I wanna be a psychologist

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 05 October, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 05 October, 2003, 12:00am

John Koo Hsiu-chuan, 53

As founder of the Gaia Institute, Dr Koo is one of the most famous clinical psychologists in Hong Kong. He says to be a good psychologist, there are qualities more important than good grades.

What qualifications do you need?

Unlike law or medicine, psychology is not a licensed job in Hong Kong. The very basic requirement is that you have to get a masters degree in psychology. There are different sorts of psychology you can choose to study, such as clinical, counselling or educational. But you should plan what kind of psychologist you want to become before deciding which stream to take.

What sort of person does the job suit?

You have to be passionate about helping people. At the same time, you have to have rich life experiences. Academic qualifications are only tickets to the career. A good psychologist requires communication with people from all walks of life. You have to speak the street language and be in tune with society, so that you can understand people's hopes and fears.

What's the best way into the industry?

The government is the biggest employer. A lot of psychologists work for the government before moving to the private sector.

What work hours do you keep?

If you work for the government the hours are quite stable, usually from 9am to 5pm. But for me, I only got up now (noon) and I usually work until 1am.

Is there a clear career path?

You can begin your career working for the government. For me, I only worked for four years. Then I decided to work independently. Now I organise courses about business psychology. I teach people management skills, like how to deal with their emotions in work situations.

What's the best part of your job?

I can see people transforming right in front of my eyes. This kind of satisfaction cannot be found anywhere else.

What's the worst?

Being tied up. My work is time-consuming and intensive.


I'm not sure about the salary for fresh graduates. The government usually pays very well. I guess it's about $20,000.

Last word?

You have to carve and craft your path. What you learn from school might not be applicable in real-life situations. To find yourself the best career you must think beyond the academic curriculum.