Each year in the U.S. and Canada, hundreds of thousands of new students enter college or university programs in Psychology. Within a few years, most of them earn a bachelor’s degree. Along the way, they take a lot of courses in different areas of psychology, and in research methods and statistics. They gain an appreciation of the basics in a wide range of areas within Psychology, but most are taught almost nothing about career options in psychology. Surprisingly few Psychology departments at major colleges or universities offer courses or workshops on this topic, so students typically have to go on their own assumptions along with whatever little bits of reliable information they come across.
The good news is that there is a huge range of career options in Psychology, and reasonably-good-to-excellent employment prospects in all major subfields.
All psychology students come to realize at some point, however, that a bachelor’s degree does not provide the necessary qualifications to actually be a psychologist. A career as a psychologist requires a doctorate. A masters degree may give you qualifications to teach psychology at high school or college, and it is all that one needs to launch a career in one of the allied fields, like social work or counselling, but it won’t enable you to have a career as a fully-fledged psychologist.
So, that’s the catch – you need to go to graduate school for several years – but if you do, and if you are able to obtain a doctorate in psychology, there really is an wide range of career directions you could potentially take.
Importantly, before you can get into the graduate program that will set you on the career course you want, you need to have some idea of what you want your destination to be. That is, you need to have an idea of what type of career you want as a psychologist. I will assume that you know what subfields of Psychology interest you, and skip over discussing that part. What I mean by career option or career path has more to do with the setting in which you work, and the kinds of activities you spend most of your time engaged in, rather than the particular subject area in which you acquire expertise.
Of course, you might not end up with the particular career you currently plan on – your plans may change along the way for any number of reasons – but without a career plan you will probably not end up having any career as a psychologist, at all. There are many reasons why applying to graduate school without a coherent career plan often fails. But, I think to discuss them at length here would be too much of a side-track. Instead, I recommend reading this article on How to Choose a Graduate Program
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