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Graduate School and Job Advice

Jobs in Psychology

Before we discuss jobs in psychology, let me tell you why I am qualified to talk about the topic. I'm not affiliated with any career center, but I did work for five years before I went to graduate school (not that graduate school isn’t work, but you get the idea).

First, the good news: you have a marketable degree. But much more important than that, you have marketable skills. What skills? All kinds of job-critical skills (trust me, I’m an industrial-organizational psychologist). Where did you get these skills? Largely in your psychology classes. To give just a few examples:

  • Analytical skills (Psych 3090 & 3100)
  • People skills (all of your 3000/4000 classes)
  • Written and oral communication skills (Psych 3100, et al.)
  • Teamwork skills (CI groups, Psych 4970, et al.)

In fact, you should do a little self-audit. Think back (or better yet, look at your notes) for every class you’ve taken at Clemson - then write yourself a list of the skills that you had to use in those classes and the knowledge (and new skills and abilities) that you learned in those classes. See - you have a LOT to offer a potential employer!

Here’s the bad news: you’re going to have to work much harder to find a job than engineering or accounting graduates (but not as hard as philosophy or English majors). Unfortunately, you are rarely going to visit a find-a-job site or look in the job ads and find see "wanted: B.S. or B.A. in Psychology."

So what do you do?

Rule #1 – Don’t be functionally fixated on the word “psychology” either in your job search or when you talk to employers.

Most people think that actually means clinical psychology. Employers almost all think this, but you should know better. Our career center  is very good at helping you analyze and list your skills (Hint: ask them to help you develop a “functional” resume). 

Rule #2 – Treat your job hunt as a Psych 3100 project (because that’s pretty much what it is).  

In other words, you are going to have to do lots of library and online research about your research question (in this case, “what jobs are out there?”). You’re going to have to come up with a methods section (“how am I going to find these jobs and how am I going to get my résumé to those employers?”). You’re going to have to “run” your study - actually get out and implement your job search. You’re going to have to present your results, i.e. present your skills to potential employers (both visually, in your resume, and in person, in job interviews). So those skills you practiced in Psych 3100 will serve you well here too.

Rule # 3 - Be creative and wide-ranging when looking for places that might have a job for you.

Often a good start is to research businesses and industries in which you’re interested in their product or service. {And by the way, don’t forget non-profit organizations like charities, government agencies, etc.} Here's an interesting link to a list of the top 10 areas in which folks with a Bachelor's degree in Psychology have gotten jobs:

A couple of notes about that'll notice that most of those require SOME technical knowledge besides psychology (business, human resources, health, social work, education, etc.)  So it might be a good idea to shop for a minor (since you have to get one anyway) that bolsters your chances of getting a job in an industry or career you're interested in - or at least take a course or two in an area you might end up in. For example, I parlayed a couple of accounting courses I'd taken into a pretty sweet job in the finance sector (not nearly as sweet as my current job, but not bad).  Another point about the list is how many of the categories are management and administration jobs. It is VERY likely that, as a Psych major, you'll end up being somebody's boss. Psych majors, for obvious reasons, are generally very good at that.

One important point: Do NOT let that list "functionally fixate" you on any of those job categories. If your passion is music (and you don't think you have a good shot at being a "star") then research jobs in the music industry. As a musician myself, I think I can confidently say that the music industry could really use some Psych majors! {just kidding. But you get my point...}

Places to start looking

Clinical jobs (in case clinical psychology IS your primary interest) – ask our clinicians, i.e. the Psychology Department faculty who specialize in clinical psychology.

Non-clinical but directly psychology-related jobs:

  • Any business – personnel, human resources, training departments
  • Consulting firms: I/O and HF Psychology

Non-clinical and not directly psychology-related jobs:

  • Do your homework – the jobs are out there but they’re hidden.

It’s often easiest to start with something you love…for example:

  • Music – A&R person; radio sales
  • Politics – law office (psych testing, client/investigative interviews), politician’s aid
  • Gov’t – lots of jobs – e.g. Census Bureau, Dept of Labor, etc.
  • Art/History – museum display, design, architectural firm, marketing for museums, public art programs, etc.
  • Gerontology – senior rec centers, retirement communities, etc.
  • Cars – racing marketing, teen driver training.

Here’s a classic place to start looking for these kinds of jobs:

Rule #4 - Don’t sell your Introductory psychology book.

{I know, you probably did already but you can find cheap ones online and in used book stores.} Your Intro book is a great source/reference for (a) reminding you what kinds of knowledge you acquired as a Psych major; (b) it’s a great list of all the different domains (and therefore JOBS) that Psychology applies to (e.g., Developmental chapter for seniors, teen drivers; Sensation & Perception chapter for art, history, marketing; Cognitive chapter for business decision-making; Motivation chapter for sales, etc.)

Rule #5 -  Be prepared for a long, tough project (especially in this economy).

But don’t give up hope - if I could do it, so can you!