In 2002 or so, at our university’s Open House, parents of slightly nervous and mildly awkward high school kids would ask me, “Will there be a JOB waiting for my kid when he (or she) graduates from your program? Huh?!” Back then, the honest answer was something like this: “Well, I hope so. There may be! He (or she) will likely have to get a graduate degree - and even then there are no guarantees. But our undergraduate psychology major will make your kid very intellectually versatile …”
Now it’s 2015. I’ve been at over a dozen Open Houses on our campus over the years. And my answer now is more like this: “You bet! If your son or daughter succeeds in our program, he or she will have an outstanding chance of getting into a solid graduate program that will lead to a field with many needs and employment opportunities.”
Why do I say this? I’m not just making stuff up! For better or worse – and for various reasons, there has been a steady increase, for years, in mental health cases in our nation (see CDC report of 2013). And job markets have tracked this trend – with continued and steady growth in employment opportunities for various kinds of bright young behavioral scientists and practitioners (see Novotney, 2011. And this fact may well relate to the steady increase in the popularity of psychology as a major at colleges and universities across the nation that we have now also seen for years (see Munsey, C., 2008).
I no longer shy away from parents when they ask me if there will be jobs for their often-awkward, nervous 18-year old kid. I tell them the truth. There is a growing demand for skilled, educated young behavioral scientists and practitioners – and if that kid’s got a good work ethic and a willingness to take advantage of opportunities, we’ll get him or her onto a great career path. THIS is the current state of the field.
From the perspective of someone who has been a psychology professor since 1997 and the department chair of psychology at a state school (that has a ton of psychology majors) since 2009, here are my thoughts on career trajectories of this generation of psychology majors:
A high proportion of our students – about 50% - go onto terminal master’s programs within a year or two of graduating. Terminal master’s programs are programs in which the end goal is the master’s degree. These programs include degrees in:
I’d say that about 50% of our students who obtain a bachelor’s degree in psychology go onto one of these kinds of programs – and guess what? They tend to get jobs and contact me years later telling me all about their great career!
Of course, a standard psychology major has all kinds of more abstract benefits, such as leading to great statistical and methodological skills and a strong ability to synthesize, analyze, and report on scientific research findings.
In modern times, a psychology major is a wise choice. Not only does it lead to great intellectual skills – but it also leads to jobs! These days, I can look parents of those high school students who have the “psychology wannabe” thing going on right in the eyes!
If you are a young adult / big kid and have the drive, work ethic, and intellectual hunger that's needed – and are interested in an important and steady career that will allow you to do something great, you can’t do much better than a psychology major!
If you’re interested in potentially majoring in psychology and you’ve got questions, shoot me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) – my career is all about helping individuals like you get educated and reach the next level. Like psychology professors in general, my goal is to help people like you acquire much-needed skills and confidence in your abilities – and to help you make a positive mark on the world.
References and Additional Resources
Munsey, C. (2008). Charting the future of undergraduate psychology. Monitor on Psychology. 39, p. 53. http://www.apa.org/monitor/2008/09/undergraduate.aspx
Novotney, A. (March, 2011). APA Graduate Psychology Magazine. Psychology job forecast: Partly sunny. http://www.apa.org/gradpsych/2011/03/cover-sunny.aspx
Perou, R. et al. (2013). CDC Special Report. Mental Health Surveillance Among Children — United States, 2005–2011. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/su6202a1.htm?s_cid=su6202a1_w