Congratulations on your psychology degree! Now, what are you doing with it?
First, the bad news: If you're hoping to get a psychology-related job, the odds aren't in your favor. A 2003 survey by the National Science Foundation found that of the 122,800 people who graduated with BS degrees in psychology, less than 5 percent got jobs in the field.
Now, the good news: Employers of all stripes want and need your communication and interpersonal skills; your ability to collect, organize, analyze and interpret data; and, perhaps most important, your strong understanding of human behavior. As a result, many psychology majors find jobs managing human resource departments or working as recruiters, according the PayScale Salary Survey.
So, how do you find a job that fits your interests and talents? You probably know about the importance of exploring careers through informational interviews and effectively using Web resumes. But here's some lesser-known advice from the experts:
Plan early. As early as your freshman year, in fact, says Drew C. Appleby, PhD, author of "The Savvy Psychology Major" (Kendall/Hunt Publishing, 2007). Meet with your academic adviser to discuss your career interests and options. Continue to hone your career choice by the end of your sophomore year so that you have identified the unique constellation of knowledge, skills and characteristics you need to enter the career of your choice—and also have time to take the classes and engage in the activities you'll need by the time you graduate. Remember the old saying, "Failing to plan is planning to fail."
Assess yourself. Figure out who you are and what you want from a job, advise Julie DeGalan and Stephen Lambert, authors of "Great Jobs for Psychology Majors" (McGraw-Hill, 2006). To do that, sidle up to your computer and answer these questions: What are the 10 traits that describe you best? What working conditions must you have? How much money do you need to make? What are your long-term goals? What skills do you have and which do you most enjoy using? Your answers will provide a foundation for your job search and enable you to pinpoint the opportunities best suited to you.
Capitalize on your connections. You've heard it before, and it's still true: Networking is critical, says Boise State University's R. Eric Landrum, PhD, author of "Finding Jobs with a Psychology Bachelor's Degree" (APA Books, 2009). Think about the people you've met who could give you job leads—perhaps you completed an internship, participated in a service learning event or volunteered at a school. Also, be sure to stay in touch with your professors since local agencies may contact them looking for "good" graduates to fill a job. And don't forget, even after you graduate, you will need references or letters of recommendation, so staying connected with faculty is a smart choice.
Look beyond Internet job postings. With such sites as careerbuilder.com and monster.com, the Internet is a wonderful tool for finding jobs. But it's limited, warns Landrum. For example, many corporations don't list their jobs there. To find those and other opportunities, read the newspaper, visit companies that interest you and network. Don't forget to monitor newspapers in regions you'd be willing to move to, adds Betsy L. Morgan, PhD, co-author of "Majoring in Psych? Career Options for Psychology Undergraduates" (Allyn & Bacon, 2009).
Take advantage of campus services, even after you graduate. Your campus career center and alumni office are both interested in your long-term success. Many even host training, job fairs and other events for graduates. Landrum's university alumni office, for example, is hosting an all-day "Job Search Boot Camp" this month.