Why are people interested in psychology these days?

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More and more young people in Germany want to study psychology, even though the entry barriers are very high. What makes the course so attractive?

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The high-flyer among the subjects this year is by far psychology. The University of Hamburg alone registered over 4400 applications for a comparatively meager 143 study places, the University of Mainz registered 24 applications for one place. Freshmen break the doors of psychological faculties, while new applications at German universities are generally falling. Despite high NCs of 1.0 (Leipzig University) or 1.3 (FSU Jena), the number of applications here not only remains the same, it is even increasing. For this reason, interested parties usually apply to several universities at the same time in order to increase the chance of a study place.

In addition to Leipzig, her hometown, Annelie Rodestock applied to five other universities, including Jena - she was finally accepted at Friedrich Schiller University. “Contact with people was my top priority,” says Rodestock, explaining her choice of course. Psychology is a very varied course that affects many developments for the future. During the bachelor's degree, students mainly learn general topics such as methodology or statistics. Professional orientation, for example in economic or criminal psychology, only takes place in the master’s degree. For those who want to go into clinical psychology, a four-year training course awaits after the master’s degree. “Psychology is gaining more and more acceptance in our society,” says Rodestock and explains: “We are in the digital age in which we cannot switch off the daily overstimulation. But the interpersonal and thus psychotherapy cannot be replaced by technology. ”The first changes in this direction are already visible in companies. More and more companies are bringing psychologists into their teams or sending internal employees in training courses in order to get the increasing number of mental illnesses under control again.

Professor Holger Horz also sees the career prospects as one reason why so many applicants are interested in the subject. In the professional field of psychology, the unemployment rate is two percent, he explains, that is almost full employment. Horz is, among other things, Dean of Studies of the Department of Psychology at the Goethe University in Frankfurt, where psychology also had the highest number of applicants in relation to the available study places in the over 8,000 freshmen this winter semester. The high number of applicants came as no surprise to him, on the contrary. "Applications in psychology are always beyond comparison," says Horz. Sometimes there are 40 applicants for one study place. When the selection process was not yet centralized, for example via the hochschulstart.de platform, there were even up to 80 applicants for one place.

This platform is operated by the Stiftung für Hochschulzulassung (SfH) and regulates the central allocation both for nationwide admission-restricted courses such as medicine or pharmacy as well as for selected locally admission-restricted and admission-free courses of more than 160 universities. Here the students set their priorities for the universities - in Annelie Rodestock's case Leipzig in first place and Jena in fourth place. The applications are all sent out at the same time, and as soon as the applicant is accepted and accepts his / her place, the remaining applications expire. This gives applicants on the waiting list the opportunity to move up quickly. Horz also points out that the high number of applicants is a thoroughly German phenomenon. In no other EU country is psychology as in demand as in Germany, the courses are partly free of admission, which is why many German students who failed to meet the NC requirements in their own country studied psychology abroad.

The reality is different

However, the idea that applicants for “Psychology” have before they start their studies is fundamentally different than afterwards, knows Alexia Dalski, who is also a psychology student at the FSU Jena and is in her first master's semester. “Psychology is a profession that has a strong presence in the media and is portrayed positively,” she says. Many imagined that they could solve other people's problems simply by listening. That is just a "cool job". However, the reality is very different. "We work very scientifically, just to break down all the stereotypes that exist about psychology," says Dalski. Many studies are read and also carried out themselves, numerous rules and conventions have to be observed and - especially at the FSU - many hours of statistics lessons have to be mastered. Five semesters of statistics are compulsory for the students and instill respect in the undergraduates even before the start of their studies, a good fifth fail the first exam alone.

“Basically,” summarizes Dalski, “it is a potpourri of various factors that make psychology a trend course of study.” In addition to the attractive job prospects and the good reputation that psychology now has in society, the basic idea is to take care of yourself Understanding and wanting to help others are deeply rooted in people. This social component is what makes the subject so attractive, especially for women. In Annelie Rodestock's year there are only 20 men - and more than a hundred women. "Psychology promises a high degree of compatibility between family and work," says Horz, "otherwise the opportunities to become self-employed are secured." Women usually have better qualifications and, accordingly, would overcome the entry hurdles more easily. Nevertheless, Horz also sees a dangerous development in this: "In short, our graduates are too young, too female and too successful." The graduates would later have to supervise a social path that is completely foreign to them. "Seen in this way, we would need a male quota for social balance in psychology," says Horz.

Pressure to perform from day one

Psychology students are under high pressure to perform, especially in order to secure a master's degree. Normally, a bachelor's degree in Germany should qualify you for the job market. A master’s degree is not necessarily required to secure a job, which is why universities generally only offer a master’s place for two thirds of bachelor’s graduates. However, since in Germany the professional orientation in psychology does not take place until the Master’s stage, this is mandatory in order to receive a complete training. "Without a master's degree, you simply won't get a job as a psychologist," says Dalski. In this special field, at least as many master’s positions as bachelor’s positions would have to be offered - actually even more, since many German psychology students come back to Germany from abroad for the master’s degree - in order to receive a work permit in the end. This increases the pressure to perform on the students from day one.

As high as the universities' expectations of their students are, their expectations of their studies are no less. “I was really looking forward to my studies at the time,” says Alexia Dalski, looking back, “I was committed and thought everything was great.” After the first exams, there was disillusionment, because the trend subject of psychology is essentially all about memorizing . What was particularly disappointing for Dalski was that all the additional lectures one wished to attend turned out to be too much. The timeline in psychology is even tighter than in other subjects. “In terms of content, however, my expectations have been fully met,” she says and finally adds: “It was clear to me that psychology is a demanding course of study, but I am nonetheless surprised at the amount of work that went into it. But I'm looking forward to learning and deepening what I really enjoy. "

Keywords: psychology, psychology studies
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