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Psychologist Career Description

Psychology as a profession is diversifying rapidly. Psychologists still study people and their behaviour, but the areas in which this knowledge is applied, are expanding. Various people are challenging the traditional notion of psychologists who wait in their office for clients. There is still room for the psychologist who works with individual clients, but the need is for the innovative use of existing resources to address the need of society for psychological help on a broad spectrum.

What am I going to do in this occupation?

Psychologists working in applied fields see clients for psychological assessment, psychotherapy and counseling. They work with individuals, couples, families, organisations and groups. Furthermore, they select people for posts and do evaluations.

The psychologist uses techniques such as interviews, psychometric testing and workshops. Psychologists are tending to move out into the community more than in the past and are concentrating more on preventative work. They are therefore not only helping people to overcome existing problems and difficulties, but are guiding people in the development of skills for dealing with problems before they arise. Psychologists also act as consultants and play important roles in the field of Forensic Psychology as in custody disputes, criminal offences, etc. They train various helpers in the community in skills to be applied in serving that community. Currently research psychologists are focusing more on issues relevant to the South African situation. Research psychologists also undertake evaluations of clinical and social interventions and develop psychometric assessment instruments. They may provide consultancy services for other psychologists undertaking research.

Clinical psychology
A clinical psychologist renders a diagnostic and therapeutic service, often in association with medical, para-medical and other professionals, to patients/clients experiencing mental and/or emotional distress. In addition they act as psychological consultants in hospitals and to organisations.

Counseling psychology
These psychologists work mainly with people experiencing everyday adjustment problems, in areas such as career counseling, marriage counseling and general guidance. They also assist people in the development of skills necessary in daily living.

Educational psychology
Educational psychologists emphasize the enhancement of general adjustment and academic development of pre-school and school children. They assess children and provide consulting and counseling services to children, parents, teachers and principals.

Industrial psychology
These psychologists study the organisation/ employee interface and subsequently apply psychological principles so as to maximize reciprocal satisfaction and productivity in the work environment.

Research psychology
A research psychologist investigates various societal and human issues in order to generate psychological theories for the purpose of understanding and dealing effectively with these issues. Research psychologists are also concerned with evaluating the effectiveness of interventions.

It should be kept in mind that none of the above are rigidly defined fields.


What kind of personality do I need? Psychologists require an above-average intelligence. They should be creative thinkers who are capable of analysing human behaviour, and help with problem solving. Interest in people, caring and sensitivity together with other personality traits such as patience, dedication, reliability and the ability to work with people in any kind of situation are important. A psychologist should be a mature, balanced person who can establish meaningful relationships with others and be capable of accepting people from all levels in society. Psychologists should be flexible and well adjusted. Responsibility and integrity are of the utmost importance.

Where can I work?

Possible places of employment (depending to some extent on registration category) are hospitals (private, public, psychiatric) and community clinics, rehabilitation clinics, the Department of Labour, universities, education departments, churches, business industry and in private practice as a therapist or as a consultant.

Can I work for myself in this occupation?

Psychologist can start their own private practices.

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