UAE University (UAEU) is due to roll out the country's first postgraduate programme in clinical psychology early next year to address the lack of qualified professionals in this under-celebrated field.
Middlesex University Dubai's (MD) recent introduction of its Master of Science (MSc) in Applied Psychology, along with UAEU's master's programme, makes the two the only institutions in the country to offer psychology degrees at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels.
Psychology students say they find their career options limited to the business psychology field, with jobs on offer mainly in the occupational psychology and human resources sector.
However industry professionals said opportunities in business psychology have been growing in the UAE and in some cases are a more profitable part of the profession.
Academics said it was essential to develop the various branches of psychology such as clinical, health, educational and forensic, to ensure the health of the nation's population and workforce.
Dr Amber Haque, Director of MSc in clinical psychology at UAEU said: "Psychology relates to jobs and the human work force, domestic issues, people and their relationships as well as money."
"All these aspects play an important role as part of the human personality, an element essential to the growth of a country," he added.
Dr Annie Crookes, psychology programmes co-ordinator at MD, said she believed that the stereotype of psychologists working only as counsellors was lifting, which offered more job opportunities for graduates.
"Psychology is becoming a serious career choice and no longer just about clinical psychology," Dr Crookes said.
She added that the importance of business psychology in the UAE may be due to the country's general focus on business growth and profits, so the profession reflected a national priority.
"However, we are seeing more interest from the government in social work and social policy systems which will enable clinical psychology to grow along with those interests," Dr Crookes said.
Yet clinical psychology students indicated they were disappointed with the restrictive range of career options.
Victoria Katheu, psychology and human resource management student at MD said: "It's not really hopeful that the only fields we can get into right now, as psychology graduates, are human resources and working with special needs children."
"But this talks about Dubai's society focused on a very one dimensional aspect of business for a long time, which has reflected on what is offered at universities," Katheu said.
Ian Taylor, a chartered occupational psychologist for a regional airline said: "Business psychology is not a new practice and as the UAE expands and becomes more sophisticated you find more people involved in it."
"I'd say in the UAE there are probably as many opportunities in occupational psychology as there are in any field," Taylor said.
Yet it would appear that the developing fields of business and consumer psychology were growing because of their potential to increase profits.
"If you have an actual scientific understanding of human behaviour that can be applied to real life and normal settings it can be used to enhance what people do in terms of their productivity and consumption," Dr Crookes said.
For example, restaurants had carried out studies to find ways to enhance their customers' consumption.
"There are a lot of things restaurants can do to manipulate the way we eat," Dr Crookes said.
"They [the studies] talk about perceptual things like the size of plates food is served on.
"A normal amount of food on a large plate makes us subconsciously think we've eaten less, which makes us more likely to order a side dish and possibly dessert, essentially making the restaurant more money.
"In understanding people's behaviour advertisers and consumer psychologists can somewhat manipulate how we consume," she said.
Dr Haque said: "There is more money in that field [business and consumer psychology] compared to clinical . . . but you definitely need to have a heart [to go into clinical] for the sake of helping people".
However, Dr Crookes said she believed it was important other areas of psychology were applied in the UAE for the benefit of the public.
"The understanding of how people work can help with public health and help governments with things like figuring out ways to get people to stop smoking or eat healthy," she said.
Yet the lack of professionals in the various fields of psychology which stood to benefit people was due to the absence of local, specialised master's programmes.
Dr Haque said: "Undergraduates are not specialised until they have a masters but could still get jobs as psychologists in mental hospitals and prisons here [in the UAE] because there are no established licensing requirements yet, but these graduates don't represent their field very well," he added.
Prior to the federally accredited clinical psychology master's programme at UAEU, Dr Haque said the university prepared its undergraduate students for specialisation abroad. However, such obstacles do not stand in the way of those were dedicated to making a difference.
Katheu said: "It depends what you got into psychology for."
"If you got into it for the money then you will have no problem exploiting people, because to specialise in order to be able to practise and help people the process is so long that some people actually do give up ... but I plan to stick it out," she added.