What is the difference between MA in psychology and MA in applied psychology? What should I do if I want to get into the clinical psychology field?

MA psych is general, MA applied psych is the practical, useful bits of psych – so no farting about with the psychology of dreaming, or Freud/Jung.

The “MA” bit is worrying. Typically, BA and MA psych contain no statistical or methodological content, and they are a poor entry into the science of psychology.

If you want to get into clinical psych, don’t waste your time on either MA. You need to get onto a PhD-level degree in clinical psych.


Are avid readers able to translate the knowledge gained from the books they read into experiences that make them able to read the people and situations in their lives the way they read books?


I think you may have discovered “education”.

It’s a method which uses “books” to “transfer information” to “brains”, which allows the “users” of the brains to do things that they otherwise could not do.

Other methods do exist, such as

  • “learning by experience”, where a “brain user” tries a variety of techniques to “do stuff”, eventually hitting on the correct technique by a process of elimination (assuming they survive prior techniques); and
  • “teaching”, where one “brain user” (perhaps a person who has successfully completed “learning from experience”) “transfers information” to other candidate “brain users” via speech and focussed, practical “stuff-doing”, thereby averting the occasionally life-limiting “error” effects of “trial and error”.

“Books” have the advantage over these methods in that they can contain information that both avoids the unhealthful aspects of “learning by experience”, and reduces the reliance on “teachers”.

You might be onto something here!

A question for people who became a teacher as their 2nd (or 3rd, or 4th, etc.) career: Did your previous career(s) help you be a better teacher than you would have been without that previous career(s)? Or not really?

I was a research scientist who re-trained as a maths teacher.

What my 1st career gave me was the confidence to pick maths as my specialist teaching subject. Teaching is something I’d considered on and off from childhood, partly because I come from a teaching family: my mother, aunt, and several great-uncles and -aunts were all teachers. When I was at school, I LOVED maths and felt like I was pretty good at it, but somehow my grades didn’t reflect what I felt was my ability. As a result, I became disillusioned, and decided I just wasn’t that good at maths, and wound up doing a psychology degree. During that degree, I performed far better in statistics than I did on most of my psych classes. I did a MSc where I developed mathematical algorithms for locating and identifying vowel phonemes in speech. Then I did a PhD where I mathematically modelled brain function in the early visual cortex. Then I lectured in statistics at MSc and PhD level. Maths, maths, maths: enough to apply to train as a maths teacher, even though my school maths qualification was not great.

It was during this re-training that I was diagnosed as dyslexic for numerals. I mix numbers up, write them down backwards, forget them and/or the operands, etc., etc. On the other hand, I can visualise mathematical concepts like calculus or path analysis in my head. Fortunately, the diagnostic report was very detailed, virtually an instruction manual on how to avoid my specific problems, so I totally aced my teacher training.

It probably also helped that my BSc, PhD and subsequent research/lecturing gave me practice in standing in front of people and delivering seminar papers and lectures, but I’m not scared of public speaking anyway. Mostly, it gave me back my love of mathematics.

I wanted to become a psychologist but I’m scared about finding work and the salary as I want to make decent money to help my family in the future. Should I lean more towards psychiatry if both fields interest me?

If money is your main concern, then neither psychiatry nor psychology is a good fit for you. You should probably consider accountancy or tax law, which both attract excellent compensation.

Here in the UK, there’s not a vast difference in salary between psychiatrists and clinical psychologists. The basic training is roughly the same length – 6 years’ medical school plus specialist training for psychiatry, 3 years BSc + 3–6 years PhD and ongoing CPD for clinical psychologists. The opportunities for private practice, academic research and lecturing and so on are not dissimilar, either. I’m not sure what the situation is where you are, but you should check for yourself.

I went into psychology intending to be a clinical psychologist, but went off the idea and wound up an experimental psychophysicist. Even at the start, though, I had zero interest in psychiatry, partly because I saw it as extremely limiting, partly because slogging through medical school and all the pointless and irrelevant medical training to get there seemed, well, pointless and irrelevant. YMMV.

But if money is more important than career satisfaction to you, there are better, and less potentially damaging, routes to wealth than working with vulnerable individuals.

If the Internet contains almost all human knowledge, why do we still consider books as a “superior” source of knowledge?

The Internet also contains almost all human raving, drooling, uninformed, undereducated bollocks.

Mind you, so do a lot of books.

Both can also contain “superior” sources, but it takes a bit of discrimination and critical thinking to sort the wheat from the chaff. However, while the chaff generally can’t get their books published by serious publishers, they can hire competent website designers and SEO consultants – and the people who wouldn’t set foot in a library can Google any amount of bollocks on the Internet. The days when random loons identified themselves with lousy layout and multicoloured fonts are long gone:

The websites of David Icke and Whale.to, well designed with colour coordination and good use of white space, although Whale.to's still has too much text.

However, Davy-boy hasn’t quite figured out publishing yet:

Covers of books by David Icke, featuring day-glo colours and images reminiscent of 1950s pulp fiction

Is Ulster University a good university?

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at UUJ (Jordanstown campus, near Belfast), but it was quite a few years ago – 1987–91.

What I found particularly good was that it was a teaching university, which I feel is better for undergraduate studies, when students are naturally more reliant on their tutors and lecturers. It was great to be able to nip into any lecturer’s office or lab at any time of day, and be welcomed and conversed with as a more or less equal. I spent many hours with my lecturers, chewing over the issues of the day, getting advice and one-to-one tuition – never being sent away because it was out of their ‘contact time’ (no such thing then) or otherwise inconvenient.

I have since studied and worked in research-oriented universities: nothing in my experience has changed my mind. Some of the lecturers I worked with hated students, and did everything in their power to limit student access to them. One in particular had it written into his contract that he would never be required to lecture for more than 6 hours a year – and he was one of the more approachable, student-friendly lecturers!

However, that was a long time ago, and UU has changed. Perhaps not as much as other unis, but changed nonetheless. There are certainly more opportunities to continue to postgraduate studies, and some world-class departments.

Is “gymnasium” the right English word to describe schools with strong emphasis on academic learning in Europe?

Some non-native English speakers say that it is inaccurate to use this word as the best option to define European schools with strong emphasis on academic learning. Is it true? If the answer is yes, what kind of words could describe these schools accurately?

People who know a little about European schools will understand what is meant by Gymnasium.

People who don’t will think that it’s a place to do sports. If you explain that it’s a kind of school, they’ll probably think it’s a school for ‘jocks’ – people who are good at sports but rather unintelligent.

A gymnasium is roughly equivalent to a ‘grammar school’ in the UK. You might also use terms like ‘academy’ or ‘college’, although neither of these terms is well-defined and many poor-quality schools are academies and colleges. In fact, failing schools in the UK are often closed, then re-opened the following day as an academy.

Briefly, what is algebra? How would you explain it to a 12-year-old child? Also, where would one be using algebra?

For a child beginning algebra, it can be useful to introduce the subject as a kind of “code”, where you can substitute numbers for the letters.

Then you can move on to constructing your own “codes” for ideas the child should already be familiar with – miles per gallon, speed/distance/time. This prepares the child for the idea that algebra can be used to create general rules that suit all situations. These can be expressed in words (speed=distance/time) or letters (s=d/t).

I’m not sure what 12yo translates to in grades or years in school. However, Khan Academy has lots of videos and tutorials suitable for people of this age, and the student can track their progress.

What’s the most complicated way to say the word “school”?

There’s the Black Country pronunciation (US – think Ozzy Osbourne for an approximation – although he’s technically a Brummie) which is approximately ‘Sk-yow-werrull’. I may have missed out a vowel or two.


Jails and prisons are the complement of schools; so many less as you have of the latter, so many more must you have of the former.

Horace Mann

Then there’s Oscar Wilde:

I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance. Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone. The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately in England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever. If it did, it would prove a serious danger to the upper classes, and probably lead to acts of violence in Grosvenor Square.


Schools should be the most beautiful place in every town and village-so beautiful that the punishment for undutiful children should be barred from going to school the following day.