Interested in pursuing a psychology major? That’s not surprising, since psychology is one of the most popular areas of study for undergrads.
Given how popular it is, you may wonder whether it’s worthwhile. If everybody is studying the same thing, doesn’t that mean more competition in the job market? Less opportunity for you?
Not at all. In fact, a psychology major seriously broadens your job prospects.
The reason is because of how incredibly versatile it is. Having a psychology degree is attractive to all kinds of employers, from clinical and business environments to social services, criminal justice, Christian ministries and more.
Why a Psychology Major Is Attractive to Employers
Here’s a secret to nailing every job interview you’ll ever have: employers care far more about what you can do than what you know.
Think about that. Imagine if you were in charge of hiring someone to work for your company. Which of these two applicants would you choose?
- One applicant rattles off a bunch of facts they’ve memorized about your industry. They demonstrate to you that they know a lot about this specific job.
- The other applicant tells you about their experiences tackling challenges, learning as they go along. They demonstrate to you that they can learn, adapt and grow.
You’d really be taking a risk on hiring the first applicant, whose efforts to demonstrate knowledge comes across as if they have learned all they need to. What will happen when they face a new challenge they haven’t come across before?
The second applicant answered that question for you. When faced with a new challenge, they have learned how to go about responding to it. The ability to build on prior knowledge and change their approach if necessary outweighs the value of the knowledge they have now.
These are the skills you hone when pursuing a psychology major, and they are nearly universal:
A big part of studying psychology is asking questions that challenge assumptions, like, “Why has it always been done that way?” or “Are we sure that this works the way we think it does?” You conduct research to find the answers.
Sometimes, when you analyze what you find (your data), you confirm the assumption is true. Other times you discover something new. This ability to produce meaningful data that improves everyone’s understanding is a huge asset to many different kinds of employers.
Anyone can “deal with” a problem. If the chain on your bicycle keeps coming off, you can put it back on, keep riding and hope for the best. But that’s not solving the problem.
Psychology programs challenge you to apply established approaches or develop new ones to get better outcomes (like actually improving the bike’s performance). Employers need people who want to really solve problems and know how to go about it.
Whether working alone or on a team, it isn’t enough to think analytically and solve problems. You have to be able to communicate to others what you did, how you did it and why it matters if anyone else is going to benefit from your work. You will also need to do a lot of listening in the course of your research.
You’ll do this a lot in psychology studies. The written and verbal communication skills you’ll hone with your psychology major are valuable in just about any job. Employers don’t need you to know everything. Instead, they need you to be able to take in information and clearly share what you’ve learned.
Careers To Pursue as a Psychology Major
Now that you see how broadly your skills can be applied, it may be less of a surprise to discover just how many career paths you can take with this degree.
Let’s start with the obvious ones, then explore some paths you might never have considered.
4 Careers You Might Expect
When people think about psychology, they often think first about mental health and careers related to studying the mind.
… But First: About Licensure
For many of these careers, your bachelor’s degree is just the first step, followed by a Master’s degree and a licensure application process that varies by state. Here in Massachusetts, this process involves several hours of supervision by a licensed mental health counselor.
Without an advanced degree, you could provide unlicensed services such as life coaching. You wouldn’t legally be able to call yourself a mental health counselor, as that implies you’re licensed. Licensure opens more doors, such as into marriage and family therapy.
1. Mental Health Counselor
One of the first careers people associate with the study of psychology is actually pretty broad itself. Mental health counseling can refer to a number of fields that include individual, group or marriage and family talk therapy. This can include many specializations, such as addictions counseling.
2. Career Counselor
If you’re more interested in helping people accomplish specific goals, you could enter a specialized field that focuses on this. Career counselors provide mental health support by helping clients with a major life stressor: career transitions. Another field closely related to this is academic counseling, which helps students like you get their careers started.
Beyond Master-level studies and licensure, you could pursue a doctorate in psychology. Psychologists do much of the same work as mental health counselors, but they can also employ or supervise other counselors, teach at the university level, and often conduct clinical research.
4. Clinical Researcher
While the lead clinical researcher on a project is likely to be a psychologist (a doctor of mental health) or psychiatrist (a medical doctor who can prescribe medicine), research assistants are often needed to handle the workload. As a clinical researcher, you could be anyone involved with recording, reporting or analyzing data.
11 Careers You Might Not Expect
In fact, people with psychology majors succeed in all sorts of careers, most of which don’t directly involve studying the mind.
… But First: About Cross-majors
Knowing a thing or two about the way the mind works is definitely a plus. But again, the reason psychology opens doors to the careers below is because of the skills you gain, not always because of what you studied.
Specialized knowledge is required for several of these jobs. You may need a second major or minor or an advanced degree to pursue many of these careers. The skills you gained studying psychology complement your specialized study, setting you apart.
1. Social Worker
This is an incredibly broad title that could refer to many different types of social service work. Social workers are often referred to as case managers, because they take on an individual or family’s diverse needs as a “case” and connect these clients with resources (such as food assistance, subsidized housing, medical programs, mental health therapy, etc.). When licensed, social workers often take on roles similar to mental health counselors themselves.
2. Teacher or Trainer
Although you need an education degree to teach in a public school, there are many teaching or training roles that psychology will help prepare you for. Teachers in religious environments, for example, don’t always need to be licensed. And a psychology major can provide an excellent knowledge base to go into new hire training in a government or corporate setting.
3. Childcare Worker
There are certainly opportunities to work in childcare without a degree, but the study of psychology can lead to higher-paying positions, including supervisory roles. Some childcare centers have strong early childhood education programs, and a bachelor’s degree in psychology can often serve as the minimum requirement to do that work.
4. Ministry Professional
Your decision to study psychology indicates you have an interest in understanding and helping people, but that’s not the only reason it helps you pursue a career in Christian ministries. Ministry leaders need problem solvers and strong communicators as much as any secular employer, if not more so.
5. Human Resources Specialist
At least a basic understanding of human psychology is essential for human resources, a job that involves managing employee expectations, resolving conflicts, connecting people with resources (such as health insurance and other benefits) and clear, diplomatic communication skills.
6. Sports Management Professional
Whatever part of the business of sports you’re interested in, psychology will help you along the way. Sports psychology, where motivation meets human performance, is central to successful coaching. Sales and marketing also require strong analytical thinking and communication skills.
7. Law Enforcement Officer
Criminology, or the study of the causes of crime, is at its heart a branch of psychology (with quite a bit of sociology, the study of society, mixed in). This knowledge and the problem-solving skills you develop with a psychology degree are the building blocks of a fulfilling career in law enforcement.
“What is unique about the Psychology and Crime, Law & Justice Department at Eastern Nazarene College is that class discussions are very interactive and embrace students from many different cultures and backgrounds. This makes for a broader, richer learning experience for students.” – Andres Medina, Psychology, Class of 2023
8. Probation or Parole Officer
Work with adults or minors on probation (sentenced to supervision rather than imprisonment) or with offenders on parole (released from prison early) is also supported by psychological study. Like social workers, probation and parole officers help connect offenders with resources to help them succeed in society within the confines of the law.
9. Attorney or Arbitration/Mediation Professional
While a law degree from a law school is necessary to become an attorney, psychology is a useful subject of pre-law studies at the bachelor level. Many types of law – from divorce to business contracts – involve negotiation. Again, problem solving and strong communication skills are a plus.
10. Sales Professional
Speaking of negotiation, this is one of the skills required to be successful in a variety of sales roles. Whatever you’re selling – from cars to software to real estate – assessing a buyer’s needs, listening carefully to connect concerns with solutions, and clearly communicating approaches to solve problems are also essential skills honed in psychology studies.
11. Market Researcher
If you’re interested less in working with customers directly than in the math and science of sales and marketing, a psychology major easily lends itself to this type of work. Many market researchers, those who help determine where best to direct advertising investments, among other tasks, find the analytical side of psychological study very applicable to their work.
Really, what can’t you do as a psychology major from Eastern Nazarene College?
We could go on and on, but you get the point. A degree in psychology is an incredibly versatile springboard into almost any career you can imagine.
Professors in our psychology department here at Eastern Nazarene College understand that only some of their students are there because they want to become a psychologist or enter the field of mental health in any way.
Instead, what you want are the skills that virtually every employer wants in the people they hire. What you need, as you get a clearer idea of what you want to do, is the right mix of programs to prepare for your chosen path.
That kind of customized education takes a lot of time, discussion and personal attention.
And that’s exactly what we offer here at Eastern Nazarene College – everything you need to become the person you’re called to be, capable of transforming the world for the better.
ENCounter ENC’s approach to transformational education. You’ll see what we mean.