Today’s psychology students are at a crossroads. While most undergraduates are entering the workforce relatively quickly post-graduation, psychology students are met with uncertainty regarding if their bachelor’s degree is enough to gain employment.
Around 48 percent of psychology professionals have an advanced degree, as compared to the average 37 percent across all fields. This can be uneasy to prospective, and even recent graduates, who are looking for next steps in their career.
Here’s an overview of where a bachelor’s degree in psychology can get you, as well as the possible next steps you’ll need to take to achieve your personal and professional aspirations.
What You Can Do With a Bachelor’s in Psychology
A bachelor’s degree in psychology is a very popular college program across the United States. According to the US Department of Education, psychology has consistently been in the top five most popular majors overall, alongside business, health care programs, social sciences, and history.
Students who choose this degree will gain theoretical knowledge of psychology—studying the science behind human behavior and mental health. An undergraduate degree in this field touches on many areas of psychology, including cognitive, abnormal, personality, and developmental. Since a bachelor’s degree is meant to cover a wide range of topics, this level of education doesn’t provide the kind of specialization that some psychology career paths require.
That being said, there are still plenty of psychology positions that don’t require additional education and training. For example, if you’re looking to work in counseling, there is still a possibility of gaining employment with a bachelor’s degree, but this heavily depends on what your state requirements are for licensure.
Common Job Titles With a Bachelor’s in Psychology
A career in counseling isn’t the only career path available to bachelor’s degree holders. Here are the most common job titles in the United States that only require a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
- Residential Counselors
- Clinical Research Coordinators
- Behavior Technicians/ABA Therapists
- Mental Health Counselors
- Engagement Counselors
- Engagement Partners
- Direct Support Professionals
- Relief Residential Counselors
- Human Services Coordinators
One of the major benefits of a degree in psychology is the numerous career pathways it offers. While a bachelor’s degree can only take you so far in the mental health field, there are still many career opportunities available to bachelor’s degree graduates.
How to Get a Job With a Bachelor’s-Level Education
Not all recent psychology graduates are ready to pursue a master’s degree immediately post-graduation. This might be the case for a myriad of reasons (i.e., finances, work-life balance, career uncertainty). If you’re a recent psychology graduate who isn’t ready to continue your education, there are several steps you can take to make your job application more enticing to employers.
While education is a very important aspect of a job posting, another crucial section that many applicants overlook is the “skills” section. Use your resume, cover letter, etc. to showcase how your background and experience have given you the right skill set for these roles.
Here’s a list of the top ten skills found on most job postings that only require a bachelor’s degree in psychology:
- Microsoft Excel
- Microsoft Office
Should You Get a Master’s in Psychology?
Psychology offers a plethora of career opportunities, but unfortunately the level of education often dictates which roles and industries are within reach. This isn’t to say that a master’s degree is required for all psychology career paths, but rather that this decision is more prominent among young professionals as compared to other industries.
Bachelor’s Degree Limitations
Like all undergraduate degrees, a bachelor’s degree in psychology has its limitations. While there are numerous positions in psychology that only require a bachelor’s degree—like mental health counselors and human services coordinators—many careers require a master’s degree, certification, and a professional license—like clinical mental health counselors or school psychologists. Some psychology-related jobs—such as psychiatrists or college professors—even need a doctorate degree.
These limitations might be frustrating, but earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology is an excellent foundation that gives you multiple options. Even if your career aspirations require additional education, an undergraduate degree enables you to work in the field to gain experience, and also discover and explore possible specialization areas that you might want to pursue in graduate school.
Master’s Degree Advantages
There are multiple advantages to earning a master’s degree in psychology, but perhaps the most important one is the job opportunities it unlocks. Since most master’s degree programs require additional certifications and licensures to graduate, these credentials open more doors to career paths that have a focus on mental health and psychology research.
Advanced education also leads to a higher salary. This is often another major motivator for bachelor’s degree holders to pursue advanced education. Here’s a look at how a master’s degree can greatly affect your earning potential.
Advance Your Education
If you’re considering advancing your education, it’s essential to know what specialization you’re interested in, as well as the career path you want to pursue. Unlike a bachelor’s degree in psychology, a master’s is far more specialized in both curriculum and internship requirements. Here are some career paths you should consider if you want to earn an MS in Psychology.
Counseling psychology is an area of study that focuses on a broad range of culturally-informed practices that prevent and alleviate distress and resolve crises to increase people’s ability to function in everyday life. Some career paths that this degree prepares you for are:
- Rehabilitation counseling
- Outpatient therapy
- Family therapy
All of these roles focus on a wide range of mental health issues and challenges that individuals (e.g., trauma and loss) or collective groups (e.g., prejudice and discrimination) face.
Northeastern’s Master of Science in Counseling Psychology (MS/CAGS) graduate program offers training in contemporary professional practice. Their curriculum focuses on an ecological approach, training prospective counselors to look at social and economic system frameworks.
Those who study school psychology typically earn this degree in hopes of becoming a school psychologist. These are licensed professionals who collaborate with teachers and parents to support the mental and academic well-being of students in a school setting. Many mental health professionals work with patients in response to trauma or mental health concerns, but school psychologists take on preventative work as well.
There are several benefits of becoming a school psychologist. First, school psychologists starting salaries tend to be much higher compared to other mental health roles. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), school psychologists can expect an average salary of $79,820 annually. On top of that, the demand for school psychologists is at an all time high, and is expected to grow in the coming years. In fact, the expected job growth is projected to increase by 10 percent in the next decade.
Northeastern University’s Master of Science (MS) and a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study (CAGS) in School Psychology is a three-year, fully accredited program through the National Association of School Psychologists and the Massachusetts State Department of Education. It requires 62 semester hours and a one-year internship consisting of at least 1,200 hours, half of which must be completed in a school setting.
Choose What’s Right For You
Choosing the right path for you is no easy feat, but it’s crucial to your professional development in the field of psychology. Beyond the various career opportunities, there are multiple levels of education that you need to consider when choosing a career path.
If you’re interested in entering the field of psychology immediately after graduation, a bachelor’s degree might be enough to achieve your career goals. However, if industries like counseling psychology and school psychology are interesting to you, you’ll need to factor in additional education in the form of a master’s degree, certification, and licensure.
Want to learn more about school psychology and how to help young people achieve emotional and academic success? Check out our ebook “How To Become A School Psychologist.”