CAREER Info -- What can you do with a major in psychology?

The B.A. in psychology does not qualify you to work as a "Psychologist." You need to go on to graduate school and obtain at least a Masters Degree (2-3 years typically) to qualify for such work. However, you should be aware that your undergraduate major in psychology has real value to an employer.

 

Most organizations today do not want to hire only business majors. They need a mix of employees who have a variety of educational backgrounds. This is particularly true given the rapid pace of change in the world of work. An employer, after examining your resume, will know that you have particular interest and insight into the human resources within an organization. You are more sensitive than most employees to problems of communication, motivation, and leadership style. This concern with "people" issues coupled with your broad educational foundation (thanks to your G.E. courses) makes you a particularly desirable new hire. Any employer can train you in the details of the firm's business. However, effective training in human relations skills is not so easily done. You should develop confidence in your value as a new employee, and show this confidence when you interview for a job.

 

Combine Psychology with another major or a minor?

The undergraduate major in psychology is particularly valuable when you combine it with another major or a minor in a complementary field. One obvious choice is to combine psychology and business administration. Almost everyone will develop a career working for an organization. The business major (or minor) will acquaint you with management concerns, budgets, finance, marketing, production, contracts, and social responsibility. Such preparation will provide you with a basic understanding of how organizations operate. This combined with a sensitivity to the human side of the enterprise (represented by the psychology major) should make you look more desirable that other job applicants.

 

A persuasive argument could be made for almost any major/minor combined with the psychology major. This includes English literature (skill in communication and human concerns), anthropology and geography (knowledge of other cultures is of value to multinational organizations), political science (dealing with government agencies), and so on. If you are a Freshman or Sophomore, now is the time to consider a double major. If you are a Junior switching to the psychology major, see if you can qualify for a minor in the major that you are leaving.

 

Continuing on to a graduate degree…

If you want to work as a psychologist in some capacity, than you should plan on applying to a graduate school. Many universities offer graduate degrees in clinical psychology, counseling, educational psychology, and industrial psychology. A smaller number provide degrees in such specialties as sports psychology and forensic psychology. You will find information on graduate study and career options at a number of the general sites on my home page. I also recommend the grad school information provided by Jessica Percodani and by Stephen Black.

You will encounter plenty of tips as you review advice on getting into graduate school. Here is a sample:

 Seek out opportunities for research experience. Talk to the professors about ways you might help with their research.

 Get involved in extracurricular activities that are related to psychology. Drop by the Y.E.S. House (Youth Educational Services) to see how you might participate in a Big Brother/Sister, Adopt a Grandparent, or related activity.

 Get to know your professors and do well in their classes. You will need 2 or 3 of them to write letters of recommendation for you dealing with your chances of success in graduate study.

 Purchase one of the books on preparation of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE Test). Also, pick up a copy of a book on the Advanced Test in Psychology. I suggest using the summer before your Senior year to prepare for these tests (which you will take the next fall).

  When you select your classes each semester, keep in mind that a strong foundation in methodology (statistics, measurement, research methods) will give you an advantage during graduate study.

 For information on specific graduate programs, start with the APA book, Graduate Study in Psychology. The subject index at the back lists programs by specialty. Copies of this book are in the Psychology Dept office, the HSU Library, and the Career Development Center.

 

What is industrial/organizational psychology?

One of the oldest specialties in psychology is the application of psychology to the workplace. Topics in general psychology (e.g., measurement, learning, group dynamics) and readily be applied to such workplace concerns as selection, training, and self-managing teams. If you like psychology but do not feel drawn to the clinical/counseling area, take a look at I/O psychology. Some information is provided in my description of the I/O courses at Humboldt. The courses in consumer behavior (Psyc 309) and organizational skills (Psyc 309) are offered almost every semester. The survey of I/O psychology (Psyc 404) and human factors (Psyc 405) are offered on an occasional basis.

I also encourage you to take a look at TIP, which is the official newsletter of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, the Society for Consumer Psychology and the Human Factors Society.

 

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