A psychology major may earn a master’s or a doctorate degree, but this is not a medical doctor as we know it. A psychologist is limited to providing counseling and cannot prescribe medicine; that is what a psychiatrist does. There are many career opportunities for a psychology degree, of course the more education one has in the field, the more career choices it will yield. An undergraduate in psychology can lead to careers in all aspects of business, law, social, and health sciences. Someone with a master’s degree in psychology can work in substance abuse centers and provide career counseling. Psychologists with a PhD have a variety of career options, such as teaching, forensics, counseling, genetic, clinical, industrial, and organizational psychology.
Psychologists do research and try to explain why people behave the way they do. They may conduct interviews, take surveys, and administer tests. They study the human mind and typically work within a specific specialty, such as mental disorders, substance abuse, youth, the elderly, etc. Some people work in private practice, others in schools or clinics.
The psychology major who wants to get a doctorate degree can expect to spend between five to seven years after undergraduate studies to complete the degree. If one wants to own his own practice, he will need to obtain a license from that state. Licensure requires a certain amount of education, passing a test, and a specific amount of work experience.
So the question most graduates ask themselves once they have completed their degree requirements is “How do I get started in my career”? The National Science Foundation in 1994 found that 70% of people with a bachelor psychology degree were employed. Twenty-three percent of the graduates went on to pursue an advanced degree. However, jobs are typically offered to the people with the most education and experience. This means that individuals with a PhD or PsyD in psychology will have major advantages over others in the market. Psychology bachelor degree graduates are competing for the same jobs as other liberal arts and science majors. Thus, the available application pool is larger for this same career track, and very few bachelor degree holders will find an opportunity directly related to psychology. The good news is that individuals with a psychology major are in demand. Even though the job market is tight, jobs can still be found.
Employers are looking for students who can demonstrate their skills through actual work experience, courses they have taken at school, or through internships. Make sure all relevant work is highlighted on your resume and be prepared to provide letters of recommendation, even if not asked for them. One recent psychology major who volunteered to work with faculty and graduate students analyzing data and performing statistical analysis was able to find full-time work because of this experience. Independent research projects offer one way to get the attention of potential employers because it shows your dedication to the field of psychology.
In addition, the field of psychology needs people who possess social and interpersonal skills, can communicate both orally and in written form, and can listen and read carefully and accurately. Other skills to be successful in this profession include the ability to identify and solve problems based on research, computer and quantitative skills, and the ability to tolerate stress and ambiguity. Employers are looking for people who are flexible team players. Individuals must also have an appreciation for diversity and cultural differences. Technology skills are becoming more important as most research and record keeping is computerized.