What Are The Benefits Of Studying Psychology?

Is A Psychology Career A Waste Of Time

Studying psychology in South Africa can be an incredibly rewarding experience. Not only will you gain insight into the way people think and act, but you’ll also learn about the culture of this diverse country. But that’s not all – there are many other benefits to studying psychology in South Africa. In this blog post, we’re going to take a look at some of the main benefits and why it could be worth considering for your studies. From career prospects to personal growth, keep reading to find out more about the advantages of studying psychology in South Africa.

Introducing Psychology

Psychology is the scientific study of the human mind and behaviour. It is a relatively young science, with its origins dating back to the late 19th century. Psychology has become one of the most popular majors at universities around the world, and South Africa is no exception.

Psychology is defined as the scientific study of mind and behaviour. It dates back to around 550 BCE. The word psychology is derived from the Greek words psyche and logos meaning ‘study of the soul’.  The use of the term ‘psychology’ is often attributed to the German scholastic philosopher Rudolf Gockel (1547 – 1628).

Psychology as a matter of principle is not a science. Until mid-19th century the discipline of psychology was considered part of philosophy. s borrowed the language and methods of other disciplines grounded in science like Biology, Mathematics, Physics among others to draw on conclusion. In 1879 Wilhelm Wundt (1832 – 1920) established the first psychology research laboratory in Leipzig, Geany.

Wundt was the first person to refer to himself as a psychologist.

The history of psychology is fascinating and dark. Modern western psychology has many founding fathers. Some of the most popular in mainstream culture include, Sigmund Freud, Wilhem Wundt, John B Waston, B F Skinner, Carl Rogers, Jean Piaget, Abraham H Maslow among others.

The discipline of psychology is wide and diverse. Various approaches to study have been developed over the years. Some of the discipline approaches include:

  • Psychoanalytic/Psychodynamic
  • Behaviourist
  • Cognitive
  • Biological
  • Humanistic
  • Comparative
  • Evolutionary

So why should you study psychology?

1. Psychology can help you better understand yourself

If you want to know more about what makes you tick, then studying psychology is a great way to do so. You’ll learn about different areas of psychology, such as cognitive psychology (which studies how we think) and biological psychology (which looks at the role of genetics and hormones in our behaviour). This knowledge can help you make sense of your own thoughts and feelings and give you insight into why you behave in certain ways.

2. Psychology can help you understand others better

Psychology isn’t just about understanding yourself – it’s also about understanding other people. By studying psychology, you’ll develop an understanding of how people think, feel, and behave. This knowledge can be useful in all sorts of situations, from dealing with difficult people at work to helping a friend who is going through a tough time.

3. Psychology can help you improve your relationships

4. If you want to have happier and healthier relationships, studying psychology can be a great way to achieve this goal. You’ll learn about communication skills, conflict

Undergraduate psychology courses are extremely popular in South African universities, with at least one in five students taking undergraduate psychology (Cooper & Nicholas, 2012; Louw, 2002). These courses appear to attract a diversity of students; in 2002, for example, black women comprised the largest group (31%) of undergraduate psychology students at South African universities (Skinner & Louw, 2009). At undergraduate level it is relatively easy for a potential student to gain entry into study majoring in psychology. The demographic entry is diverse in race, language, culture, and gender.

However, studying psychology in South Africa is fraught with many challenges. As graduates move to postgraduate studies, the admission levels significantly decrease so does the demographic diversity in gender, race, and language. This leaves many students with a bachelor’s degree and/or an Honours Degree in Psychology. These degrees can be difficult to translate into useful and needed skills within the South African context.

Psychology as a career option has its disadvantages in South Africa. It is often a long and frustrating journey for many students.  Some of the challenges faced by current and or prospective students in psychology include insufficient information at undergraduate level to make informed and better decisions in chosen career path. Most prospective students are not aware that they cannot do much with a bachelor’s degree majoring in psychology.

It takes an average of between 6-7 years to be a qualified as a clinical or counselling psychologist for an example. This includes three years at undergraduate level, one year at Honours level and two years at master’s level (one year doing coursework and another year doing internship).

Unfortunately for most psychology students their dreams will come to an abrupt halt by the time they get to Honours level if they make it that far. This is because once a student completes their undergraduate study the stumbling blocks intensify.

Honour’s level study is not an automatic entry, students would have had to prove academic prowess at undergraduate level with an average of between 65-70% minimum entry for most universities.

If a student is successful and gains entry into Honour’s study, the disillusionment becomes more jarring. Most Honours programmes in psychology currently offered by tertiary institutions in South Africa have a theoretical framework. Students graduate Honours without any practical experience and / or fieldwork. It is only when studying Bpsych Equivalent that one can ‘professionalise’ their qualification and register as a Registered counsellor through the HPCSA.

However, this route is beyond the reach of most for a number of reasons, namely, very few universities and colleges offer this option, the selection criteria is elusive, and the fee structures are beyond of most students.

Master’s study for psychology students in South Africa gets even more complex. Of the thousands of graduates produced at undergraduate level, only a tiny number is selected. Most tertiary colleges have capacity for an average of ten Master’s students each academic year.

This makes the profession extremely competitive and elitist. The selection criteria at Master’s level is arbitrary, confusing, and elusive to say the least. Students who gain entry are usually accepted after several failed attempts. Rarely does one get into Master’s study immediately after graduating Honour’s level.

Relevance is also another dilemma with ongoing debates in the field of psychology. Qualified Psychologists of all races and languages in South Africa usually follow the western approach as the field is grounded in Western thinking and ideologies.

Healing modalities practised are not always relatable to the diverse people living in South Africa. Whilst in on itself there is nothing wrong in Western approaches to healing as many have found the methods practiced useful, it is not the absolute.

Psychology as a field has imposed onto all cultures throughout the world, often ignoring the nuances of context, culture, lived experiences among other variables. Students, especially black students struggle to identify with the studies which can only add further frustrations towards pursuing a career in this field.

The field of psychology is still embedded in elitist, classist, racial and gendered discriminatory complex dynamics that make it difficult to enjoy the field without the politicking. This is both intended and unintended.

History of Psychology in South Africa

Psychology has a long and rich history in South Africa, dating back to the early days of colonial rule. One of the first psychologists to work in South Africa was Carl Jung, who was sent to the country by the Swiss government in 1885 to study the native population. Jung’s work was instrumental in helping to establish psychology as a science in South Africa.

In the early 20th century, psychology began to be taught at some of the country’s universities. The first psychological laboratory in South Africa was established at the University of Cape Town in 1918. The first chair of psychology in South Africa was appointed at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg in 1929.

Since then, psychology has played an important role in South African society, providing insights into the workings of the human mind and helping people to deal with problems such as stress, anxiety and depression. Today, there are a number of universities offering psychology degrees in South Africa, and the discipline is growing in popularity as more people recognise its potential benefits.

The Importance of Psychology

Psychology is critical in understanding human behaviour, which is essential in various settings such as businesses, families, and schools. It helps explain why people behave the way they do and how to change negative behaviour. Additionally, psychology can be used to treat mental disorders and help people lead happier, healthier lives.

In South Africa, psychologists are increasingly in demand due to the country’s high crime rate and social problems. By studying psychology, students can learn how to prevent and resolve conflict, assist victims of crime, and design programs to rehabilitate offenders. Additionally, psychologists can help companies create a healthy workplace environment and select employees who are likely to be successful.

What Does Psychology Include?

The study of psychology includes the examination of human behaviour, emotions, and mental processes. It can be divided into three major areas: clinical psychology, counselling psychology, and industrial/organizational psychology.

Clinical psychologists focus on diagnosing and treating mental disorders. Counselling psychologists help people deal with everyday problems and achieve their goals. Industrial/organizational psychologists apply psychological principles to the workplace.

Psychologists use scientific methods to study behaviour and mental processes. They conduct research, design experiments, and collect data. Psychologists also use their findings to develop interventions to improve the quality of people’s lives.

How is Psychology Used in South Africa?

Psychology is used in a number of ways in South Africa. It is used to help people who are struggling with mental health issues, to understand why people behave the way they do, and to create programs that will help people cope with difficult life circumstances. Psychology is also used to study how people learn and remember information, to design better educational programs, and to improve workplace productivity. Additionally, psychologists work with law enforcement officials to help ensure that interrogations are conducted ethically and that criminals are rehabilitated effectively. Finally, psychology is often used in marketing and advertising campaigns to better understand consumer behaviour.

Who Can Benefit from Studying Psychology?

Psychology is the study of behaviour and mental processes. It covers a wide range of topics, including how people think, feel, and behave. It can be used to help people understand and change their behaviour.

Psychology can be used in a number of different ways, such as:

-To understand why people, do the things they do
-To help people change their behaviour
-To treat mental disorders
-To improve communication and relationships
-To make businesses more productive
-To design safer products

In South Africa career benefits of studying psychology include being able to be professionally licensed under HPCSA in any of the following areas:

Forensic psychology is yet to be established as a recognised career path in South Africa

Psychology students who do not make it into master’s study face some difficult decisions depending on individual circumstances. They are various options available, some of the options include:

  1. Becoming a teacher by obtaining a Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE). This however is also not straightforward as it may require taking additional modules before one’s application is approved
  2. Studying further at private colleges like SACAP, in order to qualify with an Honours  BPsych Equivalent . This enables one to become Registered Counsellor through HPCSA. Unfortunately, the fees are usually beyond the reach of many so this is for those who can still afford this option.
  3. Register through other SAQA professional boards like ASCHP as a counsellor, specialist wellness counsellor among other gazetted designations. This article can explain to you the differences between registering through HPCSA, ASCHP. The scope of practice applicable under each designation, titles to occupy among other specifications.
  4. Psychology is a general degree, the knowledge and skills acquired can be transferrable to other careers in marketing, public relations, HR, administration work among other alternatives. One must create the path for themselves and apply resilience, grit, and perseverance to achieve success as defined by each person.
  5. Use support systems like Cognition and Co for those interested in pursuing careers as registered clinical, counselling, educational psychologists. Cognition and Co bridges the gap between tertiary institutions, government, and students by providing useful information and practical steps to prospective students, undergraduates, and postgraduates. An example is Cognition and Co provides free guidelines, coaching and mentorship programmes for students applying into Master’s studies. Some of their offerings may attract a small fee. It’s a small price to pay given the useful information and support provided. This significantly eliminates unnecessary headaches and further time-wasting towards achieving your career goals.
  6. Volunteering at NGOs like Lifeline, SADAG et cetera. This may improve employability and or gaining practical experience which may significantly improve one’s CV, help build references (especially important for those students who study via UNISA where direct access to lecturers is limited) This can also help in eventually gaining acceptance into Master’s level fulltime study in Clinical Psychology or Counselling Psychology.
  7. Change career path by using skills and knowledge acquired in psychology for the transition were possible.


South Africa is a country with a population of about 53 million people. It has an approximate 11 000 registered psychologists. The need for mental health professionals is clearly there.

They are various solutions to address some of the challenges in pursuing a career within the field of psychology. Below are some of the suggestions:

  1. Government’s allocations of resources to the mental health field from infrastructure, policymaking and money injection. This impacts directly the entire field as it allows for increased uptake of master’s level students at tertiary institutions hence of producing more psychologists, registered counsellors and other relevant and ethically regulated mental health professionals.
  2. Issues around Professionalisation need to be better addressed to avoid frivolous and superficial debates and fights on who is actually “qualified therefore better” in practising in the field of psychology under the different designations available in the South African context
  3. In-take at undergraduate level if resources are not available should match the in-take at postgraduate level. This may help to alleviate false hope, waste of time, resources and poor statistics by producing graduates into the South African job market who basically have little to no prospects of ever being hired in their area of study.
  4. Changing the curriculums and framework of study in psychology from undergraduate level. Each year and level of study should allow for opportunities to gain practical experience and application of theoretical knowledge acquired within the South African context through fieldwork.
  5. A revolutionary approach to the field of psychology that allows for lived experiences and an African-centred view needs to continue to take place. They are organisations like GMHPN who are pushing for research and data on lived experiences unique to Africa. Other professionals like Prof Kopano Ratele author of the book The World Looks Like This from Here. Thoughts on African Psychology are through their work contributing in re-defining and challenging existing narratives in relation to America/Eurocentric approaches to Psychology.

In conclusion, studying psychology in South Africa has many benefits. Not only will you be able to understand more about the human mind and how it works, but you can also gain a better understanding of yourself and others by gaining insight into their thoughts and behaviours. Additionally, you will have access to a wide range of resources that are available through universities and research centres across the country. If you’re looking for a rewarding career where you can help people from all walks of life, then consider becoming a psychologist in South Africa today!