What You Can Do with a Psychology Degree

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Finding your career path takes hard work and a lot of imagination. The process is neither intuitive nor clear. In fact, the degree you complete does not always lead directly to a career. Because I teach psychology courses, I will use a psychology degree as an example. But the ideas I share here can apply to you, no matter which degree program you choose.

I invite you to consider several career options, including some that you might have overlooked. For example, when thinking about a degree in psychology, you might have assumed you will become a therapist. It may not be as obvious that you could also work as a police or military officer, in business and industry, management, or even sales and marketing.

A degree in psychology gives you a general understanding of the basics of human behavior, motivation, and personality. That understanding is so broad that you can apply it in many different areas. Becoming a therapist is only one option among many.

For example, when I share with people that I am a psychologist, they often ask, “Are you going to analyze me?” I usually answer with something like, “No, I’m not that kind of psychologist. I work with people in business and education.” Many people are pleasantly surprised to learn that psychology encompasses many different areas.

A student recently told me that she wanted a career as an FBI field agent. She was concerned that her major in psychology would not help her along that career path, and she did not see the point in taking more psychology courses. I informed her that many FBI agents have degrees in psychology. Because a degree in psychology provides a solid foundation in understanding people, that could empower your career in law enforcement, public service, counseling, education, and even sales.

Most importantly, you must also consider what kinds of work you are interested in and comfortable with, as well as your preferred environment. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I feel like this job is a good fit for me?
  • Is this job something I can see myself doing for a long period of time?
  • What opportunities are currently open and available to me?
  • Where would I like to work?
  • With whom would I like to work?

Once you’ve answered these questions, then where do you start? You can go to the career services center at your school. Or take advantage of resources like eCareerfit.com, where you can take tests to see what careers may be suitable for your personality and skills. You can talk to people who have careers you aspire to and ask them how they got to where they currently are.

So many opportunities are available – more than you might think. And you can follow many different avenues to reach them. There are many great careers waiting for a motivated person with a quality education.

Written by: Jeral Kirwan, PhD
Dr. Kirwan is Assistant Professor of Psychology and a Faculty Research Fellow in Ashford University’s College of Health, Human Services, and Science.

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