What can you do with a psychology degree?
Understanding people and the way they think is one of the reasons why people study psychology, since this science studies human behavior and mental processes. Psychologists utilize precise scientific methods so as to learn more about the workings of the human brain and the processes that affect it.
The field of psychology is closely related to other professional fields such as education, social sciences, and medicine. As a result, psychology covers several fields that focus on particular aspects of human behavior. By studying psychology, one gets the opportunity to focus on a particular field of expertise while still in school.
Given its importance in various areas of life, many students choose psychology as their major.
Why is psychology a good choice for a major?
Psychology is a good choice for a major because it is complementary with many other academic disciplines. This science provides knowledge that could help one advance in different professional fields, such as marketing, HR management, sales, education, etc.
Psychology is useful, because it involves the following knowledge and skills:
- Statistical research techniques and statistical data analysis
- Better understanding of individual and group behavior
- Developing critical thinking
- Improving communication skills
This major provides knowledge applicable in different natural and social sciences. For that reason, students often choose psychology as their major, because they believe the knowledge they acquire will be useful in their future career.
In addition to professional knowledge, psychology will also help you to successfully cope with stress, but also to communicate effectively with others. Therefore, if you want to do a job that requires assessing people, then psychology is a great starting point.
It should be noted that choosing psychology as your major does not mean that you will have to work as a psychologist. In case you are interested in this discipline as your career path, there are numerous other jobs that one can do with the knowledge acquired as a psychology major. The level of education and the chosen field will have a big impact on one’s career. Therefore, you should familiarize yourself with all the possibilities of higher education in the USA.
Types of psychology degrees
A degree in psychology involves a set of complementary skills which can be useful in various professions, which have nothing to do with psychology directly. Some positions will only require a bachelor’s degree, while the most ambitious students should strive toward a doctorate in psychology, or specializations in a particular field.
Although higher education is always a great choice, it is not imperative for a successful career. It is interesting that many students choose psychology as their major or minor, without planning to work as psychologists. This means that applicable knowledge is their priority, especially when it comes to jobs which require good communication skills and understanding people.
In order to make the most of the advantages provided by psychology, it is important to plan one’s education well, so that one’s chosen degree level matches one’s professional ambitions.
Psychology degree levels
Each level of education provides certain qualifications for performing jobs in this area. The most demanding jobs usually focus on important clinical trials and science projects which can be conducted only by psychologists with a doctorate. Given that you can choose between different options, try to define what it is that you want to do, because that will make your education process much easier.
- Associate’s degree in psychology – basic level that usually involves a two-year program/course. With an associate degree, one can work in junior positions in healthcare and social institutions, but it provides a knowledge base compatible with other skills.
- Bachelor’s degree in psychology – four-year program/course that enables one to work in various fields, from social institutions to human resources. This level of knowledge allows for further training, if one has such ambitions.
- Masters degree in psychology – two-year program which extends and upgrades the knowledge acquired in a bachelor program. A master’s degree involves additional training in the chosen branch of psychology, such as social psychology, mental health counseling, educational psychology, etc. The two most common types of graduate degree in psychology are M.S (Master of Science) and M.A. (Master of Arts).
- Doctorate in psychology (Ph.D) – lasts up to eight years, and involves internship in accordance with the standards defined by the American Psychological Association (APA).
Psychology degree specialty and subspecialty areas
Universities in the U.S. allow students to study particular branches of psychology. Each school offers different programs, so choosing one is one of the most important things when making a decision where to study. Although there are many fields to choose from, these are the most popular psychology programs:
- Clinical psychology – application of theoretical and practical knowledge aimed at better understanding, prevention and treatment of serious mental health issues. Clinical psychologists reach solutions through the implementation of scientifically proven methods.
- Counseling psychology – general practice where through direct communication with patients, psychologists reach solutions for their psychological issues.
- Industrial and organizational psychology – also known as I/O psychology, this field studies people’s behavior in their workplace, usually in large companies. It studies the behavior at individual, group, and organizational level.
- Developmental psychology – studies human life in order to better understand psychophysical development in every period of development, from infants, childhood, adolescence to adulthood. Each period has its own unique properties that are carefully monitored and examined.
- Cognitive psychology – studies internal mental processes, such as language use, creativity, attention, memory, etc.
- Quantitative psychology – creating and developing statistical methods used primarily to study human behavior. Mathematical analysis plays an important role, because it is used for developing advanced methodologies needed to reach valid scientific answers.
- Social psychology – studies social situations and individual behavior in particular circumstances, i.e. their reactions to the given circumstances.
Now that the educational opportunities regarding psychology specializations are a bit clearer, you are surely thinking what can you do with a psychology degree?
Careers in psychology
Given the fact that psychology is necessary in many professions, the selection of job positions is rich and varied for psychology graduates.
Psychologists are experts who help people to face their problems and successfully overcome them. In addition to patients’ personal problems, psychologists focus on solving mental health issues (depression, anxiety, anger, sudden mood swings, etc.). They help patients by reaching a diagnosis and recommending treatment based on a series of tests and assessments.
Given the complexity of the human mind, and the fact that each individual is unique, psychologists are expected to take a dedicated, holistic approach in order to identify the problem and define a solution. Psychologists do not prescribe medications on their own as a rule, but in consultation with the patient’s doctor or psychiatrist. It is interesting that this attitude is gradually changing, so that five federal states have already allowed psychologists to prescribe medications to patients after additional training (most often antidepressants).
A social worker is a professional who takes care of people, both individuals, and entire families. In line with the principles of social responsibility and human rights (especially children’s rights), social workers strive to improve the lives of people from vulnerable groups. It is a very complex and responsible profession which often requires social workers to implement the methods of psychotherapy when working with individuals, families, or vulnerable groups.
A social worker can work in schools, hospitals, government institutions, NGOs, private companies, social services, etc. Due to the nature of their job, social workers usually work in shifts so that they could provide help at all times. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for this profession will increase in the coming years.
Educational psychologists study how people learn. They use the knowledge of different disciplines to obtain data that will help students learn more effectively. For that purpose, they conduct psychometric testing and other research that provides significant data on the effects of work.
These data help educational institutions and teachers to create quality educational programs, based on research results. This way, institutions are able to better understand the needs of students, their reactions to certain subjects/courses, and teachers who work with them. Educational psychologists do not necessarily have to work in schools, because their knowledge and skills are needed by other institutions that provide professional training as well (hospitals for example).
Human resource manager
A human resource manager, or HR manager takes care of the employees in an organization, from recruitment and hiring, to employment termination. Just as the name suggests, the focus of this profession is on people and recognizing their potential, as well as managing their needs in the workplace. This is why HR managers play an important role in the process of talent acquisition, i.e. hiring. Thanks to their knowledge of psychology, a good HR manager is able to evaluate a candidate, often based on their CV alone.
In addition to hiring new employees, the human resources department is also responsible for implementing company rules, managing human relations, and administration, such as leaves of absence, awarding, and disciplining, etc. To perform all these duties successfully, one needs a good knowledge of the human psyche, as well as understanding of individual and group needs. Therefore, the knowledge of psychology is invaluable for any HR manager.
In order to teach, one needs the knowledge of their chosen subject/course, and the ability to successfully communicate with students. If you want to work in an educational institution, it would be good to choose psychology, if not as your major, then as a minor. You will benefit the most if you focus on educational psychology, because it helps one create the learning process, manage the classroom, and solve all challenges that communicating with students entails.
Effective teachers are distinguished by their excellent mastery of classroom psychology. Everything depends on the good organization of teaching, from lesson planning to extracurricular activities. This way, students actively participate in the teaching process, which facilitates knowledge acquisition, and eventually leads to better grades. As a teacher (or school psychologist), you can work in all levels of education, from elementary school, through high school, to college and university level. However, it is also possible to work in other institutions, and that largely depends on the subject, i.e. the area you teach.
Psychology degree helps you find employment in different fields
As you can see, a psychology degree does not limit your career options to a single field, even after specialization. Knowing the secrets of the human mind is a great advantage, so it is no wonder that jobs that rely on psychology are in high demand in the American market.
Even if you do not want to work as a psychologist, the knowledge of psychology can be applied in other fields, such as:
- Business administration
- School counselor
- Sports coach
- Business Manager
- Image result for criminal psychology
- Criminal psychologists
- Behavior analyst
- Public Relations manager
- Psychiatric technician
- Market research analyst
As you can see, psychology opens many doors when it comes to job opportunities, which is very useful if you are not quite sure what exactly you want to do yet, but you just know that you love studying human behavior.