Studying Psychology in Germany
Psychologists explore human experience and behaviour.
An article by Katharina Wagner in collaboration with Cornelia Weber
That is what it’s about
Feelings of success and blows of fate, stress and adventure: each person experiences his or her everyday life in their own way; everyone has strategies to organise their lives. This is subject of Psychology, the science of human experience and behaviour. Students learn how perception, thought, feeling and learning work, how behaviour emerges and what role the social environment plays in all of this. Biology and mathematics are just as much a part of the academic studies as sociological and philosophical considerations. "Psychology works with methods from the natural and social sciences and the humanities. This is the only way for it to do justice to the complexity of the human psyche," says Andrea Abele-Brehm, the president of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Psychologie (German Psychological Society). In Germany, the first semesters revolve around the basic subjects. These include general psychology, social psychology and biological psychology, but also differential psychology which deals with differences between people, and developmental psychology which looks at how children learn, for instance. Methodological tools are also part of the academic studies: how is data collected and analysed? What criteria does a study need to meet? In the fourth semester what are known as application subjects are added: clinical psychology as well as work, organisational and business psychology are part of the programme everywhere. Educational psychology is often taught; less common is health psychology. Students also learn to develop tests, for example, to gauge self-esteem. A compulsory work placement is always part of studies in Germany, e.g. in a clinic, educational counselling, an HR department or on a research project. The Master's degree is the standard. To work as a psychotherapist, additional training is needed that takes at least three years and is associated with high costs.
suitability, obstacles, misconceptions
When people hear the word psychology, they often think of psychotherapy. "But graduates also work in many other areas, such as in school psychology, personnel development or consumer research," says Abele-Brehm. Aspiring psychologists should be able to cope with mathematics and statistics and have good proficiency in English. They also need a good understanding of biological and physiological processes in the body. "Being particularly compassionate, however, does not automatically make you a better psychologist," says Abele-Brehm. There is a lot of competition for places; often the course entrance restrictions in Germany require grades at the top of the one range.