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What Can You Do With a Psychology Degree?

Is psychology a bad career choice?

Key points

  • While many psychology graduates go into clinical and counseling psychology, there are many other options.
  • Psychology students gain important and employable skills, including interpersonal and analytical skills.
  • These "people skills" are useful in a variety of professions, from sales to education and management.

“What are you going to do with a psychology degree?” Probably every psychology student has heard this more than once. Nevertheless, psychology remains one of the most popular undergraduate majors in the United States and the U.K. But what can you do with a degree in psychology and what are your career options?

First, and most importantly, to actually work as a psychologist requires a graduate degree—a master's or Ph.D./Psy.D.—with one to four-plus years of additional education and training. Yet, less than half of those who graduate with a bachelor’s degree in psychology go on to complete graduate degrees. Let’s look first at those who do get graduate degrees and the prospects for employment and income.

The most well-known career path for psychology with a graduate degree is clinical and counseling psychology. This is the area of psychology that most people are aware of, primarily due to depictions of clinical psychologists and counselors in films, television, or because they or someone they know has undergone counseling/therapy. Clinical and counseling psychologists can find employment in hospitals and health care systems, in counseling centers, or in private or group practice.

There are also other areas of specialization in the broad field of psychology, and many of these offer good career opportunities. Unfortunately, the general public knows little about these. My area, industrial-organizational psychology, offers the best employment possibilities with graduates with master's and doctoral degrees finding work in consulting organizations, in companies themselves, as private consultants, or working in thinktanks, along with the more traditional route of academia.

What About a Bachelor’s Degree and Career Prospects?

Contrary to what many believe, an undergraduate degree in psychology provides you with a number of skills and knowledge bases that translate well to the world of work and for specific jobs/careers. Psychology students develop interpersonal and “people skills.” These are useful in a variety of professions from sales to education and management.

Courses in research methods and statistics, and reading about psychological research builds analytical skills that are useful in marketing, program evaluation, and other professions.

So, let me set the record straight about the real career opportunities available to those who study and major in psychology: It only seems as if career options are limited, but if one looks broadly at possible career paths, there are many and varied. The American Psychological Association (APA) maintains an entire area of its website specifically for exploring career opportunities with a psychology degree—at the doctoral, master's, and even the bachelor’s degree level.

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