Psychology Career

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>What can I do with a master's degree vs. a doctoral degree?


Doctoral graduates: As might be expected, the highest-paid and greatest range of jobs in psychology are available to doctoral graduates. Although the number of doctoral graduates has at least doubled over the past 12 years, the demand continues to meet the supply. Furthermore, unemployment and underemployment rates for doctoral psychologists are slightly below the average for other scientists and engineers. Few drop out of the field.

The greatest expansion of career opportunities for doctoral psychologists in the last decade has been in the subfields of clinical, counseling, school, health, industrial, and educational psychology. As a consequence, proportionally fewer new doctorates have headed into faculty positions as compared with the past.

Master's graduates: The number of psychology students who pursue a terminal master's degree has increased sixfold since 1960. Competition for positions in psychology-related jobs is keen; nevertheless, approximately one-third of those with a master's degree in psychology find such work. Many handle research and data collection and analysis in universities, government, and private companies. Others find jobs in health, industry, and education, the primary work settings for psychology professionals with master's degrees. With growing recognition of the role of the psychologist in the community, more jobs for psychologists with master's degrees may also become available in community mental health centers.

Psychologists with master's degrees often work under the direction of a doctoral psychologist, especially in clinical, counseling, school, and testing and measurement psychology.

Some jobs in industry, for example, in organizational development and survey research, are held by both doctoral- and master's-level graduates. But industry and government jobs in compensation, training, data analysis, and general personnel issues are often filled by professionals with master's degrees in psychology.

>What's the difference between a Ph.D and Psy.D?


Both Psy.D. and Ph.D. degree programs lead to the doctoral degree in psychology, which can open up many career opportunities. At least four years of study are usually required to obtain a doctorate. If you want to provide psychological services, another year for the internship and at least one additional year of supervised practice are necessary.

Students interested in careers as professional clinical, counseling, or school psychologists may want to consider the 'Professional School' doctoral program, some of which offer the Psy.D. rather than the more traditional Ph.D. or Ed.D. Professional schools place greater emphasis on training students for professional practice, whereas traditional programs place a greater emphasis on developing the psychologist as both a researcher and a practitioner. Psy.D. programs tend to feature more structured course sequences as well as extensive practical work.

>Will courses from other universities transfer?


If you are transferring to the University of Memphis from another college or university, be sure to have your transcript evaluated for transfer credit as soon as possible. The Admissions Office (second floor, Wilder Tower) performs the evaluation, but they often take a while to do this, especially during the summer when many students are transferring. Therefore, it is important that you begin the transfer evaluation process as early as you can.

Once you have received the official evaluation of your transfer credits, you may discover that some of your courses were transferred as "Unassigned LD" (unassigned lower-division courses) or "Unassigned UD" (unassigned upper-division courses). This occurs when the transcript analyst cannot identify a course at the UofM that is equivalent to the one you took elsewhere. If this happens, come by the Academic Advising & Resource Center in Room 205 of the psychology building. They can be reached at 678.2543. One of the advising staff will work with you to determine if these unassigned transfer credits may be applied to fulfilling your degree requirements.

Once you have matriculated at The University of Memphis, you may decide to take a few courses at another institution and transfer them back to The UofM. Before doing that, make sure The UofM approves these courses for degree credit. Secure a Transfer Credit Request (TCR) form from the Admissions Office, second floor, John S. Wilder tower. The TCR must be approved by your Advisor as well as the College of Arts & Sciences.

>I have no plans to continue on to graduate school. What career options do I have with only a bachelor's in psychology?


Students often ask, "What can I do with psychology if I don't continue my education beyond the bachelor's degree?" As we've said, having a bachelor's degree in psychology doesn't make you a psychologist. However, there are positions available in business and industry as well as in the public sector for which your training in psychology provides a valuable background. These jobs range from psychological technicians in mental health facilities to positions in human relations and public relations firms. For businesses that typically hire people at the bachelor's level whom they then train for supervisory and management positions, psychology offers an excellent foundation, especially when supplemented with a few courses from business and management.

>I've heard that a degree in psychology can be useful in other fields. What are some common career options if I choose this route?


Actually, most people who major in psychology do not go on to study psychology in graduate school. An undergraduate major in psychology provides an excellent foundation for entering other disciplines such as medicine, law, business, and human resources, as well as other helping professions such as rehabilitation, speech pathology, and audiology. A major in psychology, combined with other appropriate courses, will give you an excellent preparation for entering these professions.

Students who major in psychology at the undergraduate level often plan to pursue post-graduate training in other fields such as one of the health professions (e.g., medicine, dentistry, physical therapy), law, business/management, social work, or speech pathology. While a degree in psychology can provide excellent preparation for another profession, students must make sure they take the necessary preparatory courses for admission to post-graduate training in these other areas.

The Health Professions: Psychology majors who plan to pursue post-graduate training in dentistry, optometry, podiatry, medicine, osteopathic medicine, veterinary medicine, physical therapy, pharmacy or some other health-related profession will typically have two advisors, one advisor in the Psychology Department who will help them fulfill the requirements for the B.A. or B.S. degree, and one advisor in the Pre-Health Sciences who is located in the College of Arts and Sciences, Room 107, Scates Hall.

It is important for students planning on entering one of these health professions to learn about the preparatory courses they should be taking for admission into a graduate program in the health sciences. Information about the Pre-Health Sciences advising program can be obtained by visiting Room 107, Scates Hall, by phoning 901.678.5454, or by consulting the College of Arts and Sciences website.

Law: Psychology majors who plan to attend law school should take additional courses in areas such as English, history, criminal justice, political science, and philosophy. While law schools do not specify the major(s) that pre-law students should pursue, they do prefer students who have enrolled in courses that are reading- and writing-intensive.

Students wanting to enter law school must take the LSAT entrance exam. Information about this exam and about specific law schools can be obtained from the College of Arts and Sciences website.

Business/Management: Graduate schools of business vary widely in the undergraduate courses of study they require of their entering students. Some require an undergraduate major in business, whereas others require no business courses. If you are planning to enter graduate school in business, you should consult the catalogs of some of your choices. As an example, the Fogelman College of Business and Economics at the UofM requires the following for admission to its M.B.A. program:

  • ACCT 2010, 2020 ECON 2110, 2120
  • ISDS 2710, 2711, 3510
  • MGMT 3110
  • MKTG 3010
  • MATH 1312
  • FIR 3130, 3410

Social Work: Admission to a graduate program in social work requires a course in human biology as well as a strong background in the liberal arts, including courses in the following: economics; government, political science, or history; sociology or anthropology; and philosophy. Within psychology, it is recommended that courses in abnormal psychology (PSYC 3102), social psychology (PSYC 3106) and developmental psychology (PSYC 3103 and 3104) be taken. The general section of the GRE must be taken prior to admission to graduate school.

Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology: Psychology majors planning to pursue graduate training in audiology and speech-language pathology should consult the graduate program they are interested in attending to determine specific requirements. The Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology department at the University of Memphis requires no additional coursework beyond that required of the B.A. or B.S. in psychology. However, programs at other universities may require specific courses in audiology or speech-language pathology that are not offered at the UofM, so you may need to take additional undergraduate courses prior to full admission to one of these programs. The general section of the GRE must be taken prior to admission to graduate school.

>When should I decide what area of psychology I want to specialize in?


The field of psychology is an extremely broad discipline that encompasses a large number of different career possibilities. Although you will eventually have to choose which aspect of psychology you will pursue in graduate school, don't be in too much of a hurry to decide these matters. The specific coursework and research experiences that you will take as an undergraduate will help you broaden your acquaintance with different areas of psychology. Thus, as an undergraduate, you do not need to prepare yourself for any particular type of psychology. Graduate school is where that happens. Further, you should also be prepared to change your mind about your specific career aspirations even after you have entered graduate school. So while you're an undergraduate, give yourself as much opportunity as you can to learn what your options are.