When I was earning my bachelor’s degree in psychology, classmates, professors, family members and guidance counselors would tell me that I needed a graduate degree if I wanted to get a job using my degree. At first, I believed them and planned for graduate school at some point in the future. But, before going to graduate school, I worked for four years in academic research. Below, I’ll describe some different research careers that someone with a bachelor’s degree in psychology could pursue and, most importantly given the difficulty some college graduates encounter finding jobs, what you need to do to prepare for each career.
On my annual family camping trip, I was out on the lake fishing with two of my brothers. We were making small talk as we were getting our lines ready to throw in the water.
“You? How’s work?”
Then my brother asked a question that seemed almost comical, “Amanda, what do you do, anyway?” My other brother piped in curiously, “Yeah, what do you do??” The question came after I had been in my current position for a couple years, and I had been working as an I/O Psychology practitioner my whole career.
Every semester, psychology students around the country anxiously file into their required, introductory statistics classes. Although some love it, statistics tends to be difficult and anxiety-producing for psychology students (who sometimes refer to it as Sadistics 101). To combat this, publishers have released a flurry of student-friendly textbooks designed to make statistics more palatable. However, students often face challenges learning statistics, and, frankly, don’t generally like it.
Now in my 8th year as a psychology professor, one topic job that seems to consistently come up in conversation around working with students is email etiquette. I guess I should clarify that these conversations usually have to do with one part of email etiquette: expected response time. For better or worse (probably worse), it’s clear that in academia email has become the dominant way people communicate with each other.
As commencement approaches, our baccalaureate psychology graduates will likely hear the familiar admonition “But you can’t get a decent job with a bachelor’s degree in psychology!” There is some truth to that warning (Carnevale, et al., 2015; Rajecki & Borden, 2011) and to employers’ complaints that graduates are unprepared for work. However, if we vigorously shared other data with our students we could instill optimism in the 55% of those graduates who enter the job market.
How can teachers and advisors help?
Professional organizations are great resources for people already working in a field, but it turns out that they’re great for students, too! As I-O psychologists, our field bridges the gap between so many different specialty areas that it can be tough to find all the different organizations that can provide the best resources for us. The best place to start is the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP), of course!
What is I-O psychology?
Industrial-organizational psychologists research and apply principles of psychology to the world of work. Their mission is to identify and apply techniques that benefit not only employers, but also employees. In general, the more efficient an organization is (be it a for-profit corporation, non-profit agency, or government entity) the more all stakeholders benefit. For more about what I-O psychologists do click here.