So you've graduated from college with your bachelor's degree in Psychology, and become a dedicated student of the mind and human behavior.
You've done labs, suffered through research paper after research paper, and if you're lucky you've even gotten some practical experience under your belt through undergraduate internships and the like.
And after all of that hard work, logging in hours and hours of studying, test-taking, essay writing, and let's face it, wondering why you ever decided to go to college in the first place, and was it really worth it? You're left with one big question:
Well, that's where we come in. We literally created a map, just for Psychology Majors such as yourself, to navigate your way through the choppy waters of recent graduation.
Feel free to focus on the map alone -- it's pretty cool, if we do say so ourselves. But for those of you who prefer step by step navigation on your path, keep reading. We'll give you the rundown on:
- What skills you'll need
- How to begin
- What jobs you can expect to find as a Psychology Major
- Some quick interview tips
- Consider graduate school
- External resources
First thing's first: what skills you'll need to get started.
1. Skills for Psychology Majors
While the education gained in the classroom is without a doubt beneficial, you've learned more from your Psychology degree than just learning how to pick apart a person's behavior.
A psychology major is broad, yet personal, and whether your bachelor degree was of arts or of science, there's no doubt that your study of the brain's inner workings can be applied to outside environments -- beyond personal development and simply learning how to learn, employers will want to see how you can reflect, realize, and grow.
Applying these skills to real world learning opportunities yields a more robust and balanced career. Here are some of the common skills that you should have when trying to get a job with a Psychology degree.
Understanding how to use and interpret data.
All those case studies and research papers you read had to be good for something. Even if you don't use your psych. degree for a job related to research or therapy, your ability to quickly read and comprehend data will be a lifesaver in almost any work environment.
Evaluating and understanding behavior.
This is a no-brainer (unintentional, I swear) if you end up becoming a counselor, therapist, or psychologist. But even if you go into a less behavior-focused field, the ability to understand the motivations of the people around you gives you a pretty great edge when it comes to sales, customer service, or just generally getting along with the folks you work with.
Critical thinking and analysis.
Again, you've already read through tons of theory and data from all the psychologists and researchers and philosophers who have come before you, and your ability to apply these analytical tools to the study of the mind has been critical to your success so far.
But the ability to apply theories and abstract concepts to real-world solutions is an extremely adaptable (not to mention marketable) skill for you to translate into any career you can imagine.
2. Where to Begin Your Career After Getting a Psychology Degree
Perhaps the most important thing you can do right now is put yourself out there for internships (though, hopefully you have one or two under your belt from your time in school. If not, don't fret! It's not too late.)
Internships are an excellent way to get your foot in the door at a company you might want to continue a career with, or just in the field that you're interested in entering.
However, bear in mind that some of the more intensive internships may only be available to graduate students.
Here are some common types of internships for Psychology Majors:
Before you settle on an internship, though, you'll want to make sure it's the right fit for you. Ask yourself these questions:
- Where (in the state/the country/the world) do you want to work?
- What size and type of organization do you want to work for?
- Do you need compensation in an internship, or might you be able to consider alternative compensation (experience, work samples, references, networking, etc.)
- Is relocation an option?
3. Available Jobs For Psychology Majors
And now, the step you've probably been waiting for - getting a job. But we assure you, mastering your skills and getting an internship first are invaluable.
Psychology is applicable to more research or hard-science based fields like therapy, counseling, and research, but the understanding of motivations and behavior also lends itself naturally to social fields like
With our map, you can click the Job Titles and learn more specific information for each position (what their responsibilities are, how much they get paid, etc.) But here, we wanted to call out some of the most common jobs for recent Psychology major grads.
Here are the three of the most interesting entry-level jobs for recent grads such as yourself:
Sales associates interact directly with customers and provide them with information about the products themselves. While the product information itself is obviously job-specific, having a background in psychology makes it much easier to understand a customer's motivations and ultimately make sales happen.
Managers direct and plan business operations, and are typically in charge of other employees. Although Managers often are promoted to managerial positions from within their own firm, this is not the rule, and many businesses prefer to hire managers from outside their organization. A Psychology degree is good for empathizing with the employees you'll be managing and ensuring that their needs are addressed, or being able to communicate the company's needs to them effectively in cases where the company is unable address complaints on their part.
Counselors are responsible for providing one-on-one support for individuals within a variety of different occupational contexts. This role is often more focused on providing specific information to an individual in order to help them overcome problems that are more concrete rather than emotional, although depending on the position, emotional/psychiatric support may also be included. Counselor positions typically require some form of Psychology degree, and often require a Master's as well as a Bachelor's.
4. Some Quick Job Search Tips for Psychology Majors
Get Someone With Experience to Read Your Resume
Even if you don't have any direct work experience, you need to be able to communicate your ability to get tasks done through your resume.
Because many entry level job applicants only have internships, retail jobs, or summer gigs, they haven't had any "big achievements" to mention. You will stand out tremendously if you take initiative at these jobs in small ways and add it to your resume.
Were you able to reduce time to fulfill orders? Did you take what you learned at your internship and start a side project?
Someone with experience will help think of ways to make it look like you got a lot out of the experiences. At the very least, they can make sure you format your resume appropriately.
Find a Way to Demonstrate Experience
Even if you don't have any work experience, you need to be able to communicate your ability to get the task done.
Think about the specific skills we talked about earlier. As a Psychology Major, your skills involve your clinical, analytical knowledge of human behavior.
Going into professional psychology, these skills will be pretty self-evident, but if you're looking for positions fresh off of a bachelor's degree, you're going to want to think about how to highlight the ways you can apply this knowledge to the job at hand.
We put together some ways of thinking about how to show your experience on your resume, even if it is limited. Just look for an example of a project you had to complete, the steps you needed to complete it, and how you knew if it ended up successful.
Everyone should have had that experience by the time they graduate, even if it is just a senior thesis.
5. Continuing Education and Certifications in Psychology
You'll want to ensure that you stand out, particularly if you're just entering the job market. Some letters after your name go a long way, and if you're wanting to get into professional psychology itself, the first of those letters had better be a "P."
Pursuing an advanced degree
Obtaining a graduate degree in your course of study can serve as an excellent way to separate you from the herd - but you must first decide whether it's worth your time.
Try to figure out how much you'll earn your first year to see what people with your experience make with the job title you would expect to get upon graduation.
Just try to avoid the bottom tier Psychology schools as they can be a waste of time better spent with experience in a job. Remember, there's always an opportunity cost to not working.
Here are common advanced degrees that people with a Psychology degree normally consider:
- While you may not exactly be qualified yet for a job in professional psychology, a Master's in Psychology still affords you plenty of options
- Jobs in case management, social work, and human resources are all common, along with college-related jobs including counseling
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology)
- A PhD in Psychology is more research-focused than a PsyD, and typically includes completing a doctoral dissertation in order to complete your study. These are often longer and more difficult programs than PsyD programs, but may afford better internship opportunities
- PhD jobs are more focus on research or administrative positions, such as university faculty or marketing analysts
PsyD (Doctor of Psychology)
- In contrast to the research-focused PhD, PsyD programs are all about clinical practice. You'll learn the practical side of psychology, particularly when it comes to assessing and providing help to patients, and while research will still be important, it is no longer the focus.
- These programs tend to be much shorter than PhDs and are sometimes easier to enter into, but are often much more intensive
- PsyD's themselves are more clinical in nature, and these programs typically lead to positions in professional psychology.
6. External Resources
If you're still not sure what to do with your degree here are some external sites, to help you with your decision:
The American Psychological Association (APA)
The American Psychological Association is the nation's largest professional organization representing psychologists. They are also the originators of APA style, which as a Psychology major you are almost certainly familiar with by this point.
The Online Dictionary of Mental Health
Just what it sounds like, this website is a massive resource regarding mental health issues supported by the Human Nature Review, a well-known psychological research journal.
Social Psychology Network
A website dedicated to the advancement of psychology and the promotion of "peace, social justice, and sustainable living." The website itself is maintained by Scott Plous from Wesleyan University.
Enter "Psychology" into the search bar and you can get a sense of what kind of government jobs are available to Psychology majors. Find a job title you like and come back here to learn more about it.
Bureau Of Labor Statistics
The BLS offers detailed data on pay, location, and availability of different kinds of jobs across the country.
In fact, we draw a lot of our research on the best places for jobs from the information provided on the site.
And if this all seems like a lot - don't worry - the hard part (getting your degree!) is already over.