Have you ever told someone that you’re a psychology major and watched them pause before saying, “What are you even going to do with a degree in psychology?” For those who have not gone through this experience, I will tell you right now that it’s not a fun question to have to field. There’s this common belief that majoring in psychology during college is not a good use of your time and money as it does not set you up for successful career paths. However, contrary to popular belief, you actually can have a very successful career with a psychology degree. Granted, you don’t go into the field of psychology for the money. With that being said, the jobs you can get with a psychology degree are numerous, always in demand, and can be very rewarding. Here are just a few professions you can go into with a psychology background.
I know this is going to come as a shock, but one thing you can do with a degree in psychology is have a career within the field of professional psychology! There are many different types of psychologists, despite common misconceptions and stereotypes. Many psychologists engage in research, but some also do other things such as work with clients or out in the community or for a business, as is the case in industrial-organizational psychology. Becoming a professional psychologist requires graduate school; which specific degree depends on your goals and what you want to spend your career doing (ex: teaching, researching, seeing clients, etc.). For more information on careers in psychology, visit the American Psychological Association’s website here.
Commonly confused with psychology is psychiatry, the field of medicine that specializes in mental health. Professionals holding this position need to have completed all the training that any other medical doctor would – completing medical school, earning an MD, and then attending residency. Because of this, they are able to prescribe medication (unlike psychologists). Just like psychologists, psychiatrists can specialize in specific areas. Some examples of specialties within the field include child/adolescent psychiatry, geriatric psychiatry, and addiction psychiatry. For more information on psychiatry, visit the American Psychiatry Association’s website here.
3. Social Work
Many psychology majors enroll in an MSW program, or a Master of Social Work, after obtaining their bachelor’s degree. Social work is a very broad field with many different subfields that professionals work in, similar to the different specialties of psychologists and psychiatrists. Social workers typically work out in the community, in schools, or for a nonprofit, and while some are trained to provide counseling. The overall approach of the field is much more holistic than psychology or psychiatry, which focuses specifically on a person’s mental health. Social workers help individuals with all areas of their lives, including finances, housing, education, and more. For more information on careers in social work, visit the National Association of Social Workers’ website here.
4. Human Resources (HR)
Human resources, or HR, is the field of professionals who work for businesses to handle issues involving or related to the company’s employees. It is very much communication-based, interpersonal skills are critical, and a background in human behavior is very helpful to have – making individuals with a psychology background key candidates for this field. HR professionals may have certain specialty areas that they focus on, such as training, recruiting, and benefits. This field typically requires a master’s degree, especially if you are coming into the field with a bachelor’s degree that’s not in human resources. For more information on the field of human resources, click here.
If you are interested in working with children and the path of becoming a developmental or child psychologist isn’t for you, you could consider working with kids in other capacities like camps, daycares, or other childcare centers. There seems to be a connotation that these jobs are easy or don’t require a lot of skill, which is completely false. Despite the very obvious that you need to have a heck of a lot of patience, childcare workers also need to have an extensive knowledge of child development. Good daycare or childcare centers, for example, help to stimulate young children’s social, emotional, and physical development that helps shape the rest of their lives. For more information on careers in childcare, click here.
Marketing has evolved, and become more effective, thanks to incorporating knowledge of human behavior into brand advertisements. One of the most well-known examples of this can be seen in McDonald’s branding. The red and yellow colors they use were strategically picked because of research from the field of psychology that has shown that red actually invokes feelings of hunger and yellow invokes feelings of happiness. The businesspeople and other employees on the McDonald’s team wouldn’t have known this information if they had not consulted with a psychologist or other individual with a background in human behavior! For more information on becoming a salesperson or working in marketing, visit here.
This list does not even come close to all of the career options offered to you as a psychology major, as the skills and knowledge you learn from this program can translate too many fields and professions. Many of the options on this list do require some advanced education, but it doesn’t have to mean a PhD in psychology! Psychology is a great major to have to help you build the groundwork for whatever career you want to go into. It can help you realize what specific interests you have or what population of people you are interested in working with (or help you realize that you’re not interested in working with people at all)! Don’t let the misconception that you cannot be successful with a degree in psychology deter you from pursuing it as your major.You can also visit MSU’s career center or the psychology advising department if you would like to talk to someone who specializes in graduate school and career options and to have a more in-depth conversation about this topic. I wish you the best of luck!