Everyone who decides to enroll in college must, at some point, think about what area they want to major in. There are many things that students consider when choosing a major. Some make their decision based on what they think can make them the most money once they begin their lives in the work force. However, many students believe that if you choose a major that interests you and challenges you then you can use those skills that can help you in any career. (R. Landrum & S. Davis, 2014) Let’s face it. Employers know that when they hire someone straight out of college they are not immediately going to know everything there is to know about their position they were hired for. That is what on-the-job training is for. However, employers do expect college graduates, despite what their major was, to be excellent communicators, be well-rounded, and have the ability to be trained and have the ability to learn new things. Psychology is a degree program that produces those well-rounded, well-educated people.
Psychologically literate people have an expansive vocabulary, are able to use scientific thinking, be creative when solving problems by looking at all angles, have integrity, act ethically, and are insightful about others’ behavior and their own. (R. Landrum et al, 2014) Therefore, although obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology is not a professional degree and one cannot be a Psychologist with a Bachelor’s, one gains a myriad of skills that are very marketable no matter the profession one is choosing after graduation. McGovern, Furumoto, Halpern, Kimble, and McKeachie (1991) made this point clear when they stated that “a liberal arts education in general, and the study of psychology in particular, is a preparation for lifelong learning, thinking, and action; it emphasizes specialized and general knowledge and skills.”
Although there are numerous areas of specialization in the field of psychology, for the purpose of this paper, I will only expand on two- Clinical and Forensic Psychology. According to the American Psychological Association (APA) website “Psychologists who provide clinical or counseling services assess and treat mental, emotional and behavioral disorders. They integrate the science of psychology and the treatment of complex human problems with the intention of promoting change.” (“Pursuing A Career In Clinical Or Counseling Psychology”, 2014).) In the simplest terms, “the study of individuals, by observation or experimentation, with the intention of promoting change.” (Compas, Bruce, & Gotlib, 2002) Clinical psychologist careers vary in industries such as research, integrated health care, teaching, public policy and professional practice. Some clinical psychologists work exclusively on specific mental, emotional, and behavioral issues. Relationship conflict and conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction are a few examples of areas of specialization for a clinical psychologist.
According to the APA website (2014), in order to become a clinical psychologist the journey begins with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Next the student must obtain a graduate degree. Each graduate program determines its own entrance requirements. Some doctoral programs require their applicants to have a master’s degree in psychology. Other people enter doctoral programs with only a bachelor’s degree. Most doctoral degrees take five to seven years to complete. You must also pass a comprehensive exam and write and defend a dissertation. If you want to become a psychologist in clinical psychology you will also have to complete a one-year internship. A clinical psychologist’s salary varies depending on the work setting, experience, and location of work. “In May 2011, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the median annual salary of clinical psychologists was $67,800.” (“Pursuing A Career In Clinical Or Counseling Psychology”, 2014).
According to “Forensic And Public Service Psychology Serves Communities” (2014), “The skills and expertise of forensic psychologists are in high demand. Forensic psychologists work in numerous job settings including private practices, government, military, academia, prisons and psychiatric facilities.” Forensic psychologists work in a wide range of settings. They may testify in court in a personal injury suit about how someone’s life was affected by the injuries they sustained. They may also assist veterans in their transition to life after war. Forensic psychologists might work on cases involving child abuse or be the one that determines the defendant’s sanity. They are qualified to say whether or not a suspect knows right from wrong. According to “A Career In Forensic And Public Service Psychology” (2014), “Psychologists in this field may work in prisons, rehabilitation centers, police departments, courthouses, law firms, schools, government agencies or private practices. They are needed to determine whether a suspected criminal has a mental illness, for example, and are called upon to treat incarcerated individuals with substance abuse and addiction issues.”
Individuals interested in taking the forensic and public service psychology career route should follow an educational path that is focused on psychology, criminology, and forensics. Students can earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a focus on criminology or criminal justice. They can also earn a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or criminology with a focus on psychology. A doctoral degree in clinical or counseling psychology is usually required to become a forensic and public service psychologist. According to “What You Can Earn” (2014), “As of October 2013, most forensic and public service psychologists made between $33,891 and $121,931 annually, but tenure reigns; those who stay in the field for a while can earn between $200,000 and $400,000.”
While salaries can range greatly depending on the sector of employment, most entry-level positions for those with a doctoral degree start between $60,000 and $70,000 annually. Salaries for those with a bachelor’s or master’s degree generally start around $35,000 or $40,000 a year. In conclusion, there are many choices to consider when choosing a major. Psychology is an excellent choice because it provides the building blocks for a well-rounded, well-educated person that is able to think critically, learn quickly, and think independently. Employers are looking for people with these attributes more so than a specific degree. There are also many specialized areas within psychology- clinical and forensic being the two I discussed. Both have the opportunity to help people and their communities greatly.
A Career in Forensic and Public Service Psychology. (2014). Retrieved from
http://www.apa.org/action/science/forensic/education-training.aspx Compas, Bruce, & Gotlib, Ian. (2002). Introduction to Clinical Psychology. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Higher Education. Forensic and Public Service Psychology Serves Communities. (2014). Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/action/science/forensic/index.aspx Landrum, R. E., & Davis, S. F. (2014). The Psychology Major: Career Options and Strategies for Success (5th ed.). Pearson. Pursuing a Career in Clinical or Counseling Psychology. (2014). Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/action/science/clinical/education-training.aspx