Tips for Choosing a Psychology Major

As a former high school advisor, I would say the same to a student looking into psychology majors that I would to one looking into business majors: do your homework. Meet with people who work in the fields that interest you-they may let you observe, volunteer or intern. Visit with students, both undergrad and grad, currently studying a related major. Ask to sit in on a course or two. Most of us have an idea of what a “psychologist” does from TV and movies, and reality is quite different!
Questions for everyone to ask: What are the hours like? What are starting salaries like? Are there geographic areas where the jobs are more plentiful than others? What internships or other experiences could enhance my career? How far can I go in this career-what are my advancement options? What degrees would I need and what are the best institutions offering them? What personal liability will I carry in this position-would I need malpractice insurance?
Also, ask those you meet with to help you develop other questions specific to their field. Ask them to introduce you to their friends in related fields. This may be your first experience in networking; good experience for any career!

Psychology Careers include:

-Clinical Psychology
-Counseling Psychology
-Forensic Psychology
-Health Psychology
-Industrial/Organizational Psychology
-Sports Psychology

Agency/Community Counseling
Educational Psychology (GRADUATE DEGREE)
School Psychology (GRADUATE DEGREE)
Social Work
(Thanks to Marky Lloyd’s Careers in Psychology site for this list advice offered by this author.)

It’s important to know that an undergraduate degree in psychology is not terrifically useful as a tool for starting a related career. As an undergraduate in psychology, it would be more useful to get great grades and be active in extra-curricular activities and internships, as you will be competing with your fellow liberal-arts graduates for the same jobs.

However, there are some psychology-related bachelor’s degrees that can get you started in the field-such as degree in social work. Be warned however, that entry-level social work jobs are usually tough and don’t pay well. You may be working in dangerous or unpleasant situations, usually with on-the-job training. However, many states and some large agencies do offer to pay for you to get a master’s degree while you work. Getting an advanced degree in psychology field is almost mandatory to continue a career in the field.

On a personal note, I have a master’s degree in social work and am a licensed clinical social worker (I worked the required number of clinical hours after obtaining my master’s degree and I passed a state board examination). This has allowed me to work in special needs adoption (as a case manager and educator) as a one-on-one and group therapist, as a workshop facilitator, and in three medical social work positions. I am currently a hospice social worker. All of the agencies I worked for required at least a master’s degree in social work and preferred licensing. But the state workers I met in adoptions and child welfare had often started with a bachelor’s degree. Some hospitals will hire bachelor-level social workers as discharge planners. You just need to dig in and ask, ask, ask!

Best of Luck!