I'm from Malaysia and I want to ask about continuing my studies into a Master of Psychology. Currently I'm continuing my degree in Islamic Studies. Is it suitable for me to change my path to study Psychology for a Masters and a PhD? Thank you.
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Do you have any science training? If you have not done previous science training for example in a bachelors of Science then moving into a Masters of Science or PhD is going to be very challenging to near impossible. You will lack basic information on how to conduct scientific studies and understand the scientific literature your lectures and research will be based on. If you are looking to move into a Masters of Art in Psychology then this will be less science based but will still require you to have a strong foundation in psychological theory and current research. I do not know if you have that background, ask yourself if you are ready to be in Masters level lectures on Psychology and if your experience will help you understand to the same level as other undergraduates who did study Psychology.
As for the PhD, this is a research degree and assumes you can conduct three to four years of scientific research to a high publishable standard. It is very difficult for science bachelors students to move into a PhD after a Masters, without a science background you will need to make sure you have the necessary training and experience to succeed.
What was your motivation for undertaking postgraduate study?
I wanted to take postgraduate study as during my undergraduate I came to realise the skills I was lacking. I was able to identify areas for research but was not able to design projects or analyse data effectively and this was a skill gap I needed to rectify. I particularly approached the fields of brain imaging and cognitive neuroscience as I found that purely cognitive models were too speculative and wanted to initially ground my findings and theory in the biology of the brain. It also allowed to me understanding the interplay of brain systems on a neural level which other areas of study could not.
Can you describe your journey from school to where you are now?
My journey from A level started with a very abstract interest in psychology, a fascination with the complexity of human behaviour and interaction. I have progressed now to appreciating the need for rigorous logical inspection of ideas and the role that statistics plays in many scientific and even lay activities. I see myself as developing from an interested person into a scientifically minded and critical thinker. My other big development has been my public speaking skills. Initially I was a very panicked and undisciplined but have learnt how to present Psychology from core concepts to cutting edge theories in different ways and to all different types of audiences.
Have you joined any clubs or societies, gone on any research trips or done any volunteering?
During my undergraduate study I chaired the University of Birmingham Art Society. During my time with the Art Society I learnt how to apply for grants and bids, raised over £3000 a year for the society, lead a major renovation of the society’s assets and structure and finally began the annual Art Society exhibition. These have all been major successes and gave me a chance to learn these skills prior to when I needed to in research. I now approach concepts like bidding and exhibiting with confidence and a knowledge of the key challenges.
Was there a big transition from undergraduate to postgraduate study?
The biggest transition between courses was the change in focus. In my undergraduate studies the focus was on understanding the concepts of brain imaging findings. In my postgraduate I know how to understand the specifics of the techniques. This involved learning a large amount of programming, mathematics and physics in a short space of time from a background of social science and life sciences. This was very challenging and involved a lot of personal study outside of the lectures to develop a personal background in the areas so that I could understand them as applied to brain imaging.
What piece of advice would you give to anyone considering postgraduate study in your field?
If a student was to enter into the field of Brain Imaging I would recommend the following things. 1. Become comfortable with the concept of programming. Many programs which involve using brain imaging expect a level of competency and already being knowledgeable before starting in this field is essential. 2. Be prepared to have to learn new fields very quickly. During postgraduate study students can be placed on research placements without prior knowledge of the field. It is a good skill to be able to conduct literature searches and educate yourself quickly as to be able to assimilate the key ideas involved in the study you are working on.