Explore Psychology

Why major in Psychology?

The Psychology major offers opportunities to acquire and develop a number of skills valued by employers, the community and graduate school admissions committees:

  1. Analytical and statistical skills for understanding, interpreting and reporting on data
  2. Communication skills in writing and oral presentations
  3. Problem-solving and information-search skills
  4. Ability to work in and understand groups
  5. Familiarity with computers and database software
  6. Research and measurement/evaluation skills
  7. Social awareness and the ability to understand and monitor self
  8. Ability to apply psychological theory to individual, social and community problems

Careers in Psychology

What are the possible careers in the field of psychology?

For a useful overview of career options in psychology, we recommend the APA (American Psychological Association) student information site. The single most valuable online resource for career and job information in psychology is the APA (American Psychological Association) career website. We suggest that you spend considerable time investigating the resources and information at these sites which can answer most of your questions about what psychologists do.O*NET online has a massive database of occupational information classified in multiple ways and includes descriptions of necessary abilities, values and training plus salary and future outlook data.

Career help at UofL

For career planning information here at UofL, the Career Development Centerin Houchens Hall (852-6701) offers vocational testing (Strong Vocational Interest and Meyers-Briggs Inventories) and guidance, as well as job postings for full- and part-time jobs on- and off-campus. It is strongly recommended that you request this service early in your junior year to facilitate your post-graduation planning. The Career Development Center also offers: job assistance with resume preparation, interview practice, job fairs, graduate school fairs, job placement services, internship/coop information, etc. Their website gives information about events and workshops, as well as useful links to occupational information in general (e.g. the Occupational Outlook Handbook, with salary and growthrate predictions updated annually.)

The Psychology Undergraduate Studies Office (124 Life Sciences, aka Psychology Advising) has a library of books with information on careers in psychology which are available for use on-site.

Attending Career Fairs

The Career Development Center typically sponsors a Career Fair every spring, which you should attend even if you are not currently in the job market. This article offers excellent advice for how to prepare.

Psychology entry jobs in Louisville

Locally, students with bachelors' degrees in psychology often choose to work in entry-level psychological service jobs for community agencies like Seven Counties. These hands-on clinical service jobs are challenging but rewarding and can be particularly valuable for obtaining experience with clinical populations prior to attending graduate school. The Career Development Center has information on job openings for current and graduating students.

Will I be a psychologist when I graduate?

Majoring in Psychology will not make you "a psychologist"; this requires graduate training (see Planning for Graduate School). The sorts of careers that former psychology majors follow are quite varied and, in fact, only about 5% of psychology majors ultimately have careers in an overtly "psychological" job area. Many work in management, sales, banking, information technology, teaching, human resources, customer service, health promotion, etc. and find that their background in psychology is important in non-specific but critical ways: knowing how to predict and understand individual and group behavior, understanding the use and interpretation of data, evaluating persuasive arguments, knowing how learning and memory function, having insight into problematic behaviors, etc. See [link] for a list of current occupational titles often used by former psychology majors.

What if I'm not sure if psychology is the right career field for me?

It might be wise to begin with self-assessment of your values, strengths, priorities and interests. There are a number of online sites for this purpose and you can also request testing on campus (see Career Center below). Career One Stop has a self-assessment test that provides a starting point.

"There are no jobs for Psychology majors."

Actually, the problem is that there are too many jobs for Psychology majors. Students often feel more secure when a certain job, with a specific label, is available or even guaranteed at graduation. What they mean by "no jobs" is this: I won't have an occupational title when I graduate, so how will I know what to do next? Some majors are specifically tied to certain jobs: Accounting majors become accountants, Chemistry majors become chemists. Others prepare students broadly, with skills applicable to such a diverse set of jobs that students paradoxically but understandably feel they have no job options at all. This can be made worse when well-meaning acquaintances inquire, "So what are you majoring in? And then what will you be?"

Because psychology graduates have skills in analyzing, evaluating, problem-solving, understanding human behavior and communicating, they are prepared generically for jobs in many fields: sales, management, social services, education, health care, human resources, law enforcement, banking, research, fund raising, public relations, counseling, etc. The savvy student will need to do some exploration and investigation in order to find the right match. For the student who finds not knowing exactly what job he/she will have on graduation is too unsettling a prospect, a more vocationally restricted major might be a better choice.

Useful publications:

  • Andrews, L.L. (1997).How to choose a college major. Chicago, IL: NTC Publishing Group.
  • Brown, D. (Ed.) (2002). Career choice and development (4th edition). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Buckingham, M., & Clifton, D.O. (2001). Now, discover your strenghs. New York: Free Press.
  • DeGalan, J. & Lambert, S. (1995). Great jobs for psychology majors. Lincolnwood, IL: VGM Career Horizons.
  • Johnston, S.M. (1998). The career adventure: Your guide to personal assessment, career exploration, and decision-making. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
  • Keller, P.A. (1994). Academic paths: Career decisions and experiences of psychologists. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
  • Morgan, B.L., & Korschgen, A. J. (2001). Majoring in psych? Career options for psychology undergraduates(2nd ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
  • Reeves, D.L. & Bradbury, M.J. (1998). Majors exploration: A search and find guide for college and career direction. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
  • Sternberg, R.J. (2007). Career paths in psychology: Where your degree can take you(2nd ed.). Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.
  • Wall, J., Vollmer, L., & the Staff of The Princeton Review. (2007). What to do with your Psychology or Sociology degree. New York: Random House.

Web Sources of Career Information for Students

Planning for Graduate School in Psychology

Undergraduate training in psychology teaches you about psychology, but does not qualify you to be a psychologist. In order to become a psychologist, you must obtain an advanced degree, at either the masters or doctoral level. Doctoral programs, regardless of specialty, are very selective; clinical PhD programs accept 10% or fewer of applicants, as a national average, for example. PhD programs prepare students for service delivery (Clinical), research and/or scholarship careers. Masters programs, usually in counseling/educational psychology or social work, accept a broader range of applicants and usually prepare students for careers in service delivery. Keep in mind that graduate school will demand much more of you academically and personally than college.

Click here to learn more about graduate school options and tips to help with your application (pdf)