Mental illness and the stresses of day-to-day life are universal personal concerns, but our response to these experiences is not. Working abroad and learning about new cultures and customs can be an enriching experience in almost any field, but psychology jobs abroad take learning to the next level. Individuals who work in psychology abroad will learn new methods of therapy, listening, and communicating and see how professionals in other countries treat psychological issues and disorders. Experience working abroad in psychology will be an invaluable professional boost.
Why Work Abroad in Psychology
Working abroad in psychology can be an advantage for professionals trained in the U.S., because many countries lack the mental health professionals required to meet local needs and therefore actively recruit mental health workers.
Jobs abroad in psychology can also be a great opportunity for those with minimal experience or those who are a few steps away from full licensure. Standard licensed psychologists in the U.S. and Canada must have their doctorate degree before practicing, but that isn’t the case around the world. In many countries, a bachelor’s degree in psychology is sufficient enough to work in psychology.
Training and licensing requirements differ from country to country, and so do cultural standards and language challenges. Working in psychology abroad will expose psychologists to new cultural practices, expand their cross-cultural communication abilities, and may even teach them brand new language skills altogether.
Your choice of location for psychology jobs abroad will depend mainly on the type work you want to do, and the type of setting you want to work abroad in. In most developing countries, especially in rural areas, the primary struggles faced are disease, access to clean water, hunger, and traumatic events, such as civil wars or natural disasters. In these nations, the need for counseling is often overlooked, in order to address more immediate threats to survival. However, psychologists are often needed most in developing countries, working with individuals who would otherwise not have access to such services.
Though the challenges of working in these nations may be greater, the job satisfaction will likely be greater too. To work in psychology in a developing country, you will the need to have independence, initiative, and the ability to adjust to working with limited resources and living simply.
In highly developed or urbanized settings, psychology jobs will include access to better facilities, more trained professionals, and more structure. In these locations, psychologists must be able to adjust to a system that’s already in place and follow it more closely, particularly countries where the health care system is state run.
Those looking for psychology jobs abroad, may want to consider both types of locations before they begin applying for jobs.
New Zealand has a shortage of well-trained clinical psychologists, particularly in the areas of forensic, health and educational psychologists, and employers may recruit international workers to fill psychology jobs under the country’s skilled migrant immigration policy. The Kiwi lifestyle is relaxed, the population small (about 4.4 million), and New Zealand is famous for its natural beauty.
India. With more than 50 metropolitan areas of more than 1 million people, and a booming economy, India’s supply of trained professionals in various fields, and especially in psychology, cannot fill the nation’s demand. There are opportunities to work in psychology in India across many specializations, but the key need resides in the field of education. Nothing is universal in India, the geography, the work setting, the salary scale, the culture, the country is big and diverse, and changing rapidly. In the cities, the best way to land a well paid psychology job with guaranteed benefits, it to apply for a work abroad program or in large hospital or clinical settings. On the other hand, in rural areas or in the inner city slums NGOs and humanitarian organizations offer the most psychology jobs.
In several areas of Central America, South America and Mexico, where the wealth gap between rich and poor is extreme, efforts are underway to bring psychological services to the underserved; particularly the focus is on rural areas with large indigenous populations who historically have battled poverty, prejudice, issues with education, and language barriers. Peru is a hotspot for grassroots efforts related to psychological services. Several projects are underway concentrating on small, mountainous villages that in the past have been fairly isolated. However, many of these are humanitarian type psychology jobs through NGOs and relief organizations, which offer a small salary or only volunteer positions, though these are nonetheless rewarding.
Psychology Jobs Abroad
In locations where the demand for psychologists exceeds the supply, mental health facilities are expanding rapidly, and psychology degrees or training programs may therefore be in their infancy.
Licensing requirements vary widely from country to country – and some developing countries have no regulatory licensing body at all. In some countries, automatic licensing is offered to psychology job applicants with degrees from accredited U.S. and Western European countries. The first step to looking for a psychology job abroad is to check the guidelines and requirements of your country of interest by contacting the national psychological association or governing body.
Salary. Psychology is a relatively well paying career globally, the average salary is about $62,000. But that varies widely depending on your level of education, and the location in which you work. Those who choose to work abroad in psychology can usually negotiate a salary package and benefits that provide enough money to live comfortably. But in more impoverished areas, especially in places in need of humanitarian aid, the salary will be low or nearly non-existent, though housing is likely to be included. Consider too, that in many countries, the health-care system is state run. If you work in an institution, your salary is likely to be regulated by the system. If you work in private practice, navigating the system or setting up a payment system may be a challenge.
Accommodation. The accommodations available vary widely. In countries where security is an issue, hospitals and clinics often offer subsidized housing within a medical compound or in a gated, ex-pat community international workers. In some well-developed cities, employers will offer a cost-of-living subsidy to help with housing costs, and some will even offer a bonus as part of regular work contracts.
Types of Jobs
Hospitals or Clinics. Even if your ultimate goal is working directly with patients, starting in an institution where you work with mental health professionals is a good way to ease yourself into the culture of the country, the local customs and challenges, and polish your language skills.
NGOs. Non-governmental and nonprofit organizations and other humanitarian groups need almost every worker with psychological training they can get, but they generally work in remote, poverty-stricken, and underserved areas, or in areas that have experienced a natural disaster or disease epidemic. Expect the work to be challenging, and often gratifying, but not financially rewarding.
Education. Opportunities for education-related psychology jobs abroad run the gamut of types and locations, from battling the rise in adolescent suicide rates in highly urbanized areas to providing mental health counseling in small towns and rural areas and research specialists to special needs child development practices. There’s a niche in almost every country and setting, and this is one of the most likely areas to find a psychology job abroad with advancement potential.
Drug Rehabilitation. Drug and substance abuse specialists are also needed worldwide, in many different types of settings, ranging from schools to rehabilitation facilities, to prisons and juvenile correction facilities. Psychology jobs abroad are on the rise and expected to grow for at least the next five years. Often these patients, whether they are military veterans or refugees, also need trauma and post-traumatic stress counseling.
Benefits & Challenges
English is often the language of used in the medical field, but being fluent in the language of the country where you work, and understanding local culture and customs will often be necessary to communicate with and counsel patients effectively.
Psychology is a complex and multi-faceted field and the opportunity to work abroad in psychology and study how other cultures perceive the problems of humankind and treat them is invaluable. Whether you’re working with children from broken homes, troubled adolescents, refugees in a war-torn area, or supporting health care workers in a hospital or clinic, you’ll be working with people who see the world differently, approach problems differently, and react differently to new situations. The result will be both educational and rewarding for any future or current psychologist.