Navigating the possibilities with a degree in psychology

What will you do with your psychology major?

If you find yourself wondering about this question, you are not alone. With more than 114,000 college students who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2012-2013 psychology is one of the most popular college majors behind business, health-related bachelor programs, social sciences and history.

What does this mean? 

For one thing, it means that graduates need to be able to communicate what they know and what they can do. This is especially important if you are beginning to put together a resume, a cover letter, and/or a LinkedIn Profile.

The APA Guidelines for the Undergraduate Psychology Major: Version 2.0 provides an overview of the learning goals and outcomes for students who major in psychology. The Guidelines articulate both the knowledge and the skills that students should have upon completion of the bachelor’s degree. This information can serve as a reminder about the knowledge and skills you have acquired through your degree.

But, what if you aren’t sure about whether you want to enter the workforce or continue your education?

If you don’t know, keep exploring what’s possible!

Appendix E of the Guidelines lists a roster of job prospects for psychology graduates. While these jobs may not mention “psychology” in the job title, you will see that a background in psychology can make you an ideal candidate for a career in many of these occupations.

If you need more ideas, check out the online career resource created by Drew Appleby, PhD, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. Dr. Appleby’s online career-exploration resource for psychology majors contains more than 2,400 websites that psychology majors can use to explore 300 careers, some of which can be entered with a bachelor’s degree and some that require a graduate degree.

According to the APA Center for Workforce Studies (CWS), we can find data about the occupations held by psychology bachelor’s degree holders through the American Community Survey the largest source of information on the U.S. population. Earlier this year, CWS published a Datapoint on psychology bachelor’s degree holders and occupations: According to this Datapoint, about 10% of psychology graduates work in STEM occupations, 10% in STEM-related occupations (virtually all in healthcare), and 80% work in non-STEM occupations.

The Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce also has some very interesting data published in their report on The Economic Value of College Majors: According to this report, graduates with a bachelor’s degree in psychology have a median salary of $49,000. The median salary for bachelor’s degree holders overall is $61,000. Additionally, in terms of graduate study, the report indicates that 46.1% of psychology bachelor’s degree holders have a graduate degree in any field, which is higher than bachelor’s degree holders generally, 35.1% of whom have a graduate degree.

Psychology Undergradute degree - median salary - total graduates

Grow your networks

Stay connected with your advisor, your psychology instructors, and other students in your major. Don’t be shy about asking for help. Most people like to be asked. Your college career center can be a valuable resource when it comes time to write your resume and apply for jobs.

APA is a resource

Wherever you go, remember that APA is a resource for you, now and in the future. APA has free online resources about careers in psychology, for example PsycCareers: APA’s Online Career Center, a brochure on Careers in Psychology, a website of interesting careers in psychological science, and the Science in Action website. More specialized publications on finding jobs with a psychology bachelor’s degree and about graduate study in psychology are available through our website at www.apa.org/books.

Carpe diem!

 

 

About the Author

Martha Boenau, MA
Martha is the Associate Director for Precollege and Undergraduate Education in the APA Education Directorate. She has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Hood College and a master’s degree in Community Mental Health Counseling from McDaniel College.