A psychology bachelor’s degree is one of those undergraduate degrees that opens up a vast array of career opportunities.
For example, it’s well-known that an English degree may lead not just to such cool careers like being a novelist or university professor, but also to careers in many writing-related fields, such as journalism, publishing, advertising, and public relations.
Similarly, taking a bachelor’s degree in psychology does not automatically mean choosing between becoming a Ph.D.–level clinical practitioner, on the one hand, or a college professor, on the other.
Though these can seem like attractive career paths to many students (and obviously require a lot more study than merely a bachelor’s degree), the bachelor’s in psychology does equip you for a number of other options. We’ll consider here three such options.
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While a psychology degree would certainly help any classroom teacher in handling students, there are a number of job categories in the field of education that draw on psychological expertise more directly.
The most obvious one, of course, is student assessment and counseling. In this field, specialization in the needs of particular subpopulations, such as gifted students or those with learning disabilities, will often be required.
Other jobs for psychologists in the field of education include academic and career advising, curriculum planning, test design, and educational technology development.
For anyone with an interest in both psychology and children, this field is a natural.
In addition to the specific area of student counseling, it’s worth considering the broader field of counseling psychology.
This includes, among other areas, marriage counseling, family counseling, and mental health counseling in a variety of institutional settings (workplaces, hospitals, correctional facilities).
Besides these relatively well-known kinds of counseling, psychologists may also work in fields as diverse as career development and counseling, corporate supervision and training, and health maintenance and disease prevention.
NOTE: A psychology bachelor’s degree is usually not enough to put up a shingle and announce to the world that you are a counseling psychologist taking clients. For that you’ll usually need at least a master’s degree. Nonetheless, a psych bachelor’s degree is often the perfect springboard to such further studies and credentials.
(For more information on substance abuse counseling, go here.)
Related to, but distinct from, counseling psychology is the field known as social work.
Like counseling psychologists, social workers may help individuals and families to overcome problems related to alcohol and drug addiction, joblessness, illness, disability, physical and mental abuse, and all sorts of marital and family difficulties.
The main difference is that social workers, who usually have a master’s degree, typically do these things in a way that considers the client not just as an individual, but in his or her social setting. For the most part, the clients they serve are poorer and considered to be at higher risk for all of these problems than the general population.
Therefore, the main difference between counseling psychology and social work is the public dimension of the latter. Social workers must function as an interface between at-risk populations and local, state, and federal governmental agencies. Often, they may be employed directly by government, but they are also in demand by hospitals, nursing homes, and private clinical practices.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor (see here), demand for social workers is projected to grow at a greater-than-average rate in the years ahead.
For more information on social work, check out:
- The 10 Best Online Bachelor of Social Work Degree Programs
- The 30 Best Bachelor in Social Work Degree Programs
- The 25 Best Master of Social Work (MSW) Online Degree Programs
- MSW Programs: The 25 Best Master of Social Work Programs
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In addition to these traditional careers for psychology majors, it is definitely worth mentioning that the sort of training that is specific to a bachelor’s degree in psychology—a combination of rigorous quantitative and sensitive interpretative skills—is also excellent preparation for either medical school or law school.
Many a doctor and many a lawyer started out life as a psych major!