SGPsychStud: Applying I/O Psychology Knowledge to Get a Job

KSAOs of a Psychologist
(Copyright of SGPsychStuff)
This post is targeted for psychology students, especially those who are graduating soon.  This should be a starting guide or checklist for those looking for your first psychology-related job.  As mentioned in a previous post, your first job might be categorised into two types: (a) Counselling / Psychotherapy / Consultation, or (b) Research.  So the above table is based on these two psychology-related jobs.

I have recently attended a career counselling workshop, and this brought back some of my old memories of studying industrial/organisational (I/O) psychology during my university days.  The workshop was on helping students transit to doing a career, and hence covered topics like personality assessment, job analysis, and helping students prepare their careers.
As I went through that 2-day workshop, I ponder over why we did not even do this for our own profession.  It would be extremely helpful if psychology students actually knew what they need to get a good fit to their future jobs, hence enabling them to confirm that they will get jobs as psychologists.

One of the things covered in the workshop I attended was the KSAO model, which you might have learnt in I/O Psychology.  The KSAO model is the detailed analysis of a job, which the HR analysts or I/O psychologists use to identify any fit between the applicant's personal KSAOs and the job's KSAOs.
'Knowledge' (K) - usually gained from your previous education or training or work
'Skills' (S) - acquired skills that you have gained from your past experiences of education or work
'Abilities' (A) - innate abilities or personality characteristics that a person possess
'Other competencies/characteristics' (O) - Other requirements of a job or something that the applicant possesses that may be beneficial to the job.
The table mentioned above is (imo) the minimum requirement that an applicant/graduating student should possess if he/she is planning to look for a psychology-related job.  Below are the further explanations for why I feel it is required and how students can try to demonstrate that they possess the KSAOs to their prospective employers.

  • Masters in Applied Psychology:  This is the minimum requirements to become a registered psychologist with the SRP.  This has be done with an accredited program locally or overseas.
  • Speciality-related or field-related knowledge:  This really differs with  your psychology specialisation or place that you will be working in, e.g. working as a educational psychologist v.s. a forensic psychologist.  This knowledge can be gained through your internships or previous work experiences.
  • Psychotherapy and counselling skills (1000 hours of supervised training):  Again this is one of the minimum requirements to become a registered psychologist with the SRP.  During the internships and future work experiences, there will be other soft skills that you will acquire, such as active listening and critical thinking.  During or after your internships, try to reflect on how you have developed these skills, which you can try to explain it during the interview.   
  • Research skills (including SPSS use):  You will actually learn this from your Bachelors degree, so make sure you become good at it, if you are planning to do research work.  You can also gain more research skills by working as a research assistant with your own supervisors or professors.
  • Report writing and communication:  This could be taught and practiced during your university education.  Make sure to know your APA style well too!!
  • Empathy:  This is an essential innate ability that one should have if you plan to work in a health-related industry.  Without empathy, it will be very difficult to truly help your clients.  This could be demonstrated to your employer by having some volunteering experiences, preferably at a not-for-profit or voluntary welfare organisations.  Volunteering is always a good way to help you gain more experience working and talking to people.  
  • Communication skills:  Being able to communicate well involves listening well, expressing your ideas well to people, and being sensitive to others' emotions and actions, etc.  This is one ability that is important to most jobs in every industry.  If you work with people, you will need communication skills!  This will be tested during your interview, and hence try to relax and communicate well with your prospective employers.
  • Problem sensitivity:  This is the ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong.  This is very important to a psychologist, as clients sometimes do not explicitly tell you the problem; it is your job to "sniff" it out.  You can give an example during the interview of how it was done during your internship or previous job experiences.
  • Reasoning abilities:  Being able to reason out why the clients are having issues is one of the key things a psychologist has to do.  Try to explain during your interview on how this was exhibited during your past work or internship experiences. 
Other Competencies / Characteristics:
  • Working independently and in a team:  This is very common in all jobs now.  A psychologist is expected to do work independently such as writing reports,  as well as working as a team on projects.  Try to show evidence of this in your CV, such as your previous sports or club experiences where you and your team has achieved something.   
  • Networking skills:  This will come very useful in your early and mid-career.  You never know what networking with colleagues or fellow psychologists will benefit for your future career.  Here's a previous post on the Power of Networking.  So try to do some networking if possible!
  • Willingness to work evenings and weekends:  This can be quite unavoidable for some psychologists, as your clients might only come to you during non-working hours.  This really depends on your future companies or bosses if they require you to do so.
It was also mentioned in the recent 2015 SPS Annual General Meeting that we currently need a standardized method of evaluating the education and training requirements such that nation-wide registration of psychologists can be implemented sooner than later.  Hopefully this model above can help in some initial effort to create this standardization towards the training of future psychologists!!


  1. O*NET has done a great job for this:

    Clinical psychologist:

  2. Yes O*NET has a very detailed analysis (as can be expected of the sophistication of the top-tier Ang Mohs in the US), but I wonder if there is any Asian or even Singapore-unique KSAOs not covered there nor here?) For one, I think it is also the ability for the profession as a whole to convince our conservative society that mental health stigmas should be dissolved. Organisations such as Club Heal are trying to educate the muslim community about this by providing counselling services to this niche group, but more can be done in researching and active campaigning. Not to mention that in other areas the market is also very small and niche and it may be even based on unhealthy employer expectations and undesirable working conditions (eg. think about IOP in Singapore). On to another matter, there is also my concern about the need to work on evenings and weekends. I keep hearing professionals say that self-care is of utmost importance as burnout is all too common among psychologists. How does one draw the line, and indeed can one draw a line in this highly competitive (and possible myopic) market?


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