Many MedCircle Members are psychology students interested in entering the robust field of psychological treatment, therapy, research, and more. However, when asking what you can do with a psychology degree, it seems the possibilities are nearly endless.
As of 2017, nearly 3.5 million Americans held a bachelor’s degree in psychology. The psychology degree is one of the most common college degrees, and it’s also one of the most flexible ones.
Getting a Psychology Degree
Almost every college offers a psychology degree for students. While many students pursue professional careers in psychology-related studies, this degree doesn’t pigeonhole you into any one field. In fact, psychology degrees can be beneficial in nearly every industry. Luckily, there are more people than ever considering entering psychology.
Before you get started, itt’s important to know the various differences in degrees. If you know which career you want to pursue, it’s a good idea to research how much education you need to obtain beforehand.
Associate degree in psychology: An associate degree is an undergraduate-level degree. Most students complete this education within two years. They can obtain the degree at a community college. Some students continue to complete more education at a four-year university.
Bachelor’s degree in psychology: A bachelor’s degree is an undergraduate degree that usually takes between 4-5 years to complete. Most schools offer either a Bachelor of Arts (B.A) or Bachelor of Science (B.S) degree. The B.A tends to include more liberal arts courses, whereas the B.S usually entails more science-based courses.
Master’s degree in psychology: A master’s degree refers to a graduate-level degree in psychology. These degrees can take anywhere from 2-4 years to complete. Students usually choose between the Master of Arts (M.A) or Master of Science (M.S). To graduate, they must complete a thesis or pass an equivalent comprehensive exam.
PhD in psychology: The PhD is the oldest doctorate degree a student can obtain. It takes anywhere from 4-7 years to complete, and students must complete a dissertation. Many professionals with PhDs work in applied research or academics.
PsyD in psychology: The PsyD is a newer doctorate degree that tends to focus more on the clinical practice of psychology. It can take anywhere from 3-6 years to complete. Some students may complete a dissertation, but they may have the option to complete a course equivalent.
Almost all psychologists have bachelor’s degrees in psychology. Some may obtain bachelor’s degrees in other related disciplines.
In addition to their undergraduate degree, psychologists also need to complete a doctoral program. Psychologists help treat both acute and long-term mental health conditions. They can work in various settings, including schools, hospitals, nonprofit centers, research facilities, and private practice.
There are many different psychologist subtypes, including:
Clinical psychologists: These psychologists usually treat chronic mental health conditions. They may administer assessments and provide individual therapy to their patients.
Forensic psychologists: These psychologists often work with attorneys and law enforcement to focus on the legal system. They may help solve crimes and determine if certain individuals are clinically appropriate to stand trial.
Meet triple board-certified clinical and forensic neuropsychologist, Dr. Judy Ho.
Industrial-organizational psychologists: These psychologists work in business settings and support companies with their overall infrastructure, team-building, and employee satisfaction. Many employers hire these psychologists to ensure their company runs smoothly.
Social psychologists: These psychologists specialize in understanding how greater social systems operate. They study relationships, evolution, and behavioral trends in communities. Social psychologists often engage in research, and they may teach their findings at the university-level.
Sports psychologists: These psychologists specialize in treating athletes to maintain motivation, discipline, and a positive mindset during their competitions.
Health psychologists: These psychologists focus on the connection between physical and mental health. They work with patients who need support in building healthier habits for their overall well-being.
Neuropsychologists: These psychologists focus on neurobiology and neurochemistry. They study how the brain impacts human thoughts and behavior. Neuropsychologists may collaborate with medical professionals like doctors, surgeons, and nurses.
Depending on the type of position and state, you may be able to obtain this position with your bachelor’s degree. In some cases, you may need a graduate-level degree. There are many different kinds of counselors and case managers, and they each have different specializations.
Marriage and family therapist: Marriage and family therapists support clients struggling with interpersonal issues. They help with issues related to communication, trust and honesty, mental illness, and setting healthy boundaries. They are also trained in treating a variety of mental, behavioral, and emotional issues.
Social worker: Social workers focus on community health and family systems. They are trained in treating mental, behavioral, and emotional issues. Social workers may provide case management, individual therapy, and comprehensive wraparound services.
Substance abuse counselor: These counselors help patients struggling with drug or alcohol addiction. They help motivate patients to use the appropriate coping skills to maintain their recovery. Substance abuse counselors can work in a variety of settings, including detox facilities and inpatient and outpatient facilities. They may also work in private practice.
Veterans counselor: These counselors work with military personnel. They often provide support for members in active duty. They may also help with transitions back into civilian life by providing support for employment, housing, and financial management.
Employment counselor: Employment counselors help people looking for work. They may provide support with resumes, cover letters, and interview skills. They might also provide career counseling to help people find the right job for their needs and strengths. Employment counselors work in many settings, including schools, employment agencies, and in community mental health facilities.
Child welfare case manager: These case managers often support children in the foster or welfare system. They may provide individual and family counseling to their patients. Child welfare case managers usually work in hospitals, schools, or non-profit facilities.
Many people who major in psychology work in schools and higher education.
Professor: Professors teach psychology or related courses at the university level. Many professors have a doctorate degree, but each school has different requirements. Additionally, most professors actively work on research and other community projects during their teaching.
K-12 teacher: Many teachers have psychology backgrounds. Their education helps them navigate the challenges of working in a classroom, connecting with students, and teaching abstract concepts. Today, many high schools offer AP classes in psychology. Usually, teachers with psychology degrees instruct these courses.
Research assistant: Research is an integral part of the psychology field. Many people pursue careers in research or statistics. They may curate data, perform analyses, and conduct studies or experiments to prove their hypotheses. Research assistants may work in schools, independent labs, or in specific businesses.
Post-secondary administration/student affairs: Many psychology majors pursue university careers related to administration. These careers entail organization, planning, and coordinating with multidisciplinary teams.
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A background in psychology can provide a competitive edge in the business world. A successful business depends on predicting consumer behavior. Likewise, companies need employees who can work well together and promote a positive workplace.
Human resources manager: These professionals support with hiring, onboarding, and training various employees. They also mitigate issues between employers and employees to ensure a satisfactory workplace. Some human resource managers work alone, but many of them work in larger teams (especially when working for a major organization).
Market research coordinator: These professionals assess consumer behavior to determine various trends. They may conduct appropriate competitor research and assess consumer habits to determine how a product or service will sell.
Event planner: Event planners may coordinate various parties, events, and conferences for different business needs. They may do anything from choosing venues and caterers to organizing the flow and structure of the daily schedule. Event coordinators need patience, problem-solving skills, and excellent communication.
Recruiters: Recruiters help locate appropriate talent for various companies. They may comb through resumes, conduct interviews, and act as liaisons between potential candidates and employers. Recruiters need to know how to connect with people and build authentic relationships.
Real estate agent: Although it may seem completely unrelated to psychology, real estate entails connecting with prospective buyers, reassuring sellers, and understanding how to build meaningful relationships. Many real estate agents depend on their communication skills to maintain a professional reputation.
Entrepreneurs and small business owners: Many successful business owners have backgrounds in psychology. Their advanced understanding of human behavior helps them identify significant consumer trends. It also can help them connect with clients, colleagues, and their professional network.
Psychology and law can go hand-in-hand. While some of these careers require more education, a background in psychology can be extremely valuable.
Lawyers: Lawyers support their clients with various legal issues. Lawyers need to learn to establish rapport, advocate for their clients and use appropriate conflict resolution skills in their work. They also need to pay close attention to research, contracts, and various nuances in court proceedings.
Police officers: Police officers implement laws within their local communities. They work hard to manage crimes and protect citizens. Successful police officers use basic psychology principles to build strong relationships between their coworkers and the local civilians.
Probation officer: Probation officers support people under probation. They conduct individual treatment plans, meet with their clients regularly, and conduct progress reports. Probation officers help determine if someone needs continued legal monitoring.
Paralegal: Paralegals work closely with lawyers in conducting various legal research, drafting documents, and summarizing records. They communicate closely with both clients and lawyers.
Many psychology majors pursue jobs within the healthcare sector. Many of these careers require additional education, but psychology can serve as an appropriate starting point.
Psychiatrists: Psychiatrists are specialized doctors who prescribe psychiatric medication to their patients. Some psychiatrists also offer therapy. They tend to work closely with doctors, therapists, and other care workers to ensure comprehensive treatment.
Meet double board-certified adolescent and adult psychiatrist, Dr. Domenick Sportelli.
Nurses: Nurses provide care for their patients, administer medication, check for vital signs, and coordinate care with other healthcare professionals like doctors, surgeons, and technicians.
Psychiatric technician: Psychiatric technicians work with patients experiencing various mental illnesses or disabilities. They provide acute care to make sure their conditions are stabilized. They may work in psychiatric hospitals or outpatient facilities.
Recreational therapists: Recreational therapists support patients recovering from various illnesses, disabilities, or injuries. They may use music, art, sports, or other recreational methods to intervene.
Should You Consider Double-Majoring or Minoring in Another Major?
Many college students wonder if it’s worth double-majoring or minoring in other subjects. There isn’t a black-or-white answer. It depends on both your academic and career goals.
Double-majoring refers to obtaining two college majors within one college degree. In some schools, the double major consists of two majors in entirely different areas of study. In other cases, the majors are in the same field.
A double major may improve your job prospects, particularly if you have a competitive alternative major, like a foreign language or a business-related major. You may have more access to different career paths. There may also be a sense of personal accomplishment and satisfaction.
Minoring in another major allows you to delve deeper into a secondary area of study. You don’t need to complete as many units as you would if you double-majored. The minor offers the benefits of learning about a different field without totally committing to an entire curriculum.
That said, you should think about your decisions carefully. Check how many units you need to complete, and do this before enrolling in the classes. Consult with an academic advisor if you’re unsure about how to move forward.
Double majors or minors can delay graduation. They can also add to extra tuition costs, which may be cost-prohibitive when starting your job search.
Obtaining a degree in psychology offers you limitless options for your professional development. It’s essential to understand each career’s specific education requirements. While an associate’s or bachelor’s degree provides many rewarding paths, some jobs require a higher level of education.
Regardless of which career you choose, psychology prepares you for any work related to critical thinking and understanding human behavior. It’s a fulfilling discipline that can allow you to thrive in a variety of settings.
Learn how a MedCircle Membership can assist you on your journey to a career in psychology.