How to make the most of a psychology degree
A bachelor’s degree in psychology “is enormously adaptable,” and a good jumping-off point for a variety of jobs, says Sandra Moody, MS, area chair of psychology programs for the College of Social Sciences at the University of Phoenix Bay Area Campus. “It provides an enormous number of skills that are useful in different areas.”
Moody acknowledges that if you plan to work as a licensed psychologist, “you’ll need to move on to graduate school to earn a PhD in psychology,” but emphasizes that “there are great, rewarding jobs in other industries that will allow you to use your undergraduate degree.”
For instance, those who earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology have completed a considerable amount of research and writing — skills that apply to jobs such as business manager, library assistant and probation officer, Moody says. Likewise, she notes, the training in client-needs assessment and record keeping is a boon in such fields as social work and career counseling, as well as in hospital case management.
“[A psychology degree] is a platform for students who are drawn to working with people,” Moody points out.
Another field to consider is dispute resolution. “Most students don’t study psychology thinking, ‘I’ll use this degree to work in the field of dispute resolution,’’’ Moody says. “However, in psychology, you learn conflict resolution, how to use dialogue to get people talking and arrive at a mutually beneficial solution — necessary skills used in dispute resolution.”
Marketing and sales are other jobs that may not come to mind immediately for those with bachelor’s degrees in psychology. But, Moody notes, the training in interpersonal skills that a psychology major receives lends itself well to these types of careers, which require strong communication and an understanding of how the human mind works.
And a career in forensic science depends on using psychology to understand and predict the actions and habits of criminals, a valuable asset to law enforcement agencies.
Students determined to apply their bachelor’s degrees to more psychology-specific careers also have options. For instance, they can work as psychiatric technicians under the direction of higher-level mental health supervisors to provide direct care to developmentally or emotionally disabled adults and children.
And graduates whose strong suits are caring and empathy, Moody says, are well equipped to be rehabilitation specialists, “where you have to work with patients who have psychiatric, physical and emotional disabilities they need to overcome.
“Learning to sell these skills as you enter the job market is nearly as important as having them,” Moody advises. “I tell students to market their knowledge of critical thinking, effective written communication and individual human behavior when they’re looking for a job outside their field, because every one of these skills is valuable in many different worthwhile careers.”