Choosing what to read at university is a daunting experience for school leavers in the current economic climate, with youth unemployment rates in the Arab region on the rise.
A group of 130 undergraduate and secondary school psychology enthusiasts were reassured of their study choices and gained a rare insight into the versatility of a psychology degree last week.
Educators came together to host a student conference on the Heriot-Watt University's Dubai campus (HWUDC), in collaboration with the Dubai British School, to dispel myths about careers in psychology.
"The idea was to introduce students at all levels to psychology outside the curriculum, which tends to be very theoretical," said Dr Annie Crookes, Head of psychology at HWUDC.
"There are misconceptions about psychology careers amongst university and school level students."
She added youths seem to buy into popular cultural concepts of what a career in psychology entails, therefore overlooking the realities.
"They don't realise it's all based on science and evidence," she said. "Students go into the discipline at university and focus on what they see on TV, like for example, the idea a forensic psychologist only does what they see on CSI."
She added young psychology enthusiast do not realise the rigour and formulaic mundane aspect of jobs in the field.
"In this country there is also a lack of knowledge about the full range of what psychologists do. This is why we brought in people doing related jobs here in the UAE to speak with students," she said.
"For instance sports psychology is a newly recognised part of psychology and who would have thought that someone can earn money doing it."
Dr Joan Henretty, sports practitioner at the Professional Sports Group, said a typical myth people have about undergraduate psychology degrees is that a graduate is automatically a psychologist. She delivered a session to the students at the conference last week on the sports psychology profession.
"A psychology degree doesn't mean you're a psychologist," she said. "There is a lot of extra qualifications and studying to get to that next level."
However, Dr Sarah Dunleavey, who delivered a talk to students at the conference about the science of emotion, defined psychology as the scientific study of the human mind and behaviour.
"It's a scientific subject based on theories and proven through the use of statistics," she said.
"In undergraduate studies a large focus on statistics exists in certain topics because statistics underline the field of psychology."
Students with undergraduate psychology degrees, who choose not to enter the field or cannot be bothered with all the extra study, can rest assured their futures remain promising.
All three experts agreed that of all the generic or general degrees such as business administration, which according to recent government reports accounts for 40 per cent of the disciplines chosen by Dubai's students, psychology is probably the better choice.
"Higher education career surveys have show that psychology degrees are highly regarded by employers," said Dr Henretty.
"Undergraduates of psychology get a good basis because they learn different skills and can slot into marketing, public relations, management, public sector work, education etc… which provides a range of possibilities."
"The thing about a psychology undergraduate degree is that it's an employable degree because of a graduates' ability to apply transferable, analytical and numerical skills," said Dr Crookes.
"This puts students in a good position in comparison to other general degrees because they develop the same skill sets plus the people skills, which mean graduates will do well if they want to go into a general career."