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Why Everyone Thinks Psychology is a Bad Career Choice

The surprising truth about psychology careers.

Psychology is one of the most popular undergraduate majors in the United States. Yet, many people (including many parents) ask college students (and faculty) the question: “What are you going to do with a psychology major?” Let’s look at the career potential the field of psychology offers.

First, and most importantly, to actually work as a psychologist requires a graduate degree—Masters or Ph.D./Psy.D.—with 1 to 4+ years of additional education and training. Yet less than half 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. We will return later to students who graduate with a psychology degree, but don’t go on to become psychologists.

Clearly, the most common career path for psychology majors is clinical and counseling psychology. This is also 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.

Yet, there are many other areas of specialization in the broad field of psychology, and many of these offer good career opportunities. The problem is that the general public knows little about the areas of psychological specialization except for clinical/counseling psychology. [Here is a very good website that suggests possible career opportunities for psychology students with all levels of degree, from Bachelor’s to Ph.D.].

I was inspired to write this post when I came across a recently published children’s book, My Mommy is an Organizational Psychologist, written by Sevelyn J. Crosby and illustrated by a psychology graduate student, Blake A. Beckmann. Because my areas of expertise are industrial/organizational psychology and social psychology, I often find it hard to explain what I do career-wise to family, friends, and others. This book helps explain this area of specialization in a way that even a first-grader could understand it. Interestingly, organizational psychology is the highest-paying area for psychologists with Ph.D.s, and it is a rapidly-growing field. [See more about that here].

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, they 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.

Finally, there is more to studying psychology than a lucrative career. Here is a post on the ways that studying psychology (and reading PT blogs) can change your life!

Want to know more about the areas of specialization in psychology?

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