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Studying Psychology in Germany

Psychologists explore human experiences and behaviour.
An article by Florian Schumann

Studying Psychology in Germany
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That is what it’s about

Can men do some things better than women? Are parents and their children similar because of their upbringing or because they have the same genes? Can psychotherapy change people’s personality? In studying psychology one learns to examine such questions and to assess the results on the basis of scientific studies. Birgit Spinath is a professor at the University of Heidelberg and president of the German Society for Psychology. She says: "It's all about how people feel, think and learn, and how behaviour develops." Psychologists are increasingly combining measurement methods to represent physiological responses. For example, smartwatches can help find out how stressed someone is. Psychologists can use this data collection to get a more complete picture of a person's mood.

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This is how the course runs

A psychology bachelor usually takes six semesters. At the beginning the students get an overview: General psychology is on the agenda as well as social psychology or differential psychology, which deals with differences between people, and developmental psychology, which is about how people change in the course of their lives. Clinical psychology, educational psychology as well as work and organizational psychology are also part of the material. Students learn to develop tests, such as related to self-esteem. That is not possible without methodological knowledge: In statistics they learn how to collect data, evaluate it and which criteria scientific studies have to fulfil. A compulsory internship is also usually required, for example in a clinic, in an educational consultancy, in a human resources department or in research. A master's degree is standard. If you want to work as a psychotherapist afterwards, you have to complete a specialised training. It lasts at least three years and costs about 30,000 euros. Many graduate complete this while working.

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Typical questions raised within the subject

  • What happens in the brain when we solve problems?
  • What does a Facebook profile say about personality?
  • Are there cultural differences in the experiencing of things?
  • What motivates us at work?
  • How do refugees overcome a trauma?
  • How to develop a questionnaire to record competencies?
  • How does violence in the media affect the psyche of the viewer?

The subject suits you,...

...if you are curious and interested in people. "It is not enough to be able to empathize with people," says Birgit Spinath. Rather, it is important to be persistent, to be able to think logically. A lot of technical literature is in English. In addition, many people only think of psychotherapy when considering psychology, but first of all the basics are learned during the course. "Anyone who hopes to be able to help people immediately will be disappointed," says Spinath. Many are surprised at how many statistics they have to learn. The main motivation should not be to solve your own problems. The students must be stable enough to question themselves, even in front of others in a group. Incidentally, at 74 percent, psychology has an even higher proportion of women than medicine, dentistry or pharmacy. Because of the high demand there are more and more private universities. However, they sometimes charge high fees. You should first check if you are admitted to psychotherapeutic training, says Spinath.

Is there a numerus clausus?

There is a NC. At state universities you usually need top grades from your high school certificate or Abitur to study psychology. Exception: Psychology has no numerus clausus at the Fernuni Hagen.

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