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Organisational Psychology (BBusSc)

What is Organisational Psychology?

Organisational Psychology is an applied area of Psychologythat deals with human behaviour in the workplace. Working behaviour is a bitdifferent from everyday behaviour, as it occurs within a specific context of anorganisation. An organisation can be anything from a big corporate to a smallbusiness to a non-governmental organisation.

Organisational Psychology developed as an applied field inabout 1910, so it is quite a new area (in comparison with applications inhealth and education which are older and more established as knowledge areas).Organisational Psychology has gone through a number of significant phases asthe world of work has changed over the years:

  • The psychotechnics or job selection phase (1910-1960) wherethe focus was on personnel selection and vocational guidance
  • The human relations phase (1920-1980) where organisationalpsychologists focused on the social dynamics of the workplace (e.g. workersattitudes to work; organisational climate; etc.)
  • The human resource management phase (since 1985 to thepresent) where the central idea is that people are to be valued as anorganisational asset rather than a necessity or a cost.

In South Africa, universities differ in their thinking aboutHuman Resource Management and Organisational Psychology. At some universitiesHuman Resource Management is presented as a separate subject area fromOrganisational Psychology. At UCT we take the position that Human ResourceManagement is an integral part and a current historical phase of OrganisationalPsychology. In this way students learn about human resource systems, humanbehaviour and the nature of organisations in order to end up with an integratedview of people, process and context.

What it leads to

A degree in Organisational Psychology opens up a widevariety of employment opportunities. The one most people think about first isbecoming a human resource manager and dealing with people issues inorganisations. However, this is just one possibility. If you are interested inlearning and teaching people, you can become a training and developmentspecialist, or even specialise in on-line learning. With OrganisationalPsychology you can also work in the area of reward management, where youprovide guidance regarding job grades and levels and the pay and benefitsassociated with these. Another area of work is industrial relations. Anindustrial relations manager is the custodian of fair labour practice in anorganisation and supports other managers to treat their employees in a fair andlegal manner. You can also become a recruitment and selection specialistsomeone who matches new staff to suitable positions in the organisation.Another area of work is organisational change. In this area you support peopleand organisations through change (e.g. mergers, acquisitions, new product orservice offerings; organisational culture change, etc.). You can also work infields like organisational communication; health, safety and well-being;performance management; etc. Another exciting area of work is evaluation ofhuman resource programmes where you advise human resource practitioners whichprogrammes are most suitable to their circumstances or which programmes haveproven impact on the organisation.

In fact, the knowledge and skills you gain in OrganisationalPsychology will enable you to be successful in many jobs, as you will leave theuniversity as competent knowledge workers: people who can label and describehuman behaviour in the work place, people who can distinguish patterns in workbehaviour and people who can identify problems and find innovative solutionsfor these organisational problems.

Professional Qualifications

You can register with two professional bodies in our subjectarea. The South African Health Professions Council registers you as aCounsellor or an Organisational Psychologist. Registration as a Counsellor in aspecific area requires an Honours degree plus a six months internship. Tobecome an Organisational Psychologist, you need a Masters degree and a one yearinternship. As a registered Counsellor, you can do counselling in a specificarea. As a registered Organisational Psychologist, you can conduct psychometrictesting.

The South African Board of Personnel Practice will registeryou as a practitioner after you have done a number of required courses (allincluded in our undergraduate programme) and worked for a specified length oftime. There are different levels of practitioner registration depending on thelevel of the courses and the length of work experience. Currently there are nospecific professional tasks demarcated for Human Resource Practitioners (theSouth African Board of Personnel Practice is still consulting on theseprofessional tasks).

Frequently Asked Questions

I see that technikons offer human resource diplomas anddegrees. How do these differ from a degree in Organisational Psychology?

At a technikon, your education will focus on human resourceprocesses (recruitment, selection, training, performance management, etc.),while at the university the focus is on the behaviour of people, human resourceprocesses and an understanding of the organisational context of working. Whilea technikon education will give you immediate, job-relevant skills, auniversity education will provide an overview of these skills, but with moreemphasis on knowledge work (problem-solving, providing solutions, etc.).

Does it matter in which faculty an Organisational Psychologydepartment is located?

Some universities have located their OrganisationalPsychology departments in Schools of Psychology in Humanities or Social ScienceFaculties. At UCT we are located in the faculty that deals with the world ofwork, namely the Commerce Faculty. The quality of content of the OrganisationalPsychology course (an integrated, in-depth offering of human behaviour in thework place) is much more important than its location within a universitystructure.

Is this really a good study direction for finding a job?

In South Africa, we are experiencing a general skillsshortage and working in the area of workplace skills and people management isexcellent preparation for the job market. As the area of OrganisationalPsychology is so varied, specialisation in a people, process ororganisationally focused area provides even more job opportunities.

I see that the BBusSc is a four year degree. As a BusinessScience student, do I automatically qualify for the BBusSc Honours year when Ihave completed the third year?

Completing the third year of your BBusSc degree does notqualify you automatically for the Honours year. Entry into the Honours year issubject to an independent selection process.

So what happens if I am not selected into the Honours year?

Students who do not qualify for admission to the Honoursyear will be required to register for courses selected in consultation with theHead of the Organisational Psychology Section. Successful completion of thesecourses will lead to the award of the BBusSc degree.

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