The dilemma of needing experience but not getting it
Erika Kajátiová is a 23-year old master student of psychology, living in Košice, Slovakia. She is also volunteering at the Board of Management of the European Federation of Psychology Students’ Association (EFPSA). Even though she is nearly finishing her masters’, her future as a psychologist in Slovakia is rather uncertain. Erika is even considering working abroad because it is so hard to get a job in her country.

In Slovakia, the psychology bachelor is three years and mostly there is only one general master, which takes two years. After finishing the master’s in psychology, there are work opportunities in the clinical-, counselling-, school-, or organizational field, or for example as a police-, army- or fire fighter’s psychologist. However, for most jobs you do have to go through an additional education programme. If you want to become a clinical psychologist for example, you have to complete a four-year specialization programme and complete some psychotherapy courses as well. Other specialization programmes are Work-, School-, and Counselling psychology. Forensic psychology is not yet so common in Slovakia.

Another great challenge in getting a job is the requirement of having experience. Erika has already experienced this struggle by trying to get an internship. She has e-mailed many companies who often reply that they are full or not even reply at all. Sometimes they reply that they are looking for a graduate who has been unemployed for at least one of two months, because then they get subsidized by the government for employing them. “Sometimes they even ask you to pay, like I have to pay them if I want to have an internship at their place.” This is an issue Erika feels strongly about. “It seems like the older psychologists don’t want to give you an internship, while you are the next generation of psychologists in Slovakia.” For Erika, this is a reason to consider working abroad as a psychologist. It is very easy for Slovakian people to go and work in Czech, as the languages have much in common. However, Erika could see herself working in the USA in the future.

Of course, there are some good sides of studying psychology in Slovakia, too. For example, Erika feels like the fact that most universities offer only a general master in psychology is a good thing for people who are not yet sure what they want in their future. It provides for an additional opportunity to explore all fields of psychology. This would also be her advice for psychology students: “At first, try to look at every field; you never know what might catch your interest.” Also, Erika said that you should do as much as possible during your studies. “Do not just sit and attend lectures, but go abroad, look for internships, read books and attend international events.” Especially the last part of her advice seems applicable to the struggle of getting your first working experience, which is a challenge for most psychology students across Europe: “Make contact and do not be afraid!”