While psychology might be specific to the study of human behavior, a degree in psychology has far-reaching applications.
In fact, having a background in psychology is excellent preparation for careers in fields that vary from counseling to law, education to computer science.
So, why the broad applicability?
As the American Psychological Association notes, psychology is applicable in any situation in which human functioning is relevant. So, in a very real way, someone with training in this field brings something to the table in corporate settings, social justice, economics, agriculture, marketing – you name it.
What’s more, psychology helps us understand more about ourselves individually and collectively. The study of psychology helps explain behavior in the context of work, leisure, culture, and society. It also informs us as to our behaviors in family relationships, at work, and even helps us identify links between our brains and our behavior.
In other words, the human experience is a broad tapestry – one that is incredibly complex. And psychology is here to help us make sense of it all.
As a result, there is demand for people with training in psychology in all sorts of fields. While many careers in psychology require you to have an advanced degree like a master’s or doctorate, there are still a lot of career options if you have a bachelors degree.
Below is a list of some of the most common bachelors-level career options in psychology and other fields. Be aware that each of these careers offers a different work experience and may also require additional training in the form of certifications or on-the-job experience.
Exploring these short summaries might help you identify which career path is of most interest. While we have included brief explanations of each career, it’s a good idea to conduct further research on the careers that pique your interest.
Career counselors work with people who require assistance in career planning.
In many cases, this takes place at high schools and colleges where counselors inform students about the educational requirements for their career path. For example, if a student is interested in becoming an accountant, a career counselor would gather information about typical education requirements for that career. They might also source information about admissions requirements for accounting programs at nearby colleges and universities.
Typically, high school career counselors will also walk students through the necessary courses they need to take while still in high school to prepare them for studying accounting in college. For example, if a student is a sophomore, a counselor might recommend that the student takes pre-calculus algebra and trigonometry their junior year and then load up on math courses their senior year.
Additionally, career counselors work with students to find financial aid, to prepare them for tests like the ACT or SAT, and might even arrange job shadowing experiences so students can get a better idea of what to expect in different workplaces.
Career counselors also work with adults, specifically professionals that want to make a career change or adults that might need career guidance, like someone that has been released from prison.
When working with adults, career counselors administer career aptitude tests and interest inventories to help match someone’s interests with potential careers. Additionally, career counselors explore their clients’ work experience and educational background in order to get a better idea of what the client might be well-suited for in terms of a new job.
In many cases, career counselors also help their clients prepare for interviews. They might offer assistance in writing a resume or cover letter, role-play interview questions, or arrange networking opportunities for their clients.
Rehabilitation specialists work with clients to help them improve their lives. Usually, this means working with clients that have social, emotional, psychiatric, physical, or behavioral disabilities.
For example, a rehabilitation specialist might work with an adult client with Downs Syndrome on life management skills, like basic cooking, cleaning, and money management. As another example, a rehabilitation specialist might work with an employer to ensure that a developmentally disabled employee is afforded the proper accommodations to complete the duties of their job.
In fact, much of what rehabilitation specialists do is help clients build the necessary skills to live and work as independently as possible. This includes tasks like helping clients fill out job applications, connecting clients with community resources like food banks, and procuring resources like wheelchairs or arranging rides to and from work for clients.
Some rehabilitation specialists work specifically with older adults that have been injured and are in the process of recovering and regaining their independence. In this application, rehabilitation specialists might coordinate medical services, like arranging physical and occupational therapy for their clients. Likewise, they might focus on helping their clients accept the limitations that their injury places on their ability to live independently.
Many rehabilitation specialists work in community organizations, like homeless shelters, veteran’s assistance programs, or domestic violence shelters. Some rehabilitation specialists work in residential treatment centers, drug and alcohol addiction centers, and nursing homes.
Whatever the specific job setting, the overarching goal remains the same – to help counselors, doctors, and other stakeholders develop and carry out a treatment plan that maximizes the client’s ability to care for themselves in a setting that is as independent as possible.
A psychiatric technician provides direct care to patients with a mental illness. While most psychiatric technicians work in mental hospitals or residential care facilities, some work in other areas, like nursing homes and drug addiction centers.
Many of the job duties of this position are fairly run-of-the-mill. For example, there is a lot of paperwork – admissions papers, medical histories, patient assessments, and so forth. But psychiatric techs are also responsible for tasks like administering medications to patients, taking vital signs, and assisting patients with activities of daily living like eating and bathing.
Psychiatric technicians likely have the most contact with patients because they oversee the daily living of patients in their care. This means that in addition to the tasks noted above, psychiatric technicians will lead patients in therapeutic activities and recreational activities. They will often help patients eat or drink at mealtime, clean the patient’s room and change the linens, and monitor each patient’s behavior carefully and note any behavioral changes of significance.
While this can be a very rewarding job, it can also be really stressful. If a patient becomes violent, for example, psychiatric technicians are usually the first to respond. They might have to sedate patients or even restrain them if their behavior endangers their safety or the safety of others.
If you choose this career path, you’ll work as part of a much larger team of professionals whose goal is to provide the utmost care for mentally ill patients. You’ll work closely with medical doctors – including psychiatrists – as well as nurses, social workers, counselors, physical therapists, and many others.
Social Service Specialists
As a social service specialist, you would most likely work for a government agency in the areas of welfare, family services, or child protective services. Usually, this job involves investigating cases of child abuse or neglect. Likewise, social service specialists oversee efforts to place children in safe foster homes, educate parents about proper parenting techniques, and assist people with disabilities with finding the resources they need to live independently.
Additionally, social service specialists often advocate on behalf of their clients and connect them with valuable community resources. For example, when working with a client that is living in poverty, you might provide them with the contact information of a local food bank so they can get free or low-cost food to feed their family.
Another part of this job is to develop treatment plans for clients. Let’s assume that you’re working with a couple that have lost their kids because they were unable to properly care for them. You might work with the parents to identify the greatest areas of need, say, parenting training on appropriate nutrition for children.
Then, you would provide options for that training, either with you or with another agency where the parents could get the education they need to address the topic. Additionally, you might help the parents file for aid like food stamps or SNAP benefits so they have the appropriate food to feed their children.
Once the parents have demonstrated that they are more capable of caring for their children, you might then oversee the return of their kids to the home and schedule periodic site visits to ensure that the children are being well cared for. This is just one example, of course, but it illustrates how deeply involved social service specialists can be in turning the lives of their clients around.
A degree in psychology is beneficial for professionals seeking a career in other industries, as well.
For example, the research skills learned in a psychology program can prepare you for a profession in laboratory research, social research, or writing. The understanding of human behavior can be helpful for careers in marketing, business, advertising or sales.
Many people with a bachelors degree in psychology also go into computer fields like computer programming, user experience design, and web design, or in education, as teaching assistants, paraprofessionals, or guidance counselors.
A degree in this field is also beneficial if you want to work in law enforcement. From patrol officers to detectives, law enforcement workers need to have a good understanding of human behavior, how to read people’s behavior, and how to predict people’s behavior. An understanding of psychology can benefit law enforcement in many ways, from writing detailed reports to postulating about the nature of a crime to simply providing emotional support to victims of crimes.
Advancing Your Education
If you already have a bachelors degree in psychology, you might consider an alternative to entering the workforce – advancing your education.
With a bachelors degree in this field, you can pursue a wide variety of graduate degrees. Naturally, some psychology graduates go into related fields, like school counseling or marriage and family therapy. In these instances, you can likely immediately begin your graduate studies upon being accepted to a program.
In other instances, you might need to fulfill some prerequisites before you can begin a graduate degree. For example, if you decide to pursue a master of social work (MSW), the chances are very good that you’ll need to first take some undergraduate social work courses. Likewise, if you have a bachelors degree in psychology but you want to major in business management, you’ll probably need to take some undergraduate business courses before being admitted to a graduate program.
Many psychology graduates seek advanced degrees in highly specialized areas of psychology as well. For example, you might pursue a graduate degree in biological psychology, comparative psychology, or industrial-organizational psychology. In these instances, you’ll learn a suite of new skills that you can apply in research or professional settings.
For example, in a graduate program in biological psychology, you’ll learn techniques for conducting research, like how to properly observe behavior, record data, take samples, and run statistical analyses. These kinds of skills are much different from those that other psychology graduate programs teach. For instance, a graduate program in school psychology would focus more on learning therapeutic techniques for providing counseling services to kids than it would on technical research skills.
WIth a Degree in Psychology, the Possibilities are Virtually Limitless
Though we’ve provided many examples of what you can do with a bachelors degree in psychology, we’ve only begun to scratch the surface. It is not an exaggeration to say that a degree in psychology can prepare you for hundreds of different types of jobs in dozens of different fields of work.
Whether you are looking for a career in the psychology field or plan to utilize the skills acquired from a psychology program in another job industry, a bachelors degree will open many doors for you as you look to further your career or education. As discussed above, some of these opportunities will be available to you as a graduate with a bachelors degree, but other advanced work opportunities might require additional education.
If you’re interested in learning more about psychology and the career paths that you might take, visit the American Psychological Association for additional guidance.
B.A. Social Studies Education | University of Wyoming
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