You already know the pop culture clichés about psychology: A patient stretched out on a leather couch in a room lined with bookshelves. Off to one side of the couch a doctor wearing round wire-rim glasses calmly says, “Yes, I see. Now, tell me about your mother.”
Parent-based crises aside, psychology maintains its position year after year as one of the most popular college majors. There’s something about unpacking the mysteries of the human mind that intrigues college students.
Maybe it’s the chance to learn about yourself; maybe it’s understanding how other people think. Or perhaps it’s because (as one former psychology major speculates on Quora) psychology is considered “the easy one” among the sciences—at least by those who don’t understand it.
If you’re undecided and applying to colleges, chances are the thought of a psychology major crossed your consciousness. But what is the psychology major, really?
What Does a Psychology Major Study?
Psychology, according to Simply Psychology, is “The scientific study of the mind and behavior.” It’s using the tools of science to understand what we do, why we do it, and what’s going on in our brains when we do it.
The big keyword here is “scientific,” because psychology is indeed a science. In listing the top 10 reasons to get a psychology major, Psychology Today debunks the myth that “psychology is an art, not a science.” In fact, the discipline involves rigorous research, math, and biology.
In the psychology department here at IPFW, the core curriculum includes statistics and research methods, developmental psychology, social and personality psychology, abnormal psychology, learning, cognitive psychology, and psychobiology. Students then go on to specialized courses such as adolescent development, death and dying, cross-cultural psychology, clinical psychology, psychology of women, and many others.
Psychology majors at IPFW also get an impressive amount of real-world experience through field placements, research assistantships, and the opportunity to attend research conferences.
Do All Psychology Majors Become Psychologists and Therapists?
No. While a psychology major makes good first step towards a clinical therapy career, becoming licensed as a psychologist or therapist requires additional education —at least master’s degree to become a clinical psychologist, says Psychology.org, and in most cases, a doctorate.
What Jobs Can You Get With a Psychology Major?
But clinical psychology (you know, after all of the post-graduate education) is just the tip of the iceberg for psychology majors. A little knowledge of the human mind is a valuable thing wherever you go. That’s why you find psychology majors working in a wide variety of fields.
Psychology Today lists a few possible positions, including substance abuse counselor, psychological tester, human resources professional, and sports psychologist. Over at Psychology Degree 411, the list includes jobs like market research analyst, public relations specialist, and victim advocate.
In fact, the insights into human behavior that you get from a psychology degree might even give you an edge to qualify for the many jobs available that require a bachelor’s degree but no specific major.
As for job growth and salary, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests “Job prospects should be best for those who have a doctoral degree in an applied specialty.”
So if you are thinking about psychology, consider the fact that, to make the most of it, you may have to spend a few more years in school. In return, though, you can expect a median pay of $75,230 per year.
Who Should Major in Psychology?
As you can see, psychology is not necessarily an easy major, but it can be very rewarding for students who are ready to dig into the science. Because it’s multidisciplinary, psychology students should be eager to explore a broad range of topics.
One word of caution: Some students choose psychology because they “like helping people” or “like talking.” While these can certainly be aspects of psychology, they are far from the whole story. If you’re not sure if a psychology major will be a good fit for you, ask to sit in on a class or meet with a faculty member as you visit campuses.
Explore Other Majors
Choosing a major can be nerve-wracking and exciting at the same time. For help, click below to get your free copy of our guide, “Majors and Careers 101: A Guide for Undecided Students Applying to Colleges.”