Congratulations! You earned a bachelor's degree in psychology and you're officially a college graduate. Now it's time to find your first "real" job. If you're not sure what to do with your freshly minted diploma, you're not alone.
Our get-a-job guide for psychology majors can help. Read on to explore different careers in psychology, networking tips and practical advice for writing a resume and cover letter that highlight your experience and interest in the field.
How does a psychology degree prepare me for a career?
Psychology uses the scientific method to delve into the human mind. Your studies asked the big questions about how humans work, from memories and dreams to group behavior and the rules of rationality. Psychology majors have experience making observations, conducting experiments and analyzing results — skills that can be incredibly useful in the professional world.
Psychology is one of the top five most popular majors, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), so employers are accustomed to seeing many entry-level applicants with a psych degree on their resume. Many recruiters even seek psychology majors out because they know how valuable their skillsets are. According to a white paper prepared by the University of West Florida's Jane S. Halonen, Ph.D., psychology majors are attractive to employers because they can:
- Understand and predict individual and group behavior
- Interpret data
- Evaluate claims about behavior
- Recognize how learning and memory function
- Provide insight into problematic behaviors
With a major that bridges science and the liberal arts, psychology majors can also lay claim to skills that are valuable in the job market, such as:
- Critical thinking
- Problem solving
- Project management
- Interpersonal and teamwork skills
- Persistence in difficult situations
- Tolerance of ambiguity
- Adaptability to change
Taking these skills and using them to your advantage begins with conveying your knowledge in a top-notch cover letter and resume. Rather than simply listing soft skills like the ones mentioned above, think of practical experiences you've had in class, internships or volunteer opportunities that allowed you to put your knowledge to use. If you worked supervised hours with a social worker, give (appropriate) details about how your contributions helped a person in need. Or if you took the lead on a group assignment, use that experience to explain how the concepts you learned as a psychology major helped you be an effective project manager.
Should I earn an advanced degree?
About 25 percent of people with an undergraduate degree in psychology go on to graduate school immediately, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, but only 4 to 6 percent ultimately earn a doctorate. For those who enter the workforce right after undergrad, about 40 percent eventually go back to school. Whether you choose to earn an advanced degree or not, some experts recommend gaining some work experience first.
"I do not recommend going into graduate school immediately," says Page Tisdale, director of the career center at The Citadel in Charleston, SC. "If you haven't figured it out in four years, you need to get some type of real-life work experience to figure out if that's the right path for you."
It's too expensive, Tisdale says, to pursue a graduate degree if you're not 100 percent sure that it will lead you to a career you want.
If, after a few years of on-the-job experience, you're certain that you want to counsel people in a clinical or institutional setting, getting a graduate degree is a must. Types of psychology jobs that require additional schooling include:
- Counseling psychologists
- Developmental psychologists
- Forensic psychologists
- Industrial-organizational psychologists
- Rehabilitation psychologists
- School psychologists
Tisdale points out that a commitment to lifelong learning is important in today's job market, so you should expect to get additional training at some point, even if it's not a formal degree program. If you're headed straight into the workforce, make sure to create a well-curated resume that highlights all of your previous internships and educational experiences, so employers know you're ready to get to work right away. A customized cover letter that explains why you're the perfect fit for the position is also crucial.
What can I do with a bachelor's degree in psychology?
Today's employment market allows psychology majors to apply their skills in almost any field they choose. Your psychology degree won't inhibit you from forking in your career path down the road.
Tisdale recommends a few areas where she's seen recent graduates find psychology degree jobs:
- Recruiting and human resources
- Federal or state government's department of health or human services
- Hospital systems in administrative roles
- Big companies that hire a large class of recent college graduates
"A lot of graduates who don't know what to do with their lives end up at a large company," she says. "That can be a very good thing. My student who enjoyed working with people is now an internal recruiter at a big company and loves it because he understands people and can assess what they want to do with their lives."
Here are a few other jobs to consider that would put your psychology degree to good use:
- Training and development specialist, designing programs that train employees
- Market research analyst, studying the potential buyers of products and services
- Social media manager, connecting businesses to potential customers via social media
"There's a huge trend in social media right now," says Tisdale. "Companies are looking for people to manage social media, where you look at trends and see who is following a company and figure out how to reach those people. It's a good fit for psychology majors."
One tactic for applying to a job that's a little out of your comfort zone, says Tisdale, is to take an online training course in the topic, like social media marketing.
"A course will help you be able to speak to an employer in an interview so you can connect the dots for them to your skills," she says. "That's an easy sell."
What about networking?
"Psychology attracts people who like working with people," says Tisdale.
Hopefully, you've started making connections and growing your network already, through part-time jobs, internships, campus extracurriculars, studying abroad or other experiences. Now it's time to formalize that network by creating a LinkedIn profile and connecting with professors and peers from your college years before too much time goes by.
If you're still figuring out what type of jobs you want to apply for, it can be helpful to meet with former professors, mentors and your college's career center. These people may be able to put you in touch with alumni at organizations you're interested in or steer you toward networking events in your area. The conversations you have with your networking connections will inform your cover letters when you start applying for jobs. The same honest answers and stories you tell verbally can convey to heartfelt writing in your cover letter.
Start by using our Resume Builder to tailor your resume to the types of jobs you're interested in. It's important to have a well-edited resume at the ready as you begin to network more seriously. Then, when you apply to a position, put customized finishing touches on your resume ― depending on the role you're applying for ― and write your unique cover letter for the position, using Live Career's Cover Letter Builder.
Starting your psychology degree job search
Kick off your entry-level psychology job search with a solid resume that translates your education and background into marketable skills. Then begin applying to jobs that pique your interest. Here are more ways to prepare your application materials and get ready for interviews:
Build your resume
- Read up on how to write a resume for psychology majors
- Use our Resume Builder to create a standout resume
Consider these top job options for psychology majors
Edit your cover letter
- Our Cover Letter Builder will help you get noticed
- Understand the unique aspects of writing a cover letter as a psychology major
Prepare for an interview
- Be ready for the top 10 interview questions asked of psychology majors
- Read up on general sample interview questions for recent graduates