Careers in Psychology

The thought of having to seek a job immediately after graduation is a daunting one for many psychology majors. This concern is compounded by the realization that you are not job seeking as much as you are career seeking. Roommates and friends, particularly if they have selected a major that teaches a particular career skill such as nursing, accounting or computer science may have contributed to your anxiety by asking you, “what can you do with a psychology degree?” The inevitable questions from parents and relatives about your plans after graduation have no doubt reinforced the urgency of the career selection process.

A better question for your friend or relative to have asked you is “what kind of job can’t you get with an undergraduate degree in psychology?” Except for a few highly specialized areas, the job market is wide open for you. The knowledge that you have acquired about motivation, human social behavior, learning, human development, testing and abnormal behavior has a good deal of attraction to a multitude of potential employers. Surveys of our recent graduates indicate that they work in a wide diversity of areas. As you would expect, a large number are employed in human services and health related fields as educators, social caseworkers, police and mental health workers.

A significant number of former majors are also employed in business and the corporate world. These individuals work as administrators, managers, marketing researchers and sales representatives. A number of our graduates work for local, regional, and national government agencies including several who are FBI agents. Other graduates have demonstrated the diversity of jobs available to psychology majors by becoming journalists, actors and TV personalities.

Not only have our majors benefited from the economy of the past several years, but since the mid-1980s business, industry and government have also opened many new jobs to psychology majors. Jobs that once would go solely to business or management majors are now available to someone with a BA or BS in psychology. These companies have come to appreciate the extra training that you have received in cultural awareness, the humanities, statistics, and the social sciences. They reason (correctly) that they can train a psychology major just as easily as they can train someone from a more specialized background. In fact, you may be pleasantly surprised by the diversity in jobs available to undergraduate majors in psychology. There’s an excellent employment opportunity waiting for you out there – go get it!

Graduate School Options

Should you go to graduate school in psychology? In order for you to continue with a career in psychology beyond the supervised research or human services assistant level, graduate study is a must. Graduate programs offer different degrees: Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MS), Master of Education (M.Ed.), Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), Doctor of Psychology (PsyD), and Doctor of Education (EdD). The American Psychological Association (APA) recognizes the master’s degree (MA, MS, or M.Ed.) as the appropriate degree for supervised delivery of psychological services, but for independent practice the doctorate (Ph.D., PsyD, or EdD) is essential.

The Department of Psychology at Clemson University has been pleased to learn that most of its students do well in graduate school and seem better prepared for graduate training than many other students. So if you are intelligent, persistent, and are willing to work hard, graduate school and the career in psychology to which it leads just may be for you.