I have been meaning to write this post for the longest time! Thankfully the below video, inspired and reminded me exactly why and how I chose industrial psychology as my degree major.
How to choose a degree major
1. Sit down and make a list
When I decided on a degree major, I literary sat down and made a list of all the things that were:
- important to me in a career/lifestyle. (Eg. a career that pays well; travel options; the possibility to work from home / for myself).
- what I enjoy doing in work and life. (Eg. helping and encouraging people; training; solving problems; making a difference; being creative, seeing the results of what I do; a challenge…).
- all the things I am naturally good at. (not going to blow my own horn here, but you get the drift)
If you battle (and even if you don’t), take the time to do a free online personality test, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI). I’ve always just done these for fun, so I kind of knew what career choices my personality leaned towards.
2. Find common ground between the items on the list
Try to find commonality in the items. I tried to see how I could fit, helping people, solving problems and earn a decent salary together. I played around with a couple of ideas and managed to reduce my unending list of items to about three of four options. If I remember correctly it was something like:
- psychologist, because I could help and encourage people
- teacher/ training, but I was concerned about teaching kids & the salary/advancement opportunities (I was a single mom at the time)
- accounting, because I was kind of good with numbers, but petrified I would get bored. But the money is good.
- graphic design, creative aspect.
3. Research your academic institutions in and around the area
I knew I had to study part-time and I knew I wouldn’t be able to attend evening or weekend lectures. So open distance learning institution like UNISA was really my only rational choice. Perhaps this was a blessing in disguise because sometimes too many options overwhelm us even more!
4. Research the degree majors the institution offers and match them with the items on your list
I knew I wanted to study a B.Com degree. Looking back, I am not really sure why. I think the colleague that was about to enrol and led me to consider the idea of continuing my studies, painted the picture that a B.Com would be better. Perhaps the fact that a B.Com, even if, just a general B.Com would be a good direction, considering the idea that I was working in the business world. I’m not 100% certain, but I remember looking at the list of degree major offered in the B.Com degree and reading the descriptions carefully. The list is a lot longer now than it was back then, then my choices were pretty much:
- Business Management
- General / Generic
- Industrial Psychology
Secretly the thought of psychology involved a whole lot of chemistry and I wasn’t very good at chemistry or science at school. Imagine my relief, when I realized psychology and industrial psychology had nothing to do with chemistry!
Here’s how I matched my ‘wishlist’ with the courses on offer:
I started researching both psychology and industrial psychology and made some pretty amazing discoveries about the industry, for example:
- training and counselling were a part of an industrial psychologist’s tasks.
- ergonomics is an area in industrial psychology that incorporated a whole lot of design and lighting elements to promote a healthy work environment for workers.
- psychometric testing – you mean I can get other people to do the same personality tests, I love doing and charge them a fee?
- if I decided to register as a psychometrist, I could work from home/work as a consultant to various organisations.
- board certified industrial psychologists earn a killing!
- I get to solve a lot of problems – what is the best career choices for you? How do I get this group of people to work with that group of people? How can I get the CEO of a company to understand the underlying problems in his organisation? That kind of thing.
I knew I had a winner. Bottom line, I knew this would be an industry was I could make a difference in the lives of the people around me.
5. I researched courses offered by the institution of my choice and verify the degrees offered by other neighbouring institutions.
Once I knew what I wanted in a degree major, I checked the different options offered by UNISA, for example, UNISA offered a BA degree in industrial psychology and a B.Com degree in industrial psychology. I found it odd, so I researched it and discovered both are valid and accredit courses but the B.Com degree would give me easier access when selections took place for their honours course.
I also checked what courses were offered by the University of Pretoria to compare with UNISA. At the time they only offered a B.Com degree in Human Resource Management and that wasn’t what I wanted to do.
6. Consider the commitment
Let’s be honest, any 3 or 4-year degree will be a commitment. But I knew I was signing up for at least 10 years of working hard and sacrificing a lot if I wanted to become a board-certified industrial psychologist (the one that makes a killing). My short term became the undergraduate degree, with the honours a medium term, followed by a longer-term goal of completing my practical hours and becoming board certified. Long term and ultimate would be a masters degree and board certification.
7. Consider your current career (if you are currently working)
The reason why I chose industrial psychology over psychology was due to the fact that I knew I would need to transition from my then position of a travel agent to my newly chosen career choice.
Industrial psychology seemed to be a better fit in terms of my passions (the last thing I wanted to do, was counsel people all day every day) and the practicality and career limitations of the transitions.
How are my plans working out?
I am currently in my ninth year of studies, bearing in mind I got married and had a baby and took roughly two and a half years off, I’d say I am doing quite okay. I am busy with my honours degree and if all goes well, write the examinations at the beginning of 2017, in order to complete the degree.
Also, I am happy to say that I have managed to transition from a travel agent to a systems support specialists. I do a lot of what I love doing, training, solving problems, enhancing systems, integration, automation, etc and I really enjoy what I do.
I am yet to transition to industrial psychology and the plan remains to do the practical hours in order to register as a psychometrist. But if all goes well, I would really like to go into organisational development!