Studying Psychology in Israel

Kreitler, Shulamith
Tel-Aviv University,

The study of psychology in Israel is concentrated mainly in colleges and universities. The universities offer undergraduate studies culminating in a B.A. degree, graduate studies level 1 culminating in a Master’s degree and graduate studies level 2 culminating in a Ph.D. degree. There is a lot of homogeneity in the programs offered by the different universities. Undergraduate studies are not specialized, graduate studies are. Clinical degrees require further specialization beyond university studies, in accordance with regulations of the Israeli association of psychologists and the ministry of health.

1) What types and levels of psychology education take place in your country (secondary schools, colleges, universities, professional schools, etc)? Courses of psychology are offered on an optional basis in secondary schools; students in secondary schools may choose to write a paper on a psychological theme under the supervision of a university professor of psychology and present the paper instead of one of the matriculation exams for secondary school graduation; psychology is taught in colleges all over the country up to the level of a B.A. degree; psychology is taught in the major universities of Israel (Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv, Bar-Ilan, Haifa, Beer-Sheeba) on all levels (i.e., for the B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. degrees). There are no professional schools of psychology but some universities offer specialized education in specific domains for graduates of psychology at least on the M.A. level, e.g., the school of psychotherapy (at Tel-Aviv University).

2) What national structures, frameworks, guidelines, or standards exist to define, regulate or accredit psychology education? The basic guidelines are determined and updated by the representatives of the psychology departments in the major universities. In addition, for clinical psychology there is accreditation by the ministry of health, in conjunction with the national association of psychologists.

3) What is the structure of psychology education (e.g., the curriculum of psychology education, and associated learning disciplines? The basic structure includes 3 levels: undergraduate studies (3 years, at the end of which the student gets a B.A. degree); graduate studies for the M.A. degree (2 years); doctoral studies (may last up to 5 years, at the end of which the student may get a Ph.D. degree). The undergraduate studies consist basically of attending lecture courses, participating in experimental courses, and in an empirical seminar in the third year of studies. The number of students in the empirical seminars does not exceed 12. At the end of the seminar the student is expected to hand in an empirical study, presented as a small paper. In the undergraduate studies all students attend the same courses. The number of elective courses is limited. In the graduate studies for the M.A. degree the students elect and are elected for special tracks. The universities differ in the kinds of tracks they offer. The principal tracks are clinical psychology for adults, clinical psychology for children, rehabilitation psychology, social psychology, cognitive psychology and physiological psychology. The latter three are purely research tracks, whereas the others are also applied tracks. The standards for admission differ for the different tracks. Graduation from the master’s program requires presenting a thesis that is mostly empirical. Duration of studies for the master’s program is usually 2-3 years. A Master’s degree often allows the individual to start working as a psychologist. Clinical psychologists are required to undergo a further specialization, dictated by government regulations. Getting a Ph.D. requires primarily presenting a Ph.D. thesis and defending it. Different committees are involved in confirming the proposal and the thesis itself. Course attendance is limited.

4) What major topics, principles, and concepts are typically included in the introductory psychology course in different educational institutions? The course typically covers the different domains of physiological psychology, perception, cognition, learning, personality, social psychology, psychometrics (testing), intelligence and basics of developmental psychology. Basic research methodology is presented. The main text used is Introductory Psychology by Hilgard. The emphasis is on psychology as a science, based on empirically derived and verified facts.

5) What principle theories and authors are included? Main theories presented in introductory courses include conditioning – classical (Pavlovian) and operant (Skinnerian), learning (e.g., Hull, Tolman, Miller and Dollard), cognition (authors of major texts: Sternberg, Solso, Michael Eysenck), personality (Five Factors, theories of Freud, Jung, Adler, Cattell, Eysenck, Maslow, Lewin etc.), social psychology (concepts of attitudes and behavior, group dynamics, risk taking in groups, cohesion in groups, behavior of crowds, conformity).

6) What methods and techniques are used for assessing students' knowledge and skills in psychology? On the undergraduate level – mostly tests (multiple choice questions), limited empirical studies, sometimes small papers written at home, a seminar paper based on an empirical study. On the graduate level – mostly written papers, Master’s thesis, and reports of observations of the student’s work in different setups (clinics, etc.). On the doctoral level – only Ph.D. thesis.

7) What programs of psychology education exist for people interested in continuing and lifelong learning of psychology? Colleges admit individuals of all age groups for studying specific courses in psychology. In addition, the universities have special frameworks for professionals or others who want to study special topics, e.g., health psychology, memory improvement.