The Occupational Outlook Handbook is a wonderful source of information for undergraduates that provides them with valuable information about their occupational choices. The information in this section is taken verbatim from the psychology section the 1994-95 edition of this publication.
Psychologists study human behavior and mental processes to describe, understand, predict, and change people's behavior. They may study the way a person thinks, feels, or behaves. Research psychologists investigate the physical, cognitive, emotional, or social aspects of human behavior. Psychologists in applied fields counsel and conduct training programs; do market research; apply psychological treatments to a variety of medical and surgical conditions; or provide mental health services in hospitals, clinics, or private settings.
Like other social scientists, psychologists formulate hypotheses and collect data to test their validity. Research methods depend on the topic under study. Psychologists may gather information through controlled laboratory experiments; personality, performance, aptitude, and intelligence tests; observation, interviews, and questionnaires; clinical studies; or surveys. Computers are widely used to record and analyze this information.
Since psychology deals with human behavior, psychologists apply their knowledge and techniques to a wide range of endeavors including human services, management, education, law, and sports. In addition to the variety of work settings, psychologists specialize in many different areas. Clinical psychologists, who constitute the largest specialty, generally work in independent or group practice or in hospitals or clinics. They may help the mentally or emotionally disturbed adjust to life and are increasingly helping all kinds of medical and surgical patients deal with their illnesses or injuries. They may work in physical medicine and rehabilitation settings, treating patients with spinal cord injuries, chronic pain or illness, stroke and arthritis and neurologic conditions, such as multiple sclerosis. Others help people deal with life stresses such as divorce or aging. Clinical psychologists interview patients; give diagnostic tests; provide individual, family, and group psychotherapy; and design and implement behavior modification programs. They may collaborate with physicians and other specialists in developing treatment programs and help patients understand and comply with the prescribed treatment. Some clinical psychologists work in universities, where they train graduate students in the delivery of mental health and behavioral medicine services. Others administer community mental health programs. Counseling psychologists use several techniques, including interviewing and testing, to advise people on how to deal with problems of everyday living-personal, social, educational, or vocational.
Developmental psychologists study the patterns and causes of behavioral change as people progress through life from infancy to adulthood. Some concern themselves with behavior during infancy, childhood, and adolescence, while others study changes that take place during maturity and old age. The study of developmental disabilities and how they affect a person and others is a new area within developmental psychology. Educational psychologists evaluate student and teacher needs, and design and develop programs to enhance the educational setting. Experimental psychologists study behavior processes and work with human beings and animals such as rats, monkeys, and pigeons. Prominent areas of experimental research include motivation, thinking, attention, learning and retention , sensory and perceptual processes, effects of substance use and abuse, and genetic and neurological factors in behavior.
Industrial and organizational psychologists apply psychological techniques to personnel administration, management, and marketing problems. They are involved in policy planning, applicant screening, training and development, psychological test research, counseling, and organizational development and analysis. For example, an industrial psychologist may work with management to develop better training programs and to reorganize the work setting to improve worker productivity or quality of worklife. School psychologists examine people's interactions with others and with the social environment. Prominent areas of study include group behavior, leadership, attitudes and interpersonal perception.
Some relatively new specialties include cognitive psychology, health psychology, neuropsychology, and geropsychology. Cognitive psychologists deal with the brain's role in memory, thinking, and perceptions; some are involved with research related to computer programming and artificial intelligence. Health psychologists promote good health through health maintenance counseling programs that are designed, for example, to help people stop smoking or lose weight. Neuropsychologists study the relation between the brain and behavior. They often work in stroke and head injury programs. Geropsychologists deal with the special problems faced by the elderly. The emergence and growth of these specialties reflects the increasing participation of psychologists in providing direct services to special patient populations.
Other areas of specialization include psychometrics, psychology and the arts, history of psychology, psychopharmacology, and community, comparative, consumer, engineering, environmental, family, forensic, population, military, and rehabilitation psychology.
Employment of psychologists is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2005. Largely because of the substantial investment in training required to enter this specialized field, psychologists have a strong attachment to their occupation; only a relatively small proportion leave the profession each year. Nevertheless, replacement needs are expected to account for most job openings, similar to most occupations.
Programs to combat the increase in alcohol abuse, drug dependency, marital strife, family-violence crime, and other problems plaguing society should stimulate employment growth. Other factors spurring demand for psychologists include increased emphasis on mental health maintenance in conjunction with the treatment of physical illness; public concern for the development of human resources, including the growing elderly population; increased testing and counseling of children; and more interest in rehabilitation of prisoners. Changes in the level of government funding for these kinds of services could affect the demand for psychologists. The outlook for geropsychologists, psychologists who work treating the elderly, seems to be an area that is growing at a rapid pace. As the population in the United States continues to age it is likely that the demand for psychologists will continue to grow.
Job opportunities in health care should remain strong, particularly in health care provided networks, such as health maintenance and preferred provider organizations, that specialize in mental health, and in nursing homes and alcohol and drug abuse rehabilitation programs. Job opportunities will arise in businesses, nonprofit organizations, and research and computer firms. Companies will use psychologists' expertise in survey design, analysis, and research to provide personnel testing, program evaluation, and statistical analysis. The increase in employee assistance programs, in which psychologists help people stop smoking, control weight, or alter other behaviors, also should spur job growth. The expected wave of retirement among college faculty, beginning in the late 1990's, should results in job openings for psychologists in colleges and universities.
Other openings are likely to occur as psychologists study the effectiveness of changes in health, education, military, law enforcement, and consumer protection programs. Psychologists are also increasingly studying the effects on people of technological advances in areas such as agriculture, energy, the conservation and use of natural resources, and industrial and office automation.
Opportunities are best for candidates with a doctoral degree. Persons holding doctorates from leading universities in applied areas such as school, clinical, counseling, health, industrial, and educational psychology should have particularly good prospects. Psychologists with extensive training in quantitative research methods and computer science may have a competitive edge over applicants without this background.
Graduates with a master's degree in psychology may encounter competition for the limited number of jobs for which they qualify. Graduates of master's degree programs in school psychology should have the best job prospects, as schools are expected to increase student counseling and mental health services. Some master's degree holders may find jobs as psychological assistants in community mental health centers; these positions often require direct supervision by a licensed psychologist. Others may find jobs involving research and data collection and analysis in universities, government, or private companies.
Bachelor's degree holders can expect very few opportunities directly related to psychology. Some may find jobs as assistants in rehabilitation centers or in other jobs involving data collection and analysis. Those who meet state certification requirements may become high school psychology teachers.
According to a 1991 survey by the American Psychological Association, the median annual-salary of psychologists with a doctoral degree was $48,000 in counseling psychology, $50,000 in research positions, $53,000 in clinical psychology, $55,000 in school psychology, and $76,000 in industrial/organizational psychology. In university psychology departments, median annual salaries ranged from $32,000 for assistant professors to $55,000 for full professors. The median annual salary of master's degree holders was $35,000 for faculty, $37,000 in counseling psychology, $40,000 in clinical psychology, $48,000 in research positions, $50,000 in industrial/organizational psychology, and $52,000 in school psychology. Some psychologist have much higher earning, particularly those in private practice.
The federal government recognizes education and experience in certifying applicants for entry level positions. In general, the average starting salary for psychologists having a bachelor's degree was about $18,300 a year in 1993; those with superior academic records could begin at $22,800. Clinical psychologists having a Ph.D. or Psy.D degree and 1 year of internship could start at $33,600; some individual could start at $40,300. The average salary for psychologists in the federal government in nonsupervisory, supervisory, and managerial positions was about $54,400 a year in 1993.
A simple response to the question, "What can I do with a major in psychology?" might be, "just about anything that involves working with people." Another approach would be to list all of the occupations that psychology majors have successfully pursued. Neither of these approaches by itself, however, helps YOU to make career decisions. The purpose of this section is not only to provide you with some information about potential employment opportunities after completing your psychology degree, but also to make some suggestions about how to handle occupational decisions and successfully land that first job.
Let us begin with some important facts. The undergraduate major in psychology is a liberal arts degree, not a professional degree. It does not make you a psychologist or a professional counselor. These occupations require specific training at the graduate level and are regulated by state law. If such occupations interest you, be prepared to continue your education in graduate school.
While some occupations in psychology require graduate training, there are many interesting and rewarding career opportunities available to individuals with a bachelors degree in psychology. Your selection of an appropriate occupation, however, requires some self-analysis and research. Ultimately, successful employment depends on your efforts to (1) make informed decisions about your career, (2) learn about prospective occupations, (3) acquire appropriate knowledge, skills, and characteristics for such occupations, and (4) learn how to conduct a well-planned job search. This section will address each of these four points.<
An occupational choice can be one of the most difficult decisions a person makes, with consequences for both life satisfaction and life style. Unfortunately, many students approach this decision in a haphazard and informal manner; they neither explore potential occupations systematically nor prepare themselves adequately to successfully obtain a particular job. In fact, many students simply do not worry about careers until their senior year, when they discover that they lack courses or have failed to develop necessary skills for occupations that interest them.
Successful career planning requires careful and objective self-assessment, a realistic understanding of your aptitudes and skills, an awareness of responsibilities associated with potential employment settings, careful selection of experiences designed to develop marketable skills and knowledge, and an action plan for conducting a successful job search. The following sections are designed to give you some guidance in each area.
Surveys of employers and psychology graduates indicate that the jobs obtained by psychology majors with a bachelors degree are most often in social service and business settings, such as:
An excellent resource for learning about various occupations is the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OH), which is published every two years by the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics. This book is a comprehensive guide to occupations. It includes job descriptions, education and training requirements, advancement possibilities, salaries, and employment outlooks for 250 occupations. Go to the index at the back of the books and look up the page references for the occupations you are interested in pursuing. Note the titles of related jobs listed at the end of each occupational description, find these job titles in the index, and then read about them. Reading the OH can provide you with a wealth of information about a wide range of jobs in a short time with relatively little expenditure of effort.
You may also want to do some research on starting salaries for occupations that interest you. The CSO has survey data on salaries organized by type of degree and occupation which is updated regularly.
Part of knowing and marketing yourself involves a clear understanding of the specific knowledge, skills, and characteristics (KSCs) valued by employers and obtained through completing the bachelors degree in psychology. Numerous studies have documented the KSCs employers look for in prospective employees, and they are summarized in the following lists. Psychology courses that emphasize specific skills or types of knowledge are indicated in parentheses. It is important that you develop and communicate your proficiency in these KSCs to be successful on the job market.
- How attitudes and opinions are formed and changed (Social Psychology)
- Principles and techniques of personnel selection and organizational development (Industrial Psychology)
- How people think, solve problems and process information (Human Information Processing)
- Structure and dynamics of small groups (Social Psychology)
- Effects of the environment on people's feelings and actions (Psychology of Motivation)
- Principles of human learning and memory (Psychology of Learning)
- Identifies and solves problems based upon a knowledge of research methodology and understanding of human behavior (General Psychology and Experimental Methods in Psychology)
- Performs statistical analyses (Statistical Methods)
- Designs and conducts research projects (Directed Research in Psychology)
- Selects, administers, and interprets psychological tests (Psychological Tests and Measurement)
- Gathers and organizes information from multiple sources (Senior Seminar)
- Works productively as a member of a team (History and Systems of Psychology)
- Plans and carries out projects successfully (Independent Study)
- Ability to manage stress (Stress Management)
- Conducts interviews (Clinical Psychology)
- Writes proposals and reports (any psychology class that requires a paper)
- Speaks articulately and persuasively (any psychology class that requires an oral presentation)
- Satisfactory grades
- Strong communication and interpersonal skills
- Outgoing personality
- Ability to present oneself in a positive manner
- Relevant previous employment
- Problem solving abilities
- High energy level
As you can see, many of the skills listed above are important components of the psychology curriculum. In fact, the core of courses that all psychology majors take emphasizes skill development in all of these areas. When it comes to content areas in psychology, however, it is important to carefully select courses that best match your potential career.
Another important, yet often overlooked, aspect of skill and knowledge development is your selection of elective courses. For example, many graduates with a bachelors degree in psychology are employed in business settings. Therefore, it would be wise to consider taking some business courses. Courses offered by other departments can be essential in obtaining job skills and knowledge for your future occupation as well. These courses can be used as electives or applied to a minor. Once you have narrowed down your potential employment settings, you should meet with your advisor to discuss the best selection of courses to help you obtain your career objective.
Potential employers also value some practical experience. There are several options to obtain this experience. One strategy is to seek part-time or full-time jobs related to your desired employment setting. You may also want to consider obtaining cooperative education credit by enrolling in PSY 475 Service Practicum in Psychology, which combines an individual's on-site practical experience with individual meetings in which the practicum experience is discussed with the supervising faculty member. Enrollment in this course requires sophomore status and a cumulative GPA of 2.50 and a Psy GPA of 3.0. Active involvement in leadership positions in student organizations (e.g., Psychology Newsletter and Psi Chi) can also provide you with practical experience in developing, organizing, and running service programs.
- Schedule a meeting with your undergraduate advisor to discuss your career interests and options. This meeting should not simply focus on what courses to take during the next semester.
- Begin to consider various careers. Investigate employment opportunities with a bachelors degree in psychology using resources available from your advisor and the GSU Career Development Center. Realize that some careers require graduate training either at the entry level or for eventual advancement.
- Begin a self-assessment process focusing on your interests, strengths, skills, and values. How well do they match your preliminary career goals?.
- Complete your self-assessment process. Compile a list of your interests, strengths (academic and personal), skills, and knowledge. Use this list to help focus your career choice.
- Continue the process of narrowing down your specific interests in the field of psychology and consider the type of employment you wish. Use the results of your self-assessment and on-campus resources (e.g., GSU Career Development Center) to identify career options. You should focus your career choice by the end of your sophomore year so that you have time to take the appropriate preparatory course work.
- Finish up the majority of your general education requirements, and begin you work your way through more of your psychology requirements.
- Meet with your academic advisor to discuss your progress toward degree completion and your career plans and options. You should discuss upper level course offerings in psychology that will best prepare you for your career.
- Begin to prepare a resume if you have not already done so.
- Re-evaluate your career choice. Are you still on the right track?
- Make plans to obtain relevant experience outside the classroom before the end of your senior year (e.g., volunteer work, Co-op in Psychology, or a directed study involving independent research).
- Meet with your academic advisor to discuss your progress toward degree completion and your career plans and options. Review your course selections for the major field in psychology and your minor, if you have one.
- Contact people in the profession you are seeking to enter, and conduct some "information interviews" to learn more about career options.
An education in psychology prepares individuals for a remarkable range of employment opportunities. According to Wise (1987), psychologists are employed in the five following major roles, but it is important to realize that many psychologists perform in more than one of these roles (e.g., the college teacher who counsels students, performs research, consults with other teachers to improve their testing procedures, and acts as the chairman of the department). The career paths that psychologists take are dependent upon their levels of education and their areas of interest.
- Teaching. Psychologists teach in two- and four-year colleges, and universities.
- Research. Psychologists are employed by universities, government agencies, the military, and businesses to conduct basic and applied studies of human behavior.
- Providing Services. Psychologists work with people of all ages and backgrounds who are coping with every imaginable kind of problem, by assessing their needs and providing appropriate treatment.
- Administration. Psychologists work as managers in hospitals, mental health clinics, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, schools, universities, and businesses.
- Consulting. Psychologists with expertise in a variety of areas are hired by organizations to provide consultative services on subject or problem in the consultant is an expert. These services can include designing a marketing survey and organizing outpatient mental health services" (p. 10).
With a few exceptions, preparation for these careers requires education beyond the undergraduate level or a significant amount of relevant experience. It is also important to realize that it is illegal in Indiana for people to use the term "psychologist" to describe themselves if they have not been certified by the Indiana State Board of Examiners in Psychology. This certification process requires a doctoral degree, a period of supervised practice, an interview with two of the board's members, and successfully passing a standardized test.
The psychology department provides its students with both a well-rounded education and the opportunity to explore specific areas of psychology in which they have special interests. Graduate education is a process of further refinement during which students become increasingly more proficient in and knowledgeable of an area of psychological specialization. The following description of 15 of these areas (from APA's Careers in Psychology booklet) will serve as an introduction for students who are pursuing careers that require graduate education in a specialized area of psychology.
- Clinical Psychology.Clinical psychologists assess and treat people with psychological problems. They may act as therapists for people experiencing normal psychological crises (e.g., grief) or for individuals suffering from chronic psychiatric disorders. Some clinical psychologists are generalists who work with a wide variety of populations, while others work with specific groups like children, the elderly, or those with specific disorders (e.g., schizophrenia). They may be found in hospitals, community health centers, or private practice.
- Community Psychology. Community psychology is an area of psychology that aims to apply psychology toward improving the well-being of human groups. An ecological perspective, a prevention orientation, and an appreciation of diversity characterize community psychology.
- Counseling Psychology. Counseling psychologists do many of the same things that clinical psychologists do. However, counselingy psychologists tend to focus more on persons with adjustment problems, rather than on persons suffering from severe psychological disorders. Counseling psychologists are employed in academic settings, community mental health centers, and private practice. Recent research tends to indicate that training in counseling and clinical psychology are very similar.
- Developmental Psychology. Developmental psychologists study how we develop intellectually, socially, emotionally, and morally during our lifespan. Some focus on just one period of life (e.g., childhood or adolescence). Developmental psychologists usually do research and teach in academic settings, but many act as consultants to day-care centers, schools, or social service agencies.
- Experimental Psychology.This area of specialization includes a diverse group of psychologists who do research in the most basic areas of psychology (e.g., learning, memory, attention, cognition, sensation, perception, motivation, and language). Sometimes their research in conducted with animals instead of humans. Most of these psychologists are faculty members at colleges and universities.
- Educational Psychology. Educational psychologists are concerned with the study of human learning. They attempt to understand the basic aspects of learning and then develop materials and strategies for enhancing the learning process. For example, an educational psychologist might study reading and develop a new technique for teaching reading from the results of the research.
- Neuropsychologists: Neuropsychologists and clinical neuropsychologists study the relation between brain and behavior. They frequently work in hospitals with stroke and head injury programs or with people who are learning disabled.
- Social Psychology: Social psychologists study how our beliefs, feelings, and behaviors are affected by other persons. Some of the topics of interest to social psychologist are attitudes, aggression, prejudice, love and interpersonal attraction. Most social psychologists are on the faculty of colleges and universities, but an increasing number are being hired by hospitals, federal agencies, and businesses to perform applied research.
- School Psychology: School psychologists are involved in the development of children in educational settings. They are typically involved in the assessment of children and recommendation of actions to facilitate students' learning. They often act as consultants to parents and administrators to optimize the learning environments of specific students.
- Industrial/Organizational Psychology: Industrial/Organizational (I/O) psychologists are primarily concerned with the relationships between people and their work environments. They may develop new ways to increase productivity or be involved in personnel selection. You can find I/O psychologists in business, industry, government agencies, and colleges and universities. I/O psychologists are probable the most highly paid psychologists.
- Physiological Psychology: Physiological psychology is one of psychology's hottest areas because of the recent dramatic increase in interest in the physiological correlates of behavior. These psychologists study both very basic processes (e.g., how brain cells function) and more observable phenomena (e.g., behavior change as a function of drug use or the biological/genetic roots of psychiatric disorders). Some physiological psychologists continue their education in clinical areas and work with people who have neurological problems.
- Environmental Psychology: Environmental psychologists are concerned with the relations between psychological processes and physical environments ranging from homes and offices to urban areas and regions. Environmental psychologists may do research on attitudes toward different environments, personal space, or the effects on productivity of different office designs.
- Health Psychology: Health psychologists are concerned with psychology's contributions to the promotion and maintenance of good health and the prevention and treatment of illness. They design and conduct programs to help individuals stop smoking, lose weight, manage stress, prevent cavities, or stay physically fit. They are employed in hospitals, medical schools, rehabilitation centers, public health agencies, and in private practice.
- Family Psychology: Family psychologists are concerned with the prevention of family conflict, the treatment of marital and family problems, and the maintenance of normal family functioning. They design and conduct programs for marital enrichment, pre-marital preparation, and improved parent-child relations. They also conduct research on topics such as child abuse, family communications patterns, and the effects of divorce and remarriage. Family psychologists are often employed in medical schools, hospitals, community agencies, and in private practice.
- Rehabilitation Psychology: Rehabilitation psychologists work with people who have suffered physical deprivation or loss at birth or during later development as a result of damage or deterioration of function (e.g., resulting from a stroke). They help people overcome both the psychological and situational barriers to effective functioning in the world. Rehabilitation psychologists work in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, medical schools, and in government rehabilitation agencies.
- Psychometrics and Quantitative Psychology: Psychometric and quantitative psychologists are concerned with the methods and techniques used to acquire and apply psychological knowledge. A psychometrist revises old intelligence, personality, and aptitude tests and devises new ones. Quantitative psychologist assist researchers in psychology or other fields to design experiments or interpret their results. Psychometrists and quantitative psychologists are often employed in colleges and universities, testing companies, private research firms, and government agencies.
- Psychology and the Law and Forensic Psychology: Psychology and the law studies legal issues from a psychological perspective (e.g., how juries decide cases) and psychological questions in a legal context (e.g., how jurors assign blame or responsibility for a crime). Forensic psychologists are concerned with the applied and clinical facets of the law such as determining a defendant's competence to stand trial or if an accident victim has suffered physical or neurological damage. Jobs in these areas are in law schools, research organizations, community mental health agencies, and correctional institutions.
American Psychological Association. (1986). Careers in psychology. Washington, DC: Author.
A 30-page booklet designed to answer the typical questions that APA receives from students who want to know how to become a psychologist and/or what psychologists do. Contains a broad survey of different areas of psychology and various career possibilities within those areas. Presents students with a no-nonsense account of differing career opportunities with various degrees and, thus, may be helpful in making decisions about graduate school. Salary data are quite old and need updating. (New edition due out in Spring, 1996)
American Psychological Association. (1996). Graduate study in psychology. Washington, DC: Author.
The standard reference book for students applying to graduate school. Provides a wealth of information concerning each graduate program in the US and Canada. Students should use it to make educated selections of programs to which they will apply. Most helpful to juniors and seniors.
Keith-Speigel, K. (1991). The complete guide to graduate school admission: Psychology and related fields. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
A great addition to the literature on getting into graduate school. Crammed full of advice for students who are applying, or thinking about applying, to graduate programs. Much of the advice is backed by data from surveys of faculty.
Sayett, M. A., Mayne, T. J., & Norcross, J. C. (1992). Insider's guide to graduate programs in clinical psychology. New York: Guilford.
A useful supplement to Keith-Speigel's book or to Getting In because you will advise so many students who want to go to a clinical graduate program. About half the book is composed of reports on individual programs (similar to Graduate Study in Psychology's listings).
Descutner, C. J., & Thelen, M. H. (1989). Graduate student and faculty perspectives about graduate school. Teaching of Psychology, 16, 58-61.
Students and faculty in nine clinical programs agreed about items that describe a successful clinical graduate student: working hard, clinical/counseling skills, and getting along with people. Students placed greater emphasis on handling stress than did faculty. The authors conclude that students seem to know the factors that are important for success before entering graduate school. They thus recommend that graduate orientation programs should concentrate on assisting students to deal with stress and to feel more control over their environments.
Lawson, T. J. (1995). An adviser update: Gaining admission into graduate programs in psychology. Teaching of Psychology, 22, 225-227.
Provides an update of Smith's (1985) course preference and nonobjective criteria data gleaned from Graduate Study in Psychology (1993). Also gives GRE scores and GPA's of students accepted for graduate study.
Mayne, T. J., Norcross, J. C., & Sayette, M. A. (1994). Admission requirements, acceptance rates, and financial assistance in clinical psychology programs: Diversity across the practice-research continuum. American Psychologist, 49, 806-811.
Provides interesting data to compare PsyD, practice-oriented Ph.D., equal-emphases Ph.D., and research-oriented Ph.D. clinical programs.