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What is Psychology?

When people are struggling with mental and emotional issues, they often seek help to overcome them. People who are trained to assist people with these problems are often psychology professionals, specifically counselors or therapists, though psychology professionals can also work in research. These professionals are experienced in helping people identify the root causes of their issues and helping them to create the tools they can use to overcome them. They work in all areas of emotional, mental, and substance abuse issues.

A psychology professional works with people and organizations to make the world a safer and more understood place. Some professionals work with individuals or groups to help them understand why they do the things they do and to find ways to better cope with issues they might have in life. They work with people who are suffering from mental and emotional trauma and provide tools for them to navigate through life, as well as help those struggling with addiction to break the cycle and live addiction-free lives.

Others study society as a whole and help agencies create programs and medications that can assist people when they are in crisis. Psychology can also help those who work in areas outside of psychology as well. For example, understanding the behavior of people can help a person design a variety of items, from clothing to cars, that fulfill needs people have. It can also lead to more effective communication, which can be focused on allowing an organization to function better, from both the customer and internal views. In other words, there is much more to psychology than sitting on a couch talking while someone takes notes on a notepad.

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Psychology Education in Hawaii

Hawaii has a climate that makes most people consider it a paradise, but that doesn’t mean people don’t have issues they need help with. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more than 500 people working in the field of psychology in the state, and the demand for professionals in the industry is growing faster than average when compared with other careers. If you are someone who wants to help others overcome their issues, then getting the needed education to work in this industry is your best option. It does require a decent amount of education, but for those who want to help people overcome addiction to alcohol, drugs, or other mental health issues, it’s worth it. And, like other careers, the more educated a person in their field is, the further they can progress in their career. Full disclosure, a graduate degree is a requirement for certain certifications a person working as a psychology professional might want to receive, such as those who want to open their own private practice or become a psychologist. However, those who wish to work in research can often get started with a bachelor’s and gain a master’s as they move forward.

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As with most careers, there are educational levels for those who want to work as psychology professionals. The more education a person has, the further they can progress in a psychology career. Also, in order to attain certain licenses, a person much reach certain educational levels. For the most part, those who want to work in research or in a clinical setting have to attain at a minimum a graduate degree. This also applies for anyone who wants to enter academia. Below are some of the degree requirements for each degree level and where you might find work with each type of degree.

Associate Degree in Psychology (AS)

An associate degree in psychology gives a person an idea of whether or not they want to pursue a career in psychology. However, in terms of usefulness in the workforce, the degree won’t offer much. Some organizations might allow a person with a two-year degree to do clerical work, but they will not be allowed to work with patients.

The degree typically takes four semesters to complete and courses in the two-year degree may include:

  • Intro to Psychology
  • Intro to Sociology
  • Behavioral Psychology
  • Ethics
  • Human Development
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Bachelor's Degree in Psychology (BS)

A bachelor’s degree in psychology introduces students to behavioral neuroscience and helps students develop communication, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills. These skills are important and will be needed once a student graduates and starts their career working for places such as welfare agencies, businesses, human resources, or the government, just to name a few options.

The degree takes four years to complete, and students may cover the following courses once they complete their general education classes:

  • General Psychology
  • Life Span Development
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Sensation and Perception
  • Psychology in Everyday Life

For students who want to explore the clinical side of working as a psychology professional, additional education will be required, but that doesn’t mean a person cannot have a successful career in psychology with a bachelor’s degree.

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Master's Degree in Psychology (MS or MC)

Getting a master’s degree in psychology is the next step for someone who wants to become a counselor or clinician. The graduate degree program can take three to five years and consists of classroom training, an internship, and a capstone or comprehensive exam.

Students enrolled in a graduate program will study courses such as:

  • Ethics
  • Group Dynamics
  • Clinical Psychopharmacology
  • Principles of Neuroscience
  • Learning and Cognition
  • Organizational Behavior

However, students at this level may also have the opportunity to specialize in the specific type of psychology they wish to practice, such as family and marriage therapy or child counseling.

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PhD Degree in Psychology (PhD)

When a person reaches the doctorate degree level, they have two options, a PhD in Psychology or a PsyD in Psychology. A PhD in Psychology is for people who are interested in research and taking an academic path with their careers. A PsyD in Psychology is more for people who want to be clinicians. Both programs take around five years to complete, require an internship, and a dissertation must be completed and successfully defended. Both set a person up to be an expert in their area of study.

Students will take courses in their main focus of interest, which may include the following areas:

  • Multicultural Consistencies
  • Assessment, Statistics and Research Techniques
  • Developmental Psychology

At this point, a graduate can either begin their practice under another psychologist, enter into academia and research or a variety of other areas.

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Become a Psychologist in Hawaii

Unlike some professions that can be started without a formal education, a psychology professional’s first step is attaining an education in psychology. For those who want a better understanding of how and why a person acts a certain way in order to better communicate with them in a business setting, a bachelor’s degree could be sufficient. But, for those who want to enter into research of clinical practice, then continuing to get a graduate degree is the next step.

Once a person has a graduate degree, they can work as a counselor or coach in many areas. The only requirement is that they must first gain hours working under a licensed clinician. For those who want to one day start their own practice independent of another clinician, a terminal degree, either a PhD or PsyD will be required. This degree will require three to five more years of education, a dissertation, and another internship.

To practice as a psychologist in Hawaii, a person much apply for a license and take and pass a licensing exam. The program is administered by the Professional and Vocational Licensing Division or the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. In order to qualify for licensure and sit for the exam, a candidate must have either a PhD or PsyD, transcripts for all degrees completed, and complete a training report that details work experience and completed internships.

Candidates also must have the following experience:

  • 6 or more semester hours in behavioral psychology
  • Social psychology, group processes and organizational and systems theory
  • Community psychology
  • Therapy for adults or children

There are other requirements that depend on a person’s degree of study. The specific requirements for all Hawaii counselors can be found on the DCCA website.

Careers for Psychology Graduates

There are many areas in which a psychology professional can work. Some of the more popular careers are listed below, but this is by no means an exhaustive list.

  • Social Worker
    Social workers work with the public to help them solve problems they may have. A social workers’ duties will vary depending on the people they are serving and the institution or business they work for. Some people automatically think of children and family services when they think of social workers, but that is a very narrow focus. Social workers may work with veterans, adults with mental and emotional health issues, the elderly, and more, as well as children of all ages. Social workers have a keen sense of detail and can often “read between the lines” when observing situations. They can work for government agencies, private companies, hospitals, clinics, or schools.
  • Guidance Counselor/Career Advisor
    Guidance counselors and career advisors help people plan their futures and careers. Guidance counselors can work with students in both high school and college to determine the right career for them. These decisions are based on a student’s academic abilities and interests. At the college level, guidance counselors help students narrow down jobs that match their major. Career advisors work with people of all ages, from high school and college students to adults who are already working but are considering making a career change; they may need help pinpointing the right career for them. Career advisors use questionnaires as well as a person’s interests to help them choose the right career for them.
  • Child Counselor/Psychologist
    When children need to talk to someone because of a mental or emotional issue, they often speak to child counselors or a child psychologist. These professionals are specially trained to help children deal with their issues. Child psychologists can be found in schools, social service agencies, hospitals, and in private practice.
  • Psychiatrist
    Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in treating mental health disorders that require diagnosis and medication. Psychiatrists provide therapy to their patients, but they can also prescribe medications to help with the treatment. This is a big difference between psychiatrists and psychologists, because most psychologists cannot prescribe medications since most have not attended medical school. Psychiatrists work in hospitals and in private practice and treat patients of all ages, although some do specialize in working with specific people or treating specific conditions.

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  • Substance Abuse/Addictions Counselor
    People who are wrestling with addiction often need assistance with the process. Substance abuse and addiction counselors help those who are trying to overcome an addiction and maintain sobriety. These professionals offer counseling and, in many cases, track the progress for their patients and make reports as required if the therapy is court-ordered. Counselors can work for hospitals, through the court system, and in their own private practices. Some counselors work with all addiction issues, while others choose to specialize in specific addiction issues.
  • Family and Marriage Therapist
    Family and marriage therapists work with married couples and families to assist in creating solutions to issues. Marriage therapists help a married couple navigate issues that are hampering or even jeopardizing their marriage. Family therapists work with the whole family to improve the family dynamic.

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