Becoming a psychologist sounds pretty prestigious. And prestigious people make loads of money. Right?

Well, here’s one thing to get straight before you declare yourself a psychology major: graduating with a degree in psychology does not automatically make the prestigious psychologist of whom we’ve spoken.

In fact, in reality, many psychology majors end up working in careers completely unrelated to their field of study and often work in jobs that do not require a bachelor’s degree at all.

But, psychology majors, don’t take it personally: the recession has affected the job market so that graduates from majors across the board are having a tough time landing jobs.

The recession makes the going tough

Nowadays it isn’t uncommon to hear about the Middle Eastern studies major working at the Apple store, the journalism major working at a bakery or the psychology major managing the office of a scrapbooking company.

A bleak-looking job market

According to a recent article in the New York Times, about 56 percent of college graduates from the class of 2010 have landed jobs, and less than half of those jobs require a degree.

Psychology isn’t the worst major for landing a job

The good news is that your choice of major is important, and area studies and humanities majors are the folks least likely to find a job after graduation. So, if you’re still deciding to go with psychology, you’re in the clear there.

Still, scoring the psychology job you dream of can be tough. Most psychology careers that pay the big bucks require at least a master’s degree, if not a doctorate degree.

Graduate school is pretty much required

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics “Occupational Outlook Handbook,” the opportunities directly related to psychology will be “very limited” for those with only a bachelor’s degree.

Limited opportunities for bachelor’s degree holders

The handbook cites jobs assisting in rehabilitation centers, collecting data and analyzing data as a few options for those with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Additionally, those who meet state certification requirements may become high school psychology teachers.

Some other entry-level jobs in the field of psychology can be obtained with only a bachelor’s degree, but wages are not much higher than the paycheck you could earn waiting tables at the local pub.

Entry-level careers

Becoming an academic advisor, college counselor or career and placement counselor are a few realistic entry-level psychology careers.

And for psychology graduates open to the idea of working in a diverse field, some entry-level jobs can be found in human resources, advertising or marketing of a company. Such jobs usually allow for more growth and opportunities in the future, leading to potential ladder-climbing and bigger money making!

Competition in the field

Armed with a master’s degree or Ph.D., psychology majors will have a much higher chance of scoring the job and beating out a plethora of other interviewees – especially in the growing fields, including:

  • Career or vocational counseling
  • School psychology
  • Industrial-organizational psychology
  • Engineering psychology

On the other hand, popular areas of psychology may still be tough to find a job. These careers tend to be glamorized or popularized in the media, but the reality of landing a position like those in the movies is more rare than it seems:

  • Sports psychology
  • Forensic psychology
  • Private practice psychologist/counselor

The key to really making the big bucks

With that said, those shooting for the stars, the top of the top, the crème de la crème, should plan on earning a Ph.D. in psychology. And though shooting for the stars probably means at least another four years in school and one year of interning, the extra time hitting the books will pay off in the end.

A rewarding career

One of the most rewarding (mentally, emotionally and economically) psychology careers is to open up your own practice. To do so, a Ph.D. is required. Such a degree can be earned in specialization areas including clinical psychology, counseling psychology, healthy psychology or cognitive psychology.

A Ph.D. is also required for those who want to teach or lead research projects at a college or university, and to one-up the competition in any of the aforementioned fields requiring the bare minimum of a master’s or bachelor’s degree in psychology.

Now that we’ve given it to you straight, if you think psychology is still the major for you, at least you’ve got some direction in landing the job you’ve always dreamed of! The truth can be hard to swallow, but those with a passion for understanding the human mind will surely make it work.

And here’s for some reassuring statistics:

  • The 2001 Doctorate Employment Survey from the American Psychology Association’s Center for Psychology Workforce Analysis and Research (CPWAR) found 73 percent of Ph.D. respondents from 2000-2001 secured their first choice when looking for a job.
  • Another 75 percent of respondents were employed within 3 months of receiving the doctorate.

So, the moral of the story is the future is not all bleak — just be prepared for a whole lot of schooling, and you’ll be on the road to psychology success.

Take the first step today. Get started now!

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