If you are an industrious psychology student, you may have already begun your research into the multitude of possibilities after you graduate from your psychology program. However, even the most innovative student can leave this pertinent detail at the bottom of his or her "projects to be done" pile. Regardless of when you decide to begin, or reform, your career journey into the diverse field of psychology, you should know that a degree in psychology does not close doors, it opens them.
For first year students, the best resources can be found in the same building where you register and begin your education. The Psychology Department faculty and staff have lists of places that will help you create your path of study for the next several years. Career Centers, the College of Arts and Sciences, the campus library, and the World Wide Web are just a few places you should check for more information about courses, careers, and additional educational opportunities. You may want to visit these places before the school year begins to gain an advantage on your freshman class. Remember that you are one of thousands of students seeking similar courses, careers, and employment. You must prepare yourself to stay ahead of the herd.
Once the school year begins, every sign outside of every classroom offers you an opportunity that will look great on a resume or graduate school application. So, how do you choose which one is right for you? Fortunately, any selection you make will lead to more possibilities as you refine your academic objectives. Therefore, you must realize that this experience is just as important as an executive position within a Fortune 500 company. If your performance as a volunteer or employee for the school or school's affiliates is commendable, then you will create a multitude of future possibilities as you continue your academic journey over the next few years.
During your second year, you may want to assess your first year accomplishments when you plan for future courses and extracurricular activities. If you have completed some required courses outside of the psychology major during the first year, you have had the chance to explore other disciplines that could serve as a double major or minor. Several choices that will give you a competitive edge are healthcare, business and finance, computer science, engineering, foreign languages, law, math, physics, and public administration. Because psychology is the study of behavior and its consequences, it brings new perspectives to any field of study. Use your imagination to create the future branches of psychology.
By the beginning of your third year, you should decide if you are going to apply to graduate school. If so, you must plan the next few years very carefully. Once again, the faculty and staff who helped guide you in the right direction during your first years of education will be able to provide you with a wealth of information about graduate school. In addition to those plans, you should consider consulting with your professors or employers about projects and/or licenses that will enhance your post-graduate possibilities. If you have established your desire to work within a particular discipline or for a particular employer, you may be able to receive financial assistance for these endeavors. Furthermore, psychologists in the area or on the World Wide Web may be willing to speak with you about the choices they made that have led them to success in their field. Often, professors and professional psychologists can steer you clear of courses and/or work experiences that may be more of a hindrance than a help to your career path.
By the end of the third year, you should have pieced together your graduate application for early submission in the fall. Although most students do prepare to begin their graduate education the fall following a spring commencement, the student who exploits professional opportunities outside of the university after graduation may find that they have the advantage when, or if, they choose to return to school. The student who pursues an undergraduate psychology degree with an emphasis in industrial organizational psychology in conjunction with another degree, such as business or finance, will be a desirable candidate for many large corporations. The current status of the nation and the economy has created a plethora of opportunities for students with a background in psychology.
During the summer of your fourth year, you should review your academic career. This analysis will help you find out what courses will benefit you most in your last year of education and what your targets will be after graduation. Frequently, students who have had a strong performance in their first three years will choose courses that are less demanding in order to prepare arrangements for life after graduation. However, other students may choose to take graduate courses in their fourth year. This is a wise choice for the student who has identified a specific graduate program. Such courses can alleviate the stress of the first year in graduate school.
Whether you choose graduate school, corporate college, or create your own path, your psychology degree is your key to the door of success.
Leyla A. Law is a Florida native who spends most of her time in the Tampa Bay area. After high school, she attended the University of South Florida Honors College. She pursued a psychology degree at the undergraduate level to gain further insight into her favorite subject, human behavior. Currently, she works in the School District of Hillsborough County as a Substitute Teacher. She plans to attend law school next fall. Leyla can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fall 2004 issue of Eye on Psi Chi (Vol. 9, No. 1, p. 23), published by Psi Chi, The National Honor Society in Psychology (Chattanooga, TN). Copyright, 2004, Psi Chi, The National Honor Society in Psychology. All rights reserved.