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Choosing a master’s: speaking with Niels

Niels Kempkens

University of Fribourg

Master of Science in Clinical and Health Psychology

What made you choose this particular option?

During the exchange year in my bachelor’s, I discovered the bilingual study offers of the University of Fribourg. To me, the possibility to study in several languages (French, German and sometimes English) at the same time was perfect both on a personal level as well as well as an academic one. What brought me to clinical psychology was the opportunity of working in a one-to-one setting, where you can feel that your work has a real positive impact. Knowing that what I’m doing has a purpose is really important to me. Finally, the approaches taught in Fribourg are mostly client-centered and cognitive behavioral. I think that anyone considering a master’s in clinical psychology should take this into account when choosing where to pursue their degree. Ideally, you identify with the approaches taught—which is my case in Fribourg. (As a side note, the same holds in psychotherapy: therapists who are convinced by their approach also tend to be more successful!)

How do you feel about your choice today?

I’m very happy with my training in research methods. We even had an optional class dedicated to meta-analysis. I had very engaging and interesting classes in neighboring fields such as epidemiology and Applied Behavior Analysis. Last but not least, the psychology department in Fribourg being quite small, this meant I enjoyed close follow-up from my thesis supervisor. I never felt like just a number on a list. However, it also means that the selection of classes is not as big as what you could maybe find in larger universities. Sometimes I found my options a bit limited when filling in the last credits of my program. All in all, I’m very pleased with what I’ve learned, and the skills I’ve acquired during my studies here, doing hands on work, such as practicing structured clinical interviews.

What are some future career options that you consider?

I’m currently I’m aiming to do a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and enroll in a post-graduate program to become a psychotherapist. I could also picture myself working with in a public institution in the field of health promotion. I believe the methodological and clinical skills I’ve picked up in Fribourg will help me follow that path.  

Thank you for your time Niels! That’s all for this season! Good luck to all future master’s students out there!


Choosing a master’s: speaking with Daniel

What made you choose this particular option?

I was always interested in life sciences, and I even did a year of medicine before starting psychology. During my bachelor’s in psychology, at the University of Geneva, I tried to have a very interdisciplinary approach. When I started thinking about what master’s degree I wanted to pursue, I knew I was interested in research, and so I hesitated between a degree in neurosciences, and one oriented towards basic research in psychology.

The neuroscience degree is very hands on, with a majority of the credits coming from research work and internships. However, I find it a bit lacking in the theoretical department. The psychology degree on the other hand had lot’s of interesting classes, but there was less room for research. I couldn’t choose, so I ended up signing up for both programs.

How do you feel about your choice today?

The master’s in neuroscience is an interdisciplinary program, open to people with a background in biology, psychology, medicine, and other related fields. That being said, having a bachelor’s in psychology, I find that a lot of the theory classes are a bit redundant.

The research side is very engaging. Laboratory internships is a central part of the program. If the team you join doesn’t have a good structure ready to welcome you, you’re in for a rough start. A lot of knowledge is learned informally, so how it plays out varies a lot from person to person, and from lab to lab.

As said before, there isn’t that many opportunities to choose classes based on your own areas of interest. Personally, I’m very happy I chose to enrol in a psychology master’s degree as well. Without the classes from this program, there is a lot of knowledge that I wouldn’t have had going before starting my career. That could have turned into a weakness later on. At the end of the line, I think my neuroscience program is a very flexible. However, with this comes the personal responsibility to fill any potential gaps.

What are some future career options that you consider?

I definitely want to go into the world of research and pursue an academic career. I know some people use their neuroscience background to find jobs in applied research, working in the industry.

Personally, I’m interested in sexual neuroscience, with a fundamental research approach on humans. But this is a very little-known field, and consequently with very little funding. Maybe I’ll start by making some compromises and work in the field of affective sciences at the beginning of my career. It’s just as exciting and is a highly developed field here in Geneva.

Thank you for your time Daniel! If you want to learn more about what possibilities are out there, check out are interviews with Sandro, who’s studying personality and social psychology at the University of Bern, and Vanessa, who’s pursuing a degree in Business psychology at the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland.

Next time, we’ll be back at in the Mittelland, or plateau suisse if you prefer, to speak with Niels Kempkens, who’s about to wrap up a degree in clinical and health psychology at the University of Fribourg.

student life

Choosing a master’s: speaking with Vanessa

Vanessa Schär

University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland

Master’s degree in Business Psychology

What made you choose this particular option? 

In my Matura thesis, I had already taken an interest in the homo economicus and analyzed whether this conception of man is still up to date. For me, human behavior in an economic context is extremely exciting, because we are presented with consumer decisions every day.

Before I decided on a field of study, I took a RIASEC test at the career counseling center. I scored full marks for a career in the field of psychology. My career counselor advised me to follow that path, and I choose to go with that piece of advice.

I then started looking for a specific program, and I sat down to learn more about the different career possibilities in psychology. During my search, I came across a new bachelor’s degree in Business Psychology, offered by the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland. The courses combined everything that interested me. I liked it so much that at the end of my bachelor’s I decided to pursue a master’s in the same field.

To this day, I have no regrets about my choice and can only recommend studying business psychology!

How do you feel about your choice today? 

I absolutely love it. My academic education has enabled me to enter the field of behavioral economics consulting. I am also finishing my master’s degree. I am extremely happy with my academic and professional decisions and highly recommend it.

What are some future career options that you consider?

After my studies, I would like to start working full time for my current employer, elaboratum, a consulting firm. I am really looking forward to it, and I’m already involved in many exciting projects and look forward to going to work every day.

My co-students from the master’s program work in related fields. Some have moved into marketing, others are user-experience researchers, product managers, market researchers and many other professional fields where the perspective offered by someone with a background in psychology is welcome.

Thank you for your time Vanessa! If you haven’t already had the chance take a look at our other texts about choosing a master’s degree. Maybe you’re not too sure where to start? Or maybe you would like to learn more about what it’s like for those who have already made their choice? Stay tuned as we keep talking to master’s students, helping you get a clearer picture of what your options are!


Choosing a master’s: speaking with Sandro

The spring semester is upon us , and that means a new year of Bachelor’s students are preparing to choose their Master’s program. It’s a hard choice indeed, and in many ways it’s the first serious step towards choosing a specific career, closing some doors, and opening others.

In earlier posts we’ve given some general tips about how to approach this decision.

In this series we will take a closer look at some of the options, by speaking with students doing a master’s in one of the many disciplines of psychology. In this first installment, we’ll be speaking with Sandro Jenni, head of psyCH!


Sandro Jenni

University of Bern

Master of psychology with two main areas

  1. Personality, Differential Psychology and Diagnostics
  2. Social Psychology and Social Neuroscience

What made you choose this particular option? 

I picked my two specializations because they offered me the opportunity to follow a really broad Master’s program. I’m interested in so many areas of psychology, so when I was approaching the end of my Bachelor’s  I found it difficult to choose just one area to focus on. I ended up reasoning that the two fields I chose in many ways provide the basis for a lot of other areas in psychology that I’m also interested in, that might be closer to applied psychology.
Before I made my choice, I read through the  descriptions of the classes in all the specializations that were offered. I highly recommend doing that. It provides you with a pretty clear picture of what you will learn in each program instead of just asking yourself on a superficial level whether a field is a good match for you. As I researched the different options, I realized that most of the questions I was interested in during my Bachelor’s were closely related to the two specializations I ended up choosing, and so I knew what to pick.

How do you feel about your choice today? 

Today, I’m a bit more than halfway through my Master’s, and I feel like I made the right decision . I enjoyed the classes so far and learned so many things that I always wanted to know.

What are some future career options that you consider? 

Haha, that’s a hard one! Thinking about potential career options, I have to admit that one challenge of a broad Master’s program is that there is no  obvious next step after graduation. Of course, this is also an opportunity, I have so many options!
Today, I feel pulled in many directions. To give you an idea, I am considering doing a PhD in one of the fields related to my Master’s.
I could also imagine pursuing a job in the fields of organizational, environmental or political psychology, working as a consultant, doing field research or holding workshops. In the same vein I can picture myself doing stuff like test construction and validation, or even working for the Swiss Federal Office of Statistics. 

Finally, I think about working as a mediator, focusing on conflict resolution in NGO’s or for the government. It’s good that I still have some time left to decide! 

Thank you for your time Sandro!
We’ll keep exploring the different master’s programs out there! In our next blog post, we’ll be speaking to Vannessa Schär. She is pursuing a master’s degree in business psychology at the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland!
Stay tuned


Choosing a master’s : a few tips

Illustration by Shaumy Sankar

As a student in the sixth semester of my bachelors the decision for a master’s major is getting more and more important. And I know from many of my fellow students that most uf us have not yet made a decision about our future master’s degree program. In the following blog post I would like to share some inspirations on how to choose the right master’s degree program. 

Make some general considerations first

Take time for reflection and thoughts about the future. For example: Was there a course during the bachelor’s program that gained your interest in particular, and that you want to deepen? Or maybe you’re looking to try something new? Career considerations are also part of the picture: are you more interested in theory and research or in practice? Where do you want to work later? 

To get an overview, it might be helpful for you to think about what you definitely don’t want to do. If you feel overwhelmed, starting with what you definitely don’t want to do is sometimes easier. Important is: try not to limit yourself to something. If for some reason you’re unsatisfied with your choice, it will be easier for you to reorient yourself if you at least have a Plan B.

The key is to get an idea about what your future job might look like.

Your university’s master’s information day is a good place to start to learn about the different programs available.
Browse through the different departments on the university’s website and gather information based on their study programs. Which study program arouses your interest the most?

Gaining insight into a certain field or profession requires some personal initiative. Different universities offer opportunities for career insights on a regular basis. How these are done differs from university to university. Every year, the University of Bern invites psychologists to talk about their jobs and career paths, offering students a unique inside view of their field of choice. Both the University of Geneva and the University of Fribourg offer courses essentially providing the same service. Chances are, your university offers something similar. Even if you’re not in the related programs, you’re almost certain to be welcomed by the course instructor if you ask to audit the sessions that you’re interested in! 

Once you have an idea about what field you want to know more about, I would suggest trying to organize a trial day. A good place to start is to ask one of your lecturers if they know of any institutions or companies working in the area you want to learn more about. Another possibility is to directly contact a place you would be interested in working, for example a private practice, a clinic or a rehabilitation center. When contacting them, spend some time finding the right person. Don’t email the head of the hospital, but maybe the head of the department you want to visit, preferably a psychologist, or someone with an academic background similar to yours. Send them an email, and don’t forget to call them if you don’t have an answer within a week or two! Emails are easily ignored or forgotten, but if you get to talk to them, they will have to give you some thought. The worst thing that happens is that they tell you no. Don’t take it personally, and try again somewhere else. If it was easy, it wouldn’t be worth doing!   

Ask for a mini-internship, for example one day of observing their daily work, and attach your CV. Speaking from personal experience, I was able to visit various neuropsychological institutions for a few days and observe the daily work of interns as well as trained psychologists. Not only did I get a clearer idea about the field, but I was also able to make some contacts that might come in handy later. If you are interested in research, your best bet is to contact the head of the lab directly. Depending on the size of the research team, they might have someone designated as intern responsable. You will be able to tell from their website. Lab’s work closely with the rest of the university, and can certainly be expected to accommodate you for a day or two.  

Finally, psyCH offers several opportunities to get in touch with people from all areas of psychology. Our official internship platform, psyPra is a good place to look for internship opportunities. Click here to have a look!

That being said, personal contact is always the best way to go! Show up to the next psyKo, and speak to professionals in the field! Countless internships started out as casual conversations between conference attendees.  Click here to read more about this year’s conference!

Don’t be afraid to take your time! 

If you are unsure between two fields then use your time to gain some experience! You can do internships in both fields during a gap year and make your decision based on your experiences.  

Inform yourself through people in the field 

Read job ads in psychology, for example on FSP’s website, and see what appeals to you the most. You could also view career biographies of role models, for example via Linkedin. Psychoscope is published by the FSP every month, and gives insight into the workday of psychologist’s from all over Switzerland!  

Finally and most important, talk to the right people. Exchange ideas with fellow students and with master’s students. And especially talk to people in the field for example during trial days or internships.

Last but not least: Don’t worry. You can always change location, reallocate your credits, or completely change your master’s degree program. Sometimes, despite careful research, a study program just isn’t what you thought it would be. The worst thing that could happen is that you end up trying something else, and that not really so bad is it?