The process of becoming a psychologist is a long and arduous one that necessitates college, graduate school, and a licensing application. If you already know that you want to join this rapidly growing profession, though, you can get a jump start on your peers in high school. Of course, one of the most important things you can do is get sufficiently good grades to get into a competitive college, but when you devise your course schedule every semester, think about taking some of the following classes.
Particularly if you want to conduct research, you’ll have to know how to gather statistical data. Even if you don’t want to be a researcher, though, you’ll need to be able to read and critically evaluate scientific studies. For example, if a study says that a specific treatment can help depressed patients, you’ll want to determine if the researchers’ claims are credible before you give advice to your patient. Courses in algebra, calculus, and statistics are particularly important.
If your high school offers psychology classes, take as many as you can. These courses can help you determine if a career as a psychologist is a good fit for you. Moreover, if you take Advanced Placement psychology classes and pass the AP exam, you can get college credit. That means you can start intermediate-level psychology classes during your freshman year, and may even be able to graduate sooner. There’s no predetermined list of psychology courses you should take; instead, focus on what interests you and you may discover a potential niche for your psychology career.
Sociology and Anthropology Classes
As a psychologist, you’ll work with people whose backgrounds and values may be very different from your own. A good psychologist is culturally competent and embraces alternative values, offering psychological advice that fits into each patient’s individual value system. Courses in sociology and anthropology can help you gain an appreciation of diversity. Consider focusing on issues such as women’s studies or ethnic studies if you plan to serve minority populations.
Psychology is a highly academic career, and you’ll do plenty of writing in college and graduate school. If you want to become a researcher, you’ll also need to write clearly written and interesting studies. Even if you never plan to author a study and manage to escape graduate school despite poor writing skills, though, good writing still matters. You’ll need to be able to market yourself, and if your writing is lacking, you’ll come across as incompetent. Take classes in English composition, rhetoric, and writing to maximize your writing skills.
No matter what courses you take, avoiding overloading yourself. More so than anything else, it is your grades in high school that can affect your ability to become a psychologist. If you do poorly in high school, that limits your college options. This, in turn, limits your graduate school options, which can mean you have less success as a psychologist – or are even prevented from entering the field altogether.