Psychology remains one of the most popular majors in the undergraduate world, attracting candidates interested in behavior, neurology, personality, education and anthropology alike. Those studying psychology focus primarily on human behavior and trends, often researching learning, cognition, motivation, perception, intelligence and mental disorders. With wide-reaching applications, psychology has become a primary major for those wishing to better understand themselves and, conversely, understand others.
Majoring in psychology isn’t just for those who wish to become clinical psychologists or run a private practice. Psychology is about understanding and helping others while learning about the human mind and behavior; these skills are applicable across career fields and numerous job opportunities beyond conventional psychology.
Majoring in psychology is a great way to learn about yourself and others while keeping your career options open. The job field is open and full of opportunities, and the work can be rewarding and challenging regardless of which distinct path you decide to take. There’s the ability to record, organize and analyze data for the scientifically-driven, as well as chances to make an impact in people’s lives for those wishing to provide service.
Those studying psychology will develop valuable research and perception skills, as well as promote the understanding of cultural and social trends. A few of these skills might include:
While a career as a psychologist or counselor is expected from a psychology degree, those with a bachelor’s degree in psychology often pursue various careers in related fields. Because the amount of direct client contact is limited for those who haven’t obtained higher education (masters or a doctorate), those with a bachelor’s degree in psychology often excel in adjacent careers.
(Salaries are according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics data.)
Career counselors need to understand people in order to help them discover their potential and a job they’ll love. This position is similar to a guidance counselor and other careers that require masters or even a doctorate degree. Like other counselors, career counselors assist those in need in not only finding opportunities but also preparing for them. Some career counselors may help provide vocational rehabilitation or work with disabled adults who need further help with job applying and training skills.
A rehabilitation specialist helps clients who have mental illness or mental disabilities with their daily living. Through assistance with personal grooming, communication, and physical and social activities, a rehabilitation specialist helps their client engage in a full spectrum of daily exercises and activities. They usually work in a medical entity that encourages development for those with mental illness or mental disability.
Positions in law enforcement and corrections for those with a bachelor’s degree are extensive and distinct. Those interested in both criminal justice and social work may enjoy working as a parole officer, helping those released from prison rejoin the community and comply with the terms of their release. Criminal justice fiends may also find being a corrections officer exciting. Corrections officers supervise those who have been arrested or held for trial, and can be employed by county, state and federal agencies.
Undergraduate degrees heavily focused on social psychology teach numerous skills about persuasion (and even manipulation) of the human mind and emotions. Those in marketing and advertising careers use their knowledge about target audiences and people to develop successful campaigns and persuade others to purchase their product. They often work with art directors, sales agents or financial staff members.
A bachelor’s degree in psychology may require research and time in the lab, and these skills can be easily applied to a laboratory assistant job. Medical laboratory assistants help collect and process specimens, carry out basic laboratory procedures and run simple laboratory tests. While their primary purpose is to help physicians diagnose diseases, they also may analyze cultures and tissues themselves. This position also may require clerical tasks such as patience greeting and interaction, answering office phones, and record keeping.
Students who pursue a master’s degree in psychology have the opportunity to work in a wider multitude of careers; the focus or specialty of their degree can help determine whether they’ll work to conduct research in the field or outside of the field.
Conducting research is a viable opportunity for those with a master’s degree, as well as working in adjacent fields such as business, sports, law enforcement, education or public health. While there are opportunities in the field of professional psychology, further study is needed to practice and diagnose professionally.
Mental health counselors are one of the first resources available to those in need of mental health support, both emotional and psychological. They provide quality care and guidance to promote wellbeing, tackling issues such as substance abuse, bullying, depression, relationships and stress management. Counselors may work one-on-one but can also provide group or familial support.
School guidance counselors help students with academic and social skills to thrive in high school and beyond. Guidance counselors may work individually with students to develop learning plans and class schedules; those who work in high schools may assist with college applications or post-high school planning. Guidance counselors are also available to help with behavioral and emotional problems.
Victims advocates are trained to offer victims of crime holistic support. Advocates offer victims legal information about their rights and protections, victimization, crime prevention and the criminal justice process. They also may provide resources and help fill out paperwork such as compensation applications or comments to courts and parole boards. Victims advocates also provide emotional support for the victim and may run support groups or offer in-person counseling.
For the athletic and sports-inclined, sports therapy is a way to use knowledge about sports and the body to advise on injury prevention and support rehabilitation. Sports rehabilitation therapists help athletes prepare both mentally and physically for their sport and provide appropriate treatment if an athlete is facing a particular physical challenge. Some therapists advise about an athlete’s general lifestyle, offering nutrition, diet and exercise tips. A master’s degree more specifically in sports therapy may be preferred.
A patient service representative, or a patient care representative, is primarily concerned with patient experience before and after their hospital visit. These representatives work closely with patients to obtain complete and accurate medical histories and enter patient data into the medical records. This position requires excellent and effective customer service experience.
If you wish to do clinical work or therapy independently, open a private practice, conduct your own research, work in a government agency or become a professor, a doctoral degree is needed. PhDs who pass licensing exams can professionally diagnose mental disorders and administer evaluations. Salary in the field does increase with each level of education, as doctorates earn more than other psychology professionals with fewer degrees.
Clinical psychology is perhaps the most direct and obvious position for someone who’s studying psychology, but these psychologists cannot practice without a doctorate and a license. Clinical psychologists meet with clients to identify emotional, mental and behavioral issues and diagnose existing or potential disorders. This position is often treatment-oriented, as psychologists work with clients to define goals and plan actions to achieve development and adjustment. They may monitor a client’s progress regularly and adjust treatment if necessary.
Neuropsychologists focus on a person’s cognition and how a person’s brain affects their mood, behavior, and ability to think. Some neuropsychologists primarily research the brain’s structure and functions; others work in clinical settings and assess, evaluate, diagnose, and treat disorders related to the brain. Those who work in clinical settings may be responsible for carrying out tests on patients’ mental ability and work with a team of physicians, nurses, and therapists to help develop and encourage patient treatment.
Like guidance counselors, school psychologists provide individualized support to students; however, psychologist are qualified to apply expertise in mental health and behavior to provide social and emotional support to students, peers and their families. Psychologists may also participate in school-wide prevention and intervention services, and provide crises response and recovery support. They improve academic achievement by monitoring student progress and promote positive behavior and mental wellness with social problem-solving.
Psychology professors at colleges or universities teach courses in various areas of psychology, including but not limited to developmental, child, clinical, and neurological psychology. Like all professors, they track developments in their field to keep their syllabi and course material up to do, as well as organize homework assignments and course assessments. However, these professors may also be directly involved in their own research and publications, often working with undergraduate and graduate students in the lab.
Psychotherapists work closely with clients who are affected by mental health challenges, phobias, stress or emotional, behavioral or social problems. Because they work in therapy sessions, most of their work relies on verbal interaction to explore and identify behavior, attitude and emotions. They may use a range of psychological treatments such as hypnotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy or psychodynamic therapy to help their clients.
Zoë Kaplan is an English major at Wesleyan University in the class of 2020. She writes about women, theater, sports, and everything in between. Read more of Zoë’s work at www.zoëkaplan.com.
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