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?