If you're graduating with a degree in psychology, your timing couldn't be better. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projected job growth for psychologists will exceed the average across all industries, reaching about 14 percent between 2016 and 2026.
"I personally think there's going to be a greater demand in 8-10 years for liberal arts majors like psychology than there were for programming majors and maybe even engineering," says Kacey Schaum, the assistant director of the Career Development Center at Ohio University. "When the data is all being spit out for you, you need an alternate perspective in order to have a different view of the data. Having someone who is more of a free thinker is very appealing to companies."
If you're a newly minted psychology grad, you may not have much related work experience to add to your application materials. That's understandable, But relevant coursework and extracurricular activities can help fill in the gaps and demonstrate your skills, especially in your cover letter.
Here's how to create an entry-level psychology cover letter you'll be proud to submit.
Use keywords as your framework
If you're responding to a job posting, note the keywords in the description and use them verbatim in your cover letter. Be sure to also focus on updating your resume for each role with the relevant keywords as well. This article provides a detailed review of how to identify and include relevant keywords.
You'll want to make sure you're customizing your cover letter and resume each time, including identifying and including the specific keywords from the job posting. Chances are, the first person who reads your letter might be someone in HR who is looking to see if you are qualified to do the job. Without the keywords, your materials may never make it to the people who do the main interview and ultimately hire the job applicant.
Likewise, because staff members without psychology backgrounds might be the first to look at your cover letter, write your letter for nontechnical audiences. Your tone should be friendly and approachable.
If you're unsure whether a non-psychologist will be able to fully understand your cover letter, ask a friend or family member for help. It might take another set of eyes to make sure your letter is readable to people outside the field of psychology.
"It's important to have that non-expert perspective," says Schaum. "It also doesn't hurt to have someone proofread it, because if there are spelling or grammar mistakes, you're not getting the job."
To ensure your cover letter for psychology jobs is polished and effective, use our Cover Letter Builder and get help with crafting the right words.
Get creative to find relevant experience
Though you may not have work experience yet, your psychology coursework likely included reading case studies and research papers. Your cover letter should state that you understand how to use and interpret data, as well as evaluate and understand behavior. Provide specific, brief examples of how you learned and developed these skills.
Here are a few other items to examine for inclusion in your cover letter:
- Relevant coursework. Psychology is a degree with skills that you can translate to nearly every field. Choose a memorable assignment or course to talk about in your cover letter and give some detail. For instance, you could list a consumer marketing course you took in the business school and explain how you'll put the knowledge you gained to work in the position.
- Academic distinctions. If you include relevant coursework on a resume, recent graduates will often note a high GPA. Unless you finished at the top of your class, leave grades out of your cover letter, but mention any academic awards or recognitions you received, especially if it was in a relevant subject.
- Research and collaboration. Here's an absolute must: Highlight any research assistant positions you've held in your cover letter. Engaging in research collaboration with faculty or other professionals provides a hands-on learning experience that's hard to find in your average college classroom. Therefore, employers know that research collaboration is a unique way for undergraduate students to develop a range of academic skills.
- Personal interests. Your cover letter is an opportunity to show who you are, and that includes more than your academic and work experiences. Share extra-curricular activities that you're proud of, volunteer work, and special projects that showcase relevant skills. If the job you're applying for requires public speaking, highlight your work with organizational boards that require interaction on a regular basis.
Make strong connections to the position
Once you've identified all of your skills, experiences, and coursework, hone them down to only what's the most relevant for the specific role. Refer again to the job description and focus on the key responsibilities and desired experience. Write your cover letter to tell a compelling story that makes you an obvious choice.
Whether you're applying for jobs or still finishing up your degree, now's the perfect time to make sure your application materials are engaging and informative. Do you need help leveraging your academic coursework into a professional psychology graduate cover letter? Our Cover Letter Builder will walk you through how to create a customized cover letter for each position.