Some undergraduate degree programs are like gateways to whole classes of career opportunities.
For example, it is well-known that an English degree may lead, not just to a career either as a novelist starving in a garret or as a university prof, but also to many other writing-related fields, such as journalism, publishing, advertising, and public relations.
Similarly, taking an 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 will certainly be attractive career paths to many students, the bachelor’s in psychology does equip you with a number of other options. There are at least three of these.
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While a psychology degree would certainly stand any classroom teacher in good stead, 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 eduction 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, there is the broader field of counseling psychology, in general, to take into consideration.
This includes, among other areas, marriage counseling, family counseling, and mental health counseling in a variety of institutional settings (workplaces, hospitals, correctional facilities).
In addition to 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.
(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 strife.
The main difference is that social workers, who usually have a master’s degree, typically do these things in a manner which considers the client not just as an individual, but in his or her social setting. For the most part, the clientele they serve are poor 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, go here.)
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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 distinctive of 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!