Fern Harris is a
former pupil of Havergall Schools who works as a Senior Therapist at Child Early Intervention Medical Center. She has a Masters of Science in Forensic Psychology
from the University of Kent.
Did you study Psychology at school? If so, how is the subject different at University level?
Psychology at A-level is very interesting and new to most students. The topics were based on pretty much the same area from school to university, however at university a lot more depth of knowledge
was expected on each topic. So for example at A-level you might learn about the Biological/Medical model for Schizophrenia, whereas at university you would be expected to know all the research
relating to that model, how it compares to other models and be able to argue for and against each model. Additionally at university you are expected to go away and get this information for yourself,
you may be given the basics in a 300 person filled lecture theatre, but then your own responsibility is to go and find the research necessary to complete your coursework.
Courses in Psychology differ from university to university so be aware as to whether you are doing a BSc or a BA. The BSc (Bachelor of Science) is more scientific in nature and there are whole
modules on Statistics and Methodology (maths!!), whereas from what I understand the BA is an Arts/Humanities based degree with less statistics and slightly different modules.
What do you think are the benefits of studying Psychology?
I have found that due to the wide spectrum of psychological areas, the benefits can be huge. Psychology can be applied to a business setting (i.e working in marketing and advertising), Teaching and
education (working in schools, special educational departments, research), Criminal and Law settings (prisons, courts, young offender units etc), Occupational settings (personality assessments for
companies looking for employees, improving workplace
environments), and medical settings (hospitals, clinics, counselling, guidance, psychiatry). I'm sure there are many more areas I cant even think of right now but there are LOTS!!!!
What were some of your favourite/the most interesting things you learnt at university?
After I finished my BSc in Psychology I actually stayed on at university to continue my MSc in Forensic Psychology, and I have to say this was my favourite part. By staying on for my Masters I got to
focus in on the part of Psychology I had always enjoyed, criminal and forensics. The masters was hard work to say the least but getting a more in depth learning experience on the criminal justice
system, visiting prisons and law courts, conducting my own research and designing it all for me was worth it.
The most enjoyable experience at university was having the freedom to choose what to do your coursework on, what to research and getting to choose what interests you the most.
How important is your study of the subject in your current job/career?
I am currently a Senior Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) Therapist for children on the Austism Spectrum and children who have related developmental disorders. So Psychology is most definitely
related to my current job, however I had not planned to pursue a career in education and therapy. That’s how diverse doing a Psychology degree can be! Even though I did my MSc in Forensic Psychology,
there are things I learnt during the course that I use every day at my current position.
What do you do on a day to day basis in your career and how useful is your study of Psychology in that?
My job consists of delivering ABA therapy to children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and other related developmental disorders.
Within this role I need to consider a child's developmental milestones, when they should be met at and how delayed the child is in meeting these milestones. Additionally on a day to day basis I deal
with behavioural aspects of a child's development that I need to be aware of in order to properly deliver therapy.
With a background in Psychology I have been fortunate enough to understand these particular milestones as they are covered in the developmental Psychology modules at university.
I also have to take data on all the therapy I deliver, including producing graphs of progress. The statistical side of my Psychology degree has enabled me to confidently be able to fulfil this aspect
of my job, and my Psychology degree has also enabled my critical thinking and analysis skills to improve.
Any other careers paths you might have considered given your background?
I am still very much interested in pursuing Forensic Psychology and working within a prison setting, I would also consider becoming a researcher and producing articles on Psychology.
What advice would you give to a high school student considering studying Psychology at university?
As I mentioned previously, I would strongly recommend knowing whether the degree you intend to read is a BSc or a BA. This does make a difference in the course content offered and when applying for
jobs, I have noticed that some jobs ask for a BSc over a BA. However, always choose what suits you best and what course content most appeals to your interests.
Overall I would say that Psychology is a hugely diverse and interesting degree and stands you in good stead when applying for jobs due to the skills gained from the degree.