Psychology is one of the top majors in college, ranking only behind business/management, according to the Princeton Review. Yet, you commonly hear, “What are you going to do with a psychology major?” “There aren’t any high paying jobs for psychologists?” and the like. Is this true, and what is the value of pursuing a psychology degree?
I have been teaching psychology courses for over 35 years, primarily at the undergraduate level, but also in a variety of graduate programs, ranging from traditional Psychology MA and PhD programs, to business schools, to professional schools, and programs in related areas such as leadership. During that time, I have seen thousands of students take dozens (perhaps hundreds!) of career paths.
Psychology has some similarity to professional undergraduate degree programs (accounting, engineering, pre-med, computer science, etc.), in that there is a “professional” path, of going to graduate school in psychology, obtaining a Masters degree or PhD, and then going into a traditional psychology career of counseling/clinical work or teaching. But this is a relatively small number and doesn’t explain psychology’s huge popularity as a major. Psychology, with its popular appeal and its focus on human beings and human behavior, has become something of a “general” college degree. In many ways, the Psychology major at many colleges and universities, is the substitute for the old “Liberal Arts” or “Liberal Studies” degrees, because it provides a very broad preparation that allows students to pursue a multitude of career paths. (Realize that I’m not saying that it is the same as the true pursuit of the liberal arts, as offered by liberal arts colleges, but for many larger universities it has become something of a substitute.)