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What can I do with my degree?

Submitted by kemacklo on Mon, 04/11/2016 - 3:22pm

Careers Overview

For students majoring in psychology, an important question is "Do I want a career related to or in psychology?". 

If you are interested in a career that is not directly related to psychology, you will make use of the many abilities and skills that you have developed as a psychology student.

If you are interested in pursuing a career in psychology, there are three general paths that might follow a BA or BSc degree in Psychology.

  1. Psychology as a career: To call yourself a psychologist, you must complete at least a Master's degree and normally a PhD in psychology. This applies both to research careers (e.g., university professor) and becoming a practising psychologist.
  2. Careers open to Graduates with a BA or a BSc and in which psychology is relevant: Both the knowledge base and skill sets acquired through the baccalaureate programs provide preparation for a variety of careers. The following is a partial list of fields in which bachelors level graduates have employment.
  • personnel
  • labour relations
  • social services
  • gerontology
  • technical writing
  • health services
  • corrections, probation, parole
  • fundraising
  • marketing and public relations
  • mental health
  1. Careers built on psychology skills and knowledge: Psychology graduates sometimes pursue careers in, for example, law, journalism and business. This often requires further study.

What does a Psychologist do?

The majority of psychologists work in five broad categories of employment:

  • research, e.g. university professor;
  • teaching, e.g. university professor;
  • service provider, e.g. clinical psychologist;
  • administrator, e.g. director of a marketing research firm; and
  • consultant, e.g. human factors engineer.

Many combine two or more of these categories. For example, a university professor usually teaches and conducts research; they may also be an administrator and a clinical psychologist providing help to clients. A master's level counselling psychologist may be a service provider and teach at a local college. 
Psychologists work in many different settings. The primary employment settings are academic (university and college), educational (elementary and secondary schools), independent practice or consulting, hospitals and clinics, business and industry, government, and other human service settings. Other service setting are in advertising, criminal justice, consumer relations and products, telecommunications, military, entertainment, and sports. Many psychologists work in more than one setting, e.g., a professor may be an academic as well as a private consultant, or a clinical psychologist may practice in a private clinic as well as a human service agency. 
There are several areas of specialization for those who wish to receive post-graduate training (graduate school) at the master's or doctoral level. There are over 50 areas of specialization in psychology; and within each area, one may choose sub-specialties in which to teach, conduct research, be a practitioner, or some combination of these three activities. Some of the more salient and/or broader areas and descriptions are listed below.

  • Behavioral Neuroscience - understanding the relationships between physical systems of the body and behavior.
  • Clinical Psychology - understanding, assessment, and treatment of mental and emotional disorders.
  • Community Psychology - understanding of how people function within their natural environment.
  • Counselling Psychology - understanding of how people solve problems and deal with stresses of everyday life.
  • Cognitive Psychology - understanding perceptual and cognitive processes in humans.
  • Developmental Psychology - understanding human develop-met across the life span.
  • Educational Psychology - understanding how people learn and ways to optimize learning.
  • Environmental Psychology - understanding the relationships between human psychological processes and behavior and the environment.
  • Experimental Psychology- using research to understand basic human and animal behavior and intra-organismic processes.
  • Forensic Psychology - understanding how psychology relates to the law in legal and clinical settings.
  • Gerontology - understanding the physical, physiological, and psychological processes of aging.
  • Health Psychology - understanding the relationships between psychology and the promotion and maintenance of good physical and psychological health.
  • Human Factors (Engineering) Psychology - understanding the interaction between humans and physical/machine/electronic systems.
  • Industrial/Organizational Psychology - understanding relationships among people, their work, and their work environments.
  • Personality Psychology - understanding an individual's characteristic and distinctive patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving.
  • Psychology of Gender - understanding the physical, psycho-logical, and social factors affecting women's and men's development and behavior.
  • Psychometrics and Quantitative Psychology - understanding the techniques used in acquiring knowledge and the use of statistics in assessment and research.
  • Rehabilitation Psychology - understanding and helping people who have experienced physical deprivation or loss.
  • School Psychology - understanding how the school setting influences the intellectual, social, and emotional growth of children.
  • Social Psychology - understanding how people interact and how they are influenced by their social environments.
  • Sport Psychology - understanding the physical, psychological, and social factors influencing thinking, feeling, and behavior in sports settings.
  • Theoretical Psychology - understanding the foundational ideas and approaches in the science and practice of psychology.

There are many other areas of psychology, as classified by the American Psychological Association.

How do I become a Psychologist?

What degrees do I need?
To become a psychologist requires obtaining an advanced degree after completing a bachelor's degree in psychology, i.e., attending graduate school and obtaining a master's degree and/or doctoral degree.

In general, a master's degree provides training for a variety of applied settings such as in schools, business and industry, mental health, and government. For example, such individuals may work as child welfare workers, school counsellors or administrators, forensic psychologists, personnel psychologists, testing and assessment psychologists, or therapists. Individuals with a M.Sc. may also serve as researchers or research associates working for the government, or in service agencies or universities as research consultants and research administrators. In a traditional master's program, students take courses, do a major project (e.g., research thesis, a major literature review/critique), and write and defend the project. Of course, master's degrees prepare individuals for entry into doctoral programs of study.

A doctoral degree is especially important if an individual wishes to provide psychological services (e.g., as a clinical psychologist) or become a university professor. Typically, such individuals choose between a Ph.D. and Psy.D. program. In a Ph.D. program, students normally take courses, pass comprehensive examinations, conduct original research, and write and defend their dissertation. For those wishing to provide psychological services to clients, they also have to spend at least one additional year interning and receiving supervision. Thus, a Ph.D. program requires research and practitioner expertise. In a Psy.D. program, often referred to as a "professional school" program, there is greater emphasis on training and professional practice. Therefore, students usually take a more structured series of courses and receive considerable practical experience. At the present time, there are no Psy.D. graduate programs in Canada.

How long does it take?

A master's degree usually takes two to three years to complete, followed by an additional two to four years for a doctoral (Ph.D., Psy.D.) degree. Some schools permit students to enter a doctoral program directly from receipt of a bachelor's degree. Nevertheless, to become a Ph.D. clinical psychologist or a university professor takes approximately five to seven years after receiving a bachelor's degree in psychology.

What marks do I need to get in?

The requirements for admission into graduate programs in psychology vary among institutions. The usual requirements are an undergraduate degree in psychology, a grade point average of at least 3.5 (on a 4-point scale), and strong letters of reference (usually from psychology professors). Many graduate programs require students to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and receive high scores as an admission requirement.

What about a clinical psychologist?

In the Canada and the United States, a doctoral degree (Ph.D., Psy.D., Ed.D.1) is considered as the basic degree for a profession in psychology. Both the Canadian Psychological Association and American Psychological Association endorse the doctoral degree as providing the best preparation for professional work and the maximization of employment opportunities. On the other hand, there are employment opportunities available at the master's level of preparation (e.g., M.Sc., M.A., M.Ed.2). For example, in some provinces in Canada (e.g., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Quebec), individuals can become chartered psychologists and college professors with a master's degree.

Being licensed, certified or chartered as a psychologist providing psychological services varies from province-to-province in Canada and state-to-state in the United States. That is, different jurisdictions have different laws, examination procedures, and criteria for approval for practice. Having a master's or doctoral degree does not guarantee eligibility to practice. The normal requirements are (a) possessing the required graduate degree, (b) having received supervised experience, and (c) passing written and oral exams on practice and ethical issues. It is the responsibility of students to become knowledgeable about the licensing, certification, or chartering requirements of the jurisdictions in which they wish to practice and the quality of the graduate programs offering training.

Clinical Psychology FAQ

Without a doubt, clinical psychology is the most popular area of psychology in which students want to receive advanced training. To find out more information, please visit our Clinical Psychology FAQs page.

Careers Related to Psychology

Students graduating with an undergraduate degree in psychology have been successful in obtaining employment in a wide range of occupations. This is because they have acquired and/or refined many skills through their diverse exposures at university and as psychology majors. Psychology majors also have well-developed "learning to learn" skills - the attitudes, abilities, and work habits that facilitate choice and adaptability in careers. Employment contexts for undergraduate psychology graduates often depend on the overall state of the economy and national trends in the ever-changing job market. Increasingly, "traditional" and long-term employment situations are disappearing; these are being replaced by emerging careers of shorter duration on the local, national, and international levels.

Two important points for undergraduate majors in psychology to consider:

  1. One cannot be hired as a psychologist with only a bachelor's degree. Licensing as a psychologist requires at least a master's degree (e.g., M.Sc., M.A., M.Ed.); and in some provinces, a doctoral (Ph.D.) degree to practice as a psychologist is required. Thus, a bachelor's degree (B.A. or B.Sc.) is the first step on the road to graduate-level training to become a psychologist.
  2. A bachelor's degree in psychology often serves as a valuable preliminary step to other professional careers such as medicine, law, management, social work, and education. This is because the social science education one receives instills the "learning to learn" skills, attitudes, abilities, and work habits that are necessary for success in any profession.

Career Links

Career Services Psychology Degree Profile

Psychology Majors: After-Graduation Guidebook to Non-Psych Jobs

How to find a job with an undergraduate degree in psychology 


What are the job prospects for someone with a Psychology bachelor's degree?

There is no simple answer to this question, in part because jobs for psychology bachelor's graduates depend on the overall state of the economy and job opportunities within it. In addition, because of structural changes in the Canadian economy, new types of jobs are emerging and some traditional ones are disappearing.

The first thing to recognize is that you will not be hired as a Psychologist with only a bachelor's degree (B.A. or B.Sc.). You don't have enough training; you need at least a master's degree (M.A. or M.Sc.) and in many jurisdictions a Ph.D. (a doctoral degree) to practice as a psychologist. If you wish to work as a psychologist you should plan on going to graduate school and you should start preparing for that now.

A bachelor's degree in psychology is relevant to many different careers. Psychology students, through their diverse training, acquire a number of valuable skills throughout their degree program. These include the ability to analyze problems and to think critically; the ability to interpret and evaluate research, including statistics; an understanding of the genetic, biological, and social influences on behavior; and a sensitivity and awareness of interpersonal, developmental, and cultural differences. We and others who have surveyed psychology alumni have found that many graduates are working at jobs seemingly quite unrelated to psychology's supposed content. Yet the training, we argue, is still beneficial in instilling the "learning to learn" skills, the attitudes, abilities, and work habits, that will benefit you regardless of your career.

Many undergraduates study psychology as a first step toward a professional career, and it is a fact that a degree in psychology is excellent preparation for a variety of professional programs, including law, medicine, management, social work, speech pathology, audiology, counselling, and education.

One more important point. A university is not merely a "job training" facility. Employment is certainly a major reason to attend university, but there are other reasons too. A university is dedicated to the pursuit of "knowledge for knowledge's sake", and you will enjoy university a lot more while you're here and get a lot more out of it if you remember that. So, don't think about university and psychology as simply a means to an end. They are also ends in themselves.

More information can also be found by visiting the University of Calgary Career Services website.

The Psychology Professor

Undergraduate students frequently overlook this possibility as a career goal. In some cases, this may be because it requires many years of study to achieve the PhD degree. In other cases, the high level of academic achievement required to gain admission to a graduate program may be a significant obstacle. Although, in the Department of Psychology at the University of Calgary you will find more than one professor who was a "late-bloomer" and didn't always have the highest grades. The advice here? Persistence in the face of adversity combined with a demonstration of one's actual abilities can lead to success. Finally, some may simply lack an appreciation for what this career entails.

Dr. Bryan Kolb, an adjunct professor to the department, has written an essay about being a psychology professor and the different aspects of this career.