Matters of the mind

Psychology, as a career, is a game-changer in all fields today — be it business or international relations, artificial intelligence or advertising

April 27, 2019 05:00 pm | Updated 05:00 pm IST

Psychology occupies a hallowed place in the social sciences, next only to economics — as the Delhi University cut-offs will testify. But, what is so valuable about a subject that is all about feelings and emotions? Here’s a quick guide to careers in field.

“Pure” psychology

Clinical psychologists work with mental health clinics, psychiatrists, schools and as independent counsellors. They practice “talking” therapy tools to overcome mental health disorders such as anxiety or depression.

Psychotherapists come closest to the traditional, Freudian, lie-on-couch-and-discuss-your-childhood psychologist. They are a rare and brave species — it takes several hours of working with a psychotherapist to unravel yourself and then, several 100 supervised hours of psychotherapy to be recognised as a psychotherapist.

Cognitive behavioural therapists focus on present behaviours and thought patterns, rather than delve into one’s past. They attempt to understand and change these to solve chronic emotional or psychological issues.

Solution-focussed therapy is more client-owned and client-led, with the psychologist acting as a guide or coach, helping the client decide what problem to solve, how to structure it, and what options to consider.

Counselling psychologists work on enhancing well-being in healthy clients by helping them resolve stress. They often run their own specialised practice such as family and marriage counsellors, drug abuse counsellors, and medical or genetic counsellors.

Career counsellors work in schools or as independent consultants, helping students and mid-career professionals make career plans, choose college and study options and prepare winning college applications.

Industrial psychologists work largely in the human resources area within businesses. They may work to refine hiring processes, develop psychometric tools to assess people, or improve reward systems. Industrial psychologists also work to enhance motivation, develop leadership skills and manage stress.

Academics: Psychology is a highly academic career to begin with — heavy on study, terminology, reading and research. With most schools and colleges offering psychology as a subject, opportunities are expanding in teaching and research. Several psychologists have been awarded the Nobel Prize recently.


It also plays an integral role in business or international relations, artificial intelligence or advertising.

Marketing, advertising and market research: A psychology degree, combined with a business degree equips one to develop effective marketing strategies, direct consumer choices through subtle messaging, construct viral social media campaigns and connect better with disgruntled clients. Market research professionals use psychological tools to predict the buying behaviour of individuals and the masses.

Artificial intelligence: Psychology combines with computer science to open emerging areas like.

Human-robot interaction: As robots perform increasingly complex tasks, they need to interact with people without causing physical or psychological harm. The challenge of getting a robot to correctly interpret human signals — verbal or non-verbal — demands the coming together of linguists, psychologists and software developers. Some possibilities include creating the perfect nanny who never gets crabby, the perfect math teacher who never loses her patience, and so on.

Cognitive robotics aims at developing robots that mimic human learning such as displaying curiosity, imitating, asking complex questions and even guessing answers. This will allow robots to interact with human beings intelligently, culture and mood and context of their environment.

Game design and synthetic characters: Gaming is becoming increasingly complex and competitive with companies vying to give players an almost-real world to play in. Characters with “real” personalities make them more endearing, trustworthy, loathsome or even temperamental — making players to develop stronger relationships (read addiction) to game characters — a bit like falling in love with Monica or Joey in “Friends”.

Data science

Machines can analyse data better than humans, but it takes a human being to make sense of it.

Data psychology is an emerging field that seeks to understand human decision-making with all its complexities and unpredictability. Data scientists with psychology skills would have greater insights into possible motivators and casues of stress behind startling data patterns.

NeuroSciences deserves a place of its own, in this discussion. It is really the poster boy of psychology, bringing the field close to medicine. Neuroscientists may work in clinical practice and research exploring non-invasive therapy options for helping people recover from emotional or physical trauma, such as an artificial limb, or fear of lizards. They may also work closely with neurologists in interpreting brain imaging, and suggesting neurological therapy. Neuroscientists in artificial intelligence may work on emerging areas such as creating Artificial Neural Networks (ANN) for robots to “think”, “learn” and “adapt” like human beings.

Leading institutes in India

Ambedkar University, Delhi

Ashoka University, Sonepat

Cluster Innovation Centre, Delhi University – and numerous girls colleges in DU

Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai and Chennai

Flame University, Pune

The writer has penned The Ultimate Guide to 21st Century Careers. She leads Inomi Learning, a Gurugram-based career and college guidance firm.

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