive psychology (such as mindfulness, resilience, and peak experience) to name a few. If you like sport psychology, I welcome you contact sport psychology scholars near you, or visit professional sport psychology websites such as Asian South Pacific Association Of Sport Psychology (ASPASP)Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP), International Society of Sport Psychology (ISSP)North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity (NASPSPA). You will find something you like and have a different world in your life.

Academic requirements for local psychology diplomas and degrees

Psychology is becoming such a popular subject and program that there are a lot of schools (private and government-funded) that offers psychology programs. In this post, I will mainly focus on the local and non-private institutions as they tend to be the most popular, and the ones which tend to be thought of first when considering for diploma and degree programs. The programs that will focused on are from: SP (Singapore Polytechnic), NP (Ngee Ann Polytechnic), TP (Temasek Polytechnic), NUS, NTU, and SMU.
There are actually many psychology diploma and degree programs in Singapore that are being offered in private institutions, but in order not to confuse the readers, only those mentioned above would be looked at. To find out more, please contact the individual private institutions for the diplomas and degrees.

There is the assumption in this post that readers understand the Singaporean education system with the 'O' levels, 'A' levels, and diplomas, and their grading systems, so I will not go much into them.

For the diplomas:
These cut-off points are based on ELR2B2: (Please refer to the websites for more details)
EL=English Language; R2=Two relevant subjects; B2=Any two other subjects excluding CCA
SP Programs:  Applied Drama and PsychologyHuman Resource Management with Psychology (Cut-off for Both: 12)
NP Programs: Psychological Studies (Cut-off: 9) / Child Psychology and Early Childhood (Cut-off: 12)
TP Programs: Psychological Studies (Cut-off: 9)

For the degrees: (This are represented by their current year entry students' 3H2/1H1 and polytechnic GPA grades and stated by 10th <lowest minimum> and 90th <safest to be confirmed> percentile)
NUS (2011/12)3H2/1H1: 10th - ABB/C, 90% - AAA/A.  GPA: 10th - 3.68, 90% - 3.89
(Additional criteria - Students must obtain at least a B-grade in each of these modules during their first year of the program: PL1101E and PL2131)
NTU (2011/12)3H2/1H1: 10th - BBB/C, 90% - AAA/A.  GPA: 10th - 3.67, 90% - 3.91
SMU (2011/12)3H2/1H1: 10th - BBB/C, 90% - AAA/A.  GPA: 10th - 3.63, 90% - 3.89

Please note that this cut-off points tend to change from year to year, and hence if you are looking at this list in 2013, it might be different. Hope this will help students who wish to do psychology and preparing for their exams to have an aim towards getting good grades to enter university!

For the updated version of 2012/13, please view here!

Jobs (Part 5): Why are they so hard to find??? Part 2

What else can you do if you still cannot find a job?
Remember the median duration of employment is 8 to 10 weeks, so it is okay if you are a few weeks away.

My advice would be to keep looking; because that is the one of the few things you can do. The other things you could do is to further your studies, or continue networking in your psychological area of interest, as this will make sure you keep in touch with people in the field, or even volunteer in some psychological-related work.
For job searches, must sure you research into the areas you might be interested in (social work/counselling/areas of psychology) and refine your search in those areas and those related companies. That would depend on your background, experiences, skills and abilities that you have, that might help you decide. Here's a read for some more advice.

However, the question might also vary between "Have you found a job?", and "Have you found a job you like?"
Often people may just take any job that comes, as that might just be one of the few companies that replied. You might say "Beggars can't be choosers". However it would just be another choice you made to take up that position you were given.
One way to prevent this is to do some practicum/work experience/internship to understand the nature of the jobs and, most importantly, what you want to get out of your professional career. Hence this states again for the importance of practicum/work experience/internship. This experience can also help in the networking of your career.

Most importantly, you should always know what you are looking for in the job and which area of psychology you are interested in, as this will help towards your satisfaction of the job.

But always remember: the salary you get may not be proportional to your years of studies. Which is more important to you? Money or Passion for Psychology?

Jobs (Part 4): Why are they so hard to find??? Part 1

Lately there have been some posts on the SPS Facebook Page on this topic, which set me wondering on this topic. Are jobs in psychology really that hard to find? What is the problem behind this?

According to the Ministry of Manpower, the median duration of unemployment for the last 3 years has been 8 to 10 weeks. So if you have been unemployed or have not found a job for a month, do not panic, as there are more others like you.   

But the question is why do psychology students have issues finding jobs? (These reasons are of the author's opinions, and may not be 100% accurate)

1) Psychology degrees are general degrees. 
Honestly, psychology degrees (undergraduate and diploma level) are often seen as general degrees by many employers. When asked about your specialisation, "I specialise in psychology" never seemed like a good enough reply, as Psychology is a very broad topic of study. Psychology is the philosophy of human behaviour and thoughts (in my opinion), hence it is definitely a good basic degree to have, but it covers a VERY LARGE range of topics required for one to become a psychologist. But "Jack of all trades, master of none" do not seem to be a good employee for some organisations. 

2) Lack of experience in the field. 
Some psychology programs do not require students to undertake internship/work placements. If yours does, good for you. Without these extra "real" experience, there is often nothing else much to brag to your employer about other than the knowledge you have got from your books. With the experience, you will then be able to connect "theories" to "experience". As mentioned before, "All the theories learnt would forever be theories that you have learnt, but not something to be applied, if they were not being experienced before. With real experience, you will see the theories becoming true and knowledge that you have learnt to become applicable. Things will start to make sense from a psychological point of view."  

3) Disparity of job expectancies and salaries
After three to four years of studying to get a psychology degree, most people would think that they might get a job as a counsellor or social worker, and others. Yes, not a psychologist. It has been said and explained in this post, so stop thinking about it. However, even getting a counsellor/social worker position requires some luck too, as it will depend on the organisations and the demand during the period when you start to search. 
The disappointing part of the search is the point where you may find that the position offered is actually of a much lower grade and of a lower salary (which could be due to the prestige and recognition of psychology in Singapore and other issues). Question is "Will you take the job after a long 8-to-10-week job search?"

There may be other reasons and answers to the above question, and these may not be the ones affecting you. But they are definitely some issues for some psychology students out there. If you have one that is not in this list, leave a message or email me and I can add it in. Thanks. 

To be continued (Part 5)....

Analogies: The Healthy Diet Pyramid

I have brought this analogy up in previous posts but it may not be obvious to how it also symbols the education and work specificity of people studying psychology. This is something we all learnt in primary and secondary schools in Singapore in health education. It is the Healthy Diet Pyramid.

This picture is from the Health Promotion Board of Singapore. For more details, please view here.

So how does this pyramid represent the educational levels and jobs in psychology?

As for educational levels, it can be seen with the bachelors degree holders being at the lowest level, and honours degree holders at the middle levels, and the postgraduate degree holders at the highest level. In here, the pyramid is based on the number of students who are doing the respective levels of studies. As you go up the pyramid, the path to becoming a psychologist gets tougher, as it gets more difficult to enrol into the programs after the undergraduate one. Here is the post that mentioned about this pyramid.

As for work specificity in psychology, the pyramid is similar to the previous one with the bachelors at the lowest level and the postgraduates at the top; the main difference is that the jobs get from being less specific to most specific towards the top. The below descriptions from this Jobs post explained it very clearly. 
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. 

Studies and jobs, all within one simple pyramid.

Stage 2: Reflections of a part-time undergraduate student

People say life in university is probably one of the most exciting moments in a lifetime; my guess would be that this is directly referring to students doing full time programme in the campus itself.  As for myself, being a part time student was not really something enjoyable.  Having to take up a double life as company employee by the day and student by the night is a task that drains up lot of energy.  That is also a doubled up anxiety to handle, given that there are both goals to achieve in work and study at the same time.

However, there are interesting things about being a part time student.  Sometimes one may wonder where on earth the energy comes from, despite being near to burnt-out after spending close to 9 hours average daily in the office environment.  That is all thanks to passion built to carry on studying in a field of one's own interest.  As an undergraduate student, the time committed to subjects (despite being in the working class) were no less different than an individual doing their bachelor degree in the full time environment.  That literally means work life is not an option to serve as an excuse shall one fail to complete a set of given activity or assignments on time because the expectations, may it be full time or part time students, are of equal standards.

The only advantage being a part time student probably will be the longer time frame given to complete the entire programme versus the full time candidates.  This leads to one beginning to think if we should spend longer time to graduate or bear with momentary pain to complete the course to enjoy the fruits of hard labour in the shortest time possible?  That will depend on how important the program means to each individual.