What to Do With a Psychology Degree
According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Education, colleges and higher education institutions awarded 94,271 bachelor’s degrees in psychology during the 2008-2009 school year, rendering it a rather ubiquitous field of study. Students are obviously interested in pursuing careers in psychology, but before deciding to do so, it is important that they be aware of potential career paths available to those who earn bachelor’s degrees in psychology. The following options are realistic for psychology graduates.
Lower-Paying Options in the Field
Psychology degrees teach students to understand human behaviors and motivations, in addition to providing them with the knowledge to identify psychological disorders and other mental health issues. Though these skills are important in modern society, there are very few entry-level positions in which they are directly involved. Unfortunately, most jobs that make use of psychology degrees are relatively low-paying, and bachelor’s degree holders may be overqualified for such positions.
If not concerned about earning high salaries, psychology students may be satisfied in a number of jobs available to those with bachelor’s degrees. They may, for example work as teaching assistants at preschools or after school programs. A psychology degree is beneficial in such jobs, as most psychology graduates have taken courses in childhood development and behavioral psychology. Those interested in pursuing teaching assistant positions can expect to earn $22,200 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Psychology graduates with bachelor’s degrees may also enjoy working as assistants/caregivers at social services agencies or residential treatment centers, where their education will be useful when working with individuals who have mental health issues or developmental disabilities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, salaries in this field average $27,280 a year.
If not interested in working in working as teaching assistants or caregivers, psychology graduates may pursue employment as receptionists at mental health clinics, counseling centers, or social service agencies. Median earnings for receptionists are $11.80 an hour, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Pursuing More Lucrative Alternatives
Students may be discouraged by low-paying jobs in the field of psychology, but they can find higher-paying opportunities if they are willing to extend their job searches to other areas. Psychology degrees teach students to effectively work with and communicate with diverse groups of people; therefore, they provide the skills necessary to be successful in management and sales positions.
Psychology degrees are useful in sales positions, as they require employees to effectively communicate with and influence customers while providing them with quality service. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has revealed that sales representatives can expect to earn $70,200 a year, on average.
Because psychology graduates are often skilled in working with people, they may also be interested in working as mangers of restaurants or retail stores. Salaries in this field average $46,320, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
If careers in management and sales do not appeal to students, they may find success elsewhere. A psychology education is helpful in any position that requires working with people; jobs in human resources, marketing, and communication may be viable options.
Obtaining Advanced Degrees
If low-paying jobs and alternative options do not satisfy psychology students, obtaining an advanced degree is perhaps the best decision. Not only do master’s and doctoral degrees present graduates with the opportunity to earn more money; they also allow them to pursue careers more directly related to psychology.
Those who want to work as clinical or counseling psychologists must obtain doctoral degrees in psychology. After completing their graduate education, psychologists enjoy median annual salaries of $64,140. If graduates are uninterested in counseling, they can also find employment in research and teaching positions at colleges and universities.
If students want to spend less time in graduate school, they may also be interested in pursuing a master’s degree in social work, which will prepare them to work in counseling, case management, and crisis response positions in mental health clinics, social service agencies, hospitals, and non-profit organizations. Estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that social workers can expect to earn $46,220.
While graduate degrees offer students the option to earn more money and pursue their specific interests, they are not the only path available to those interested in psychology. Those with bachelor’s degrees in psychology may be satisfied working with people in sales and managerial positions, or, if they’re open to earning lower wages, they may find success working in entry-level positions more closely related to their degrees.