Tips for a Psychology-Related Career

female student sitting and working on computer

Looking For a Career in Psychology--Preparation is the Key!

Sadly, I see a lot of Psychology majors (often in their junior and senior years) totally unprepared for a career after college. These students are not just unsure about getting a Masters or PhD degree--these students have done little to nothing with regard to career planning. This is a major mistake that, as you can imagine, leads to a great deal of anxiety and frustration.

What should these individuals be doing? Clearly, they need to get off their butt and be an active participant in their career planning. There are always people who can help them out (e.g., professors , career counselor)s, but they need to do a number of things on their own by navigating a series of steps. Note that these steps are not set in a particular oreder, and overlap in certain ways. 

1) It is important to take certain courses. Consider courses that go well beyond typical psychology courses and that will group together based on your career direction. Interested in mental health--take a courses like Personality, Abnormal Psychology and Child Psychopathology. Interested in law--take courses like Forensic Psychology and other law-related courses in other majors (e.g., Political Science, Criminology). Also, if  you plan on going to graduate school or professional school, selection committees like to see that you took challenging courses (e.g., STEM courses).

‚Äč2) Whether you are applying to graduate school or a job, selection committees want to see good grades, and are more likely to pick the person with the higher grades. Keep in mind that there are several ways to look at grades such as grades in certain courses, overall GPA, and Psychology GPA. With regard to grades, it is my opinion that getting a C or below in a course should lead to your repeating the course for a an A or B.

3) College involves more than just going to class. You should get involved in ways that show your motivation and interest in Psychology outside of class. For example, get involved in research. I know you might say you aren't interested in research. But keep in mind that you can't do therapy as an undergraduate, getting involved in research you are motivated and interested in Psychology, it is important to remember that psychology is a research science, and by jining a lab you get to know a faculty member who can ultimately write you a strong letter of recommendation.

4) Do your best to develop critical thinking skills. Try your best todevelop skills in computers, writing, and oral communication. These skills are important to have regardless of your specific career plans.

lwritten with chalk, success, go get it5) Visit the Career Center. Almost every college has a Career Center. You should take the time to talk to the professional staff at the Career Center because they can help you iwith many things--resume, cover letter, personal statements, etc. In addition, Career Centers usually have a lot of free resources including internship and job openings.
 
6) Use the Internet to get information. The amount of information about careers that is on the Internet is amazing. You can (a) check out online career sites, such as my own site, scoutiescareersinpsychology.org; (b) read through government sites that give a lot of information on various career paths (e.g., Bureau of Labor Statistics); (c) investigate graduate/professional programs across the country; and (d) help yourself prepare for entrance exams (GRE, LSAT, MCAT, etc.). Keep in mind that checking out the Internet for career information is not a task you complete in a few hours. It will require a lot of time and effort.

7) Interact with your superiors--a Professor at college or your Boss at work You will need the support of your superiors to move forward with your career. To actually gain this support will require your superiors to know you so start interacting with your superiors. For example, you might visit your professor during office hours and have a conversation about issues in their field of study. Yes, it will likely be a bit tough talking to a superior, but it is really important to do this. 

Please note that the comments of Dr. Golding and the others who post on this blog express their own opinion and not that of the University of Kentucky.

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