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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.

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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

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The Official psyCH Study Tips!

Illustration by Shaumya Sankar

The exam period is upon us once again, and if you’re like us, you probably don’t mind a little break from studying. Why not use your pause for something useful, like reading a few suggestions on how to make the most of the time you have left to prepare for your exams? 

Now before we dive into this, I want to make a small disclaimer. I wrote The Official psyCH Study Tips! in the title because it sounded better, but I have to be honest with you, Kristian’s Personal Tongue-in-cheek Suggestions for Students Approaching an Exam, is closer to what I’m actually doing here. In essence, everyone has their own preferences, strengths and weaknesses when it comes to learning. I for one am almost unable to remember anything I hear. To compensate, I take notes all the time. Talking to my mother, or talking to my thesis advisor, it makes no difference. If it’s not spelled out in letters, it’s gone in 5 minutes. I even have to check my ID to remember my age every now and then. Sometimes I wonder how I even made it beyond my bachelor’s, but I digress. All I’m trying to say is that these suggestions seemed to have worked for me, so maybe they can work for you. Let’s get into it! 

  1. Make a study plan

You don’t learn from just sitting in the library, you learn from studying. At first glance this seems so obvious that it’s bordering on a truism, and yet it’s easily forgotten. Only time spent actually working is valuable to you when preparing for your exams. The first step towards minimising the gap between library-time and effective-work-time is to get organised. Draw up an overview of all the hours at your disposal, and assign specific tasks to each timeslot. 

Don’t just put general things like “studying”  (then you’re going to end up like me, writing blog posts when you should be writing summaries). Be as specific as possible, for example: 10h-12h: Social Psychology: Write summaries of chapter 3-4. Specify what, when and where, with a concrete goal in mind, so you know how far you’ve advanced. Above all, be realistic in your goals, you can always adjust them later if you’ve misjudged your capabilities.

Now before you start drawing up 14 hour days, have a look at the next suggestion 

  1. Stick to your usual schedule!

Imagine for a moment you’re preparing for a sprinting competition. You need to run 60 metres as fast as possible. 

This is basically what an exam is. You can argue that exams are far from the best way to assess you abilities (I’m sure there is some psychological model explaining the different phases of despair when facing an upcoming exam, trying to argue against the importance of exams is probably the first one) and you may be right, but the fact of the matter remains: you have been assigned a very short period to show all you’ve learned during the last semester. 

Now back to the race. How would you prepare for a sprint ? Would you spend three weeks running as many marathons as you can, and then show up on race day with a few cans of red bull, hoping that you make it to the finish line?  

It sounds ridiculous when put like this, and yet this is what plenty of students do each exam period, and they keep doing it year after year. 

In concrete terms, this means that when preparing your schedule, you use short intervals, just as if you were trying to increase your cardiovascular fitness. For me that means at maximum two hours for each task, longer then that and I’m bored to death long before the end. Even more importantly: pace yourself. Despite what many students seem to think, you don’t get a medal for sitting in the library until 2 in the morning. You don’t get a medal for doing good on your exam either (unless you do VERY good, but you’re reading this instead of studying, so we both know that’s not going to happen), but good grades are always helpful, and being exhausted on the third day of your study period because you worked for 14 hours yesterday is not going to get you anywhere. 

Try to stick to your usual schedule as much as reasonably possible. Only hours spent working effectively count towards your exam, so make sure the hours you spend in the library enter into that category. When the sun has settled, and you’re so hungry and tired that you keep confusing b’s with d’s, it’s time to head home. 

  1. Exercise!

Some Roman guy once wrote “Mens in sana in corpore sano”, which translates to “a healthy mind in a healthy body”. You’ve probably heard this before, but I’m going to help you understand what it means for your exam preparation. The exam period is not a good time to stop exercising!  That being said, make sure you do something fun, like playing football, climbing or whatever you like ( I personally hate football). Despite what the behaviourist wants you to believe, you’re not actually a rat (even though you might smell like one). Running in a wheel or pushing buttons up and down are not fun ways for humans to exercise. Pursue physical activity during your exam period for the fun of it, not just to move. Your grades will improve. 

  1. Talk to other students about the material 

As you get closer to the exams you have a better grip on the materials. Now it’s time to clear any misconceptions from your mind, and above all, do some active rehearsal. Find the smartest girl or guy in your class or friend group, and ask them to study with you. Ask each other questions, exchange summaries, discuss what parts you find the most interesting, and tie it to something from your everyday life. 

For example, if you’re revising evolutionary psychology you can talk about how you can’t seem to find anyone willing to reproduce with you, or if you’re studying social psychology, talk about how the the Dunning-Kruger effect relates to your personal experience at university!

 So there you go. I hope these suggestions help you, and if they didn’t, then you’re probably doing it wrong 😉

Good luck with your exams!