Welcome to the Psychology Major.
Where the classes are compelling and the career paths unclear!
So, what can you do with a psychology major?
As a former psychology major myself, and current psychology professor, I get asked this question all of the time. I know very well the implications of studying psych: Everyone thinks its super interesting but no one really respects it.
Today I’m here to help you out! In this post, I’m sharing my best advice for “How to be a Psychology Major.”
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My Philosophy for Psychology Majors: Give yourself a chance to fall in love
Here’s my philosophy for psychology majors: Study psychology for the experiences, knowledge, and skills you’ll gain. For the ability to explore what truly interests you and makes you a wiser soul.
By studying psychology, you’ll give yourself the chance to fall in love with a career path. This way, you’re not dispassionately pursuing money while hating your life. You’ll be doing something that feels right for you, makes a difference that you want to make, and uses MANY of the skills that you actually enjoy using. AND makes you solid money. For real.
Everyone wants to hire someone who is passionate about their path. Big companies. Start-ups. Hospitals. Offices. Little organizations. Everyone. On the other hand, people are much less excited about hiring a cog in the machine.
DO NOT study psychology to become an X.
I repeat: DO NOT study psychology to become an X.
Why? Because that’s not the point of higher education. That’s the point of an internship.
If you want to become an engineer, you’ll want to study engineering. But to get an actual respectable engineering job, you’ll also need some concrete experience in the field. What if you want to be a financial analyst, accountant, lawyer? You need EXPERIENCE. More than classes will give you.
This is also true when pursuing a psychology degree.
→ Try this: study psychology to learn what kind of X you want to become.
Recruiters care about your experience. What you have actually DONE. How you THINK. And your SKILLS. Here are just some of the skills you’ll inevitably gain with 4 years of studying psych under your belt!
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All of these are amazing abilities! All of these will give you a big boost in any career path.
To gain these skills, give yourself a chance to fall in love with your career path, and become passionate I recommend the following 6 experiences for every psychology major. No, I demand them. 😉
The 6 Experiences Every Psychology Major Must Have:
1. Work in a Research Lab
Working in a research lab gives you a full understanding of how research happens. I mean, how to come up with a study idea, plan the method, make materials, collect data, analyze data, and present your findings. You gain real experiences that you can put on your resume. You learn whether research is for you! Often, working in a lab can count as course credit. Peruse your department’s faculty page to see what each lab investigates. They’ll have contact info on there about working in the lab!
2. Gain direct Mental Health Services experience
So you want to work with people! But do you actually? Find out early. In psych you can learn first-hand what its like to work with real humans before sinking years into a doctorate (like in some other fields…). Try working in a mental health inpatient unit, clinician’s office, or outreach center. Ask the Clinical Psychologists in your department for their recommendations on where to get some experience. I promise you won’t be the first to ask. 🙂
3. Take Abnormal Psychology
This is a highly beloved class for a reason: IT IS JUST SO COOL. Here you learn the deets about schizophrenia, depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, personality disorders, bipolar disorder, and much more. Learn to diagnose your roommate! Learn what OCD actually means! See the weirdest new treatment techniques! This class is a MUST and honestly so fun.
4. Study Cognitive Science
Trust me, when people hear you’re a psychology major, they’re going to want to know if you can read their mind. (People are stupid.) This is a pretty close second tho. Take Cognition, Cognitive Psychology, or Cognitive Science and you’ll learn how people make decisions, think, remember, forget, pay attention, stay awake, process information, read, and learn. It is so amazing how much we know. You’ll be seriously upgrading yourself by learning the details of how your brain works. Trust me.
5. Do Statistics
Omg is statistics math??? I chose psychology so I’d never need to take math again! I don’t wanna do this!
Listen, I felt the same way. Then I actually took stats. So please understand that I come from a place of love when I say: SHUT UP AND TAKE STATISTICS.
It is not math. It is learning how to evaluate whether a claim is true, when that claim is made with numbers. And It is actually pretty intuitive. You’ll be great at it. And then you’ll understand what results actually mean. It is SO worth it to know if someone is making stuff up by jamming random stats into their claim. So buy yourself a nice notebook and go to stats. You got this. 🙂
6. Take Social Psychology
Ah, the class outsiders think is all we do in psychology! Social Psychology is an excellent class and has so many things to fall in love with (hint: major place for career inspiration!). Be sure not to miss your chance to learn about love, helping, teamwork, conformity, holocaust experiments, and a huge range of weird things people do in groups.
I hope my words of advice inspire you to pursue psychology with an attitude of exploration! When you’re a Psychology Major, you’re investing in yourself. Now that’s the kind of person I want to hire. 🙂
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