Careers with a Bachelor's Degree

About 50% of our psychology majors at the baccalaureate level will seek a full-time job immediately after they graduate. The good news is that of the psychology majors entering the labor force one year after graduation, 96% were employed.

Psychology is the third or fourth most popular undergraduate major. In 2017, about 120,000 college seniors graduated with a degree in psychology, but many were not necessarily interested in a career as a psychologist. In fact, the National Center for Education Statistics reports that 20% of psychology baccalaureate recipients work in social services or public affairs, 21% in administrative support, 14% in education, 10% in business, 10% in sales, 9% in service personnel, and 5% in health professions. An additional 3% find themselves working in computer science and an equal percentage in biological sciences.

The career of "psychologist" is not open to the BS psychology graduate. American psychology has clearly made the decision that the doctorate – and the master's degree in school psychology – is the entry-level qualification. Therefore, we cannot honestly speak of the baccalaureate in psychology as preparation for a career as a licensed psychologist. Similarly, a baccalaureate degree in political science does not qualify an individual to practice law, and a baccalaureate in biology does not make one a physician.

All this is to say that the study of psychology at the bachelor’s level is fine preparation for many other professions. Indeed, liberal arts education with a psychology major enhances those skills critical to job success. These are:  

  • Critical thinking
  • Oral communication
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Writing ability
  • Problem-solving skills

Researchers contacted private employers and found a strong positive response to employees with human relations skills coupled with research skills. Other national research indicates that employers give the highest ratings to individuals with strengths in writing proposals and reports, applying knowledge to identify and solve problems, conducting interviews, and performing statistical analyses.

The argument that a psychology degree is good preparation for many careers is supported by a report from the National Science Foundation on bachelor's degree recipients in psychology. The work functions of these graduates covered a broad range: 30% in management or administration, 28% in sales and/or professional services, 16% in teaching, and 12% in production or inspection.

Looking specifically at college graduates' prospects in business, two major studies examined the relation between college experiences and management potential. Of all the educational experiences considered, undergraduate major was the strongest predictor of managerial performance and progress. Psychology majors fell within the category of social science. This group had the best overall record, with particular strengths in interpersonal abilities, verbal skills, and motivation to advance.

The one general weakness of social science majors was in quantitative ability. Psychology, however, is an exception to this and provides an excellent quantitative background. This attests to the value of the Department's policy of requiring competence in math, statistics, and research methods.

What Business Employers are Looking for

Eison (1988) had 362 representatives of business and industry who were actively interviewing college students complete a questionnaire on 15 factors pertaining to hiring psychology graduates. The 5 most important were: personality of students, grades in major courses, nature of non-college jobs held, overall grade point average, and awards/honors/publications.

Similarly, employers participating in a survey conducted by the American Management Society were asked to select from among nine traits the most important characteristic of candidates applying for an entry-level college graduate position. The percent rating each item as most significant was as follows (from Pilla, 1984

  • Personality/motivation             35%
  • Education background              20%
  • Communication skills               16%
  • Scholastic performance            12%
  • Intelligence                                 5%
  • Work-related experience            2%

Implications for job-seekers thus include: practicing your interviewing skills; polishing your communication style; maintaining a positive grade point average; and seeking career-relevant work experiences.

Overall, psychology graduates are entering all kinds of occupations. The bachelor's degree in psychology affords flexible employment. You are obviously not limited to positions in mental and psychological services. Your degree can lead to a variety of worthwhile and exciting careers. It is up to you to decide the direction to take.

A Plethora of Job Opportunities

Students often think only of psychiatric hospitals as employment sites for those interested in work related to psychology. Listed below are many types of agencies and settings. In all of these, persons with bachelor's degrees have found interesting and challenging positions which utilize their knowledge of psychology.

  1. Community Relations Officer: works either for business or government in promoting good relations with the local community.
  2. Affirmative Action Officer: works for recruitment and equal opportunities for minorities; employed by business, industries, schools and government.
  3. Management Trainee: plans and supervises operations of a business concern.
  4. Urban Planning Officer: deals with city planning, renewal
  5. Personnel Administrator: works with employee relations, selection, promotions, etc.
  6. Advertising Copywriter: researches audience and media.
  7. Media Buyer: researches products and audiences to select effective media for advertising.
  8. Health Educator: gives public information about health and disease.
  9. Psychological Technician: administers routine tests, helps with patients under supervision of a psychologist.
  10. Director of Volunteer Service: recruits, supervises, trains and evaluates volunteers.
  11. Public Statistician: collects and interprets data on health and disease.
  12. Customs Inspector: serves at international borders in investigations and inquiries.
  13. Probation/Parole Officer: persons with psychology backgrounds are often preferred for such positions, especially with adolescent parolees.
  14. Technical Writer: researches and writes material dealing with social science for magazines, newspapers, and journals.
  15. Sales Representative: publishers of psychological books often seek out psychology majors.
  16. Opinion Survey Researcher: does opinion polls and interprets results.
  17. Daycare Center Supervisor: supervises activities of preschool children.
  18. Research Assistant: assists in the collection and analysis of data.
  19. Laboratory Assistant: working with animal behavior research, especially primate laboratories.
  20. Scientific Instrument Salesperson: opportunities in sales and development for companies specializing in psychology apparatus.

We have not listed the numerous kinds of "clinical" positions available to many students with a bachelor's degree in a variety of social service and mental health agencies.

The University of Scranton's Center for Career Development conducts an annual survey of post-graduation activities. Following is a sampling of job titles reported by our psychology graduates with bachelor degrees in recent years.

ABA Counselor

Head Pre-School Teacher

ABA Teaching Aid

Healthcare Representative

Administrative Case Manager

Intake Coordinator

Advertising Sales Assistant

Intensive Case Manager

Assistant Teacher

Investigator 

Behavior Support Assistant

IT Recruiter

Behavioral Technician

Language and Culture Assistant

Care Coordinator

Life Skills Trainer

Case Manager

Mental Health Counselor

Clinical Research Assistant

Milieu Counselor

Counselor Advocate

Nursing Assistant

Crisis Clinician

Nutrition Counselor

Direct Care Counselor

Operations Analyst

Direct Support Professional

Paraeducator

Drug/Alcohol Treatment Specialist

Para Therapist

Educational Treatment Counselor

Patient Services Coordinator

Employment Specialist

Personal Care Assistant

Ensign – United States Navy

Pharmacy Technician

First Grade Teacher

Play Therapist

Foreign Teacher

Preschool Teacher

Probation Officer

Special Education Development

Project Coordinator

Substitute Teacher

Recreation Aide

Support Staff

Regional Director

Teacher

Researcher

Teaching Assistant

Research Assistant

Headhunter for Technology

Research Program Assistant

Therapeutic Staff

School Behav. Health Worker

Transportation Security Officer

Second Lieutenant -- US Air Force

TSS for Autism

Second Lieutenant -- US Army

U.S. Army Reserves

Secret Service

Volunteer for Jesuit Volunteer Corps

Sessions Assistant

Volunteer for Mercy Volunteer Corps

Special Education Teacher

Youth Counselor