Old Dominion University
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College of Sciences

Department of Psychology



One of the first questions that students ask about careers is whether they can find a job with a B.S. in psychology. In general, the answer is that graduating with a B.S. in psychology prepares you for one of two things. Many students use their major in psychology as part of the requirements to earn their bachelor's degree, following which they either seek employment or continue in their present employment. Other students pursue graduate study in psychology or a related field after earning their bachelor's degree. The American Psychological Association publishes extensive information on careers in psychology.

At Old Dominion University your best resource for preparing for a career and/or seeking employment is the Career Management Center. The Center is your link to internships and clinical practica in psychology, resume and interviewing skills, and employers. 

It is important for you to realize that your undergraduate degree, even though it is a B.S., gives you a broad general education, and not professional training. This degree does not qualify you to be a professional psychologist. It does, however, provide you with certain skills that are valuable in the marketplace, and it prepares you for graduate study in psychology and several related fields. Since all jobs require interaction among people, having had courses in human behavior usually enhances your desirability for most jobs. You need to learn which of these skills to emphasize, depending on what type of job you are seeking. However, if you want to pursue a career in professional psychology (or in some related field such as law or medicine), you must pursue graduate study. To be successful in gaining admission to an appropriate graduate program, you will have to do well in your undergraduate course work, among other things (see the section on Graduate Study). However, if graduate school isn't for you, then your psychology degree is an important element in your search for a job and ultimately a satisfying career.

The psychology degree can be excellent preparation for many jobs. Two areas are introduced here, those in the mental health and the business/government areas. Recently, jobs in computer-related areas have also attracted some psychology majors.

Mental Health Jobs: Many psychology majors find jobs at psychiatric hospitals, general hospitals, detention centers, half-way houses, crisis centers or other facilities that are geared toward mental health. The specific job in these agencies or organizations is as varied as the facility itself. You might be a psychiatric assistant in a hospital setting, or you may be a director, assistant director or administrator in a smaller facility. Often people take these jobs to familiarize themselves with the clinical area prior to (or concurrent with) attending graduate school. If you are interested in making a career of this field, however, you need to review your career options and consider what positions might be available for future advancement.

Business/Government Jobs: The specific type of job you seek in the business/government area depends on your particular interest (sales, administration, training) and the size of the organization. In general, for larger organizations you would find positions in the human resources or personnel department, although often there are administrative jobs in other departments for which you may be qualified (e.g., assistant director for quality control). In smaller organizations (or branch offices) you may be an assistant manager or manager (e.g., a store manager). In addition, the broad area of sales is appropriate for a psychology major since courses in learning, cognition, or social psychology would be helpful. For all jobs, it is important to determine a career ladder so that you will not be disappointed later in your employment.

There are many things you should do to begin a job search. First,visit the Career Management Center in Webb Center, Room 2202, 683-4388 which offers a wide variety of services, programs, and resources to enhance your career development and employability. Besides helping you explore the types of job opportunities available, they can help you with interviewing, resume writing, and job search techniques. Second, talk to people--friends, professors--anyone who might give you a lead on a job. Getting information personally is the best source, and often you can get information on specific jobs. Find out where people you know got their jobs, and if it is an area in which you're interested, schedule an "informational interview," where you can just talk to someone about job possibilities. You need to remember that finding a job is a job itself, and you must work to get something worthwhile.

Job Searches: There are numerous publications that might help with a career choice/job search. APA publishes a variety of resources on types of careers, areas of specialization, and average salaries. For information on all APA publications, write APA Publications, 750 First Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002-4242 or visit the website.