At the end of the day, we all should be choosing our college majors carefully, according to what might be marketable. Psychology undergraduates gain some unique and valuable skills that give them an edge on the job market. The skills derive from their workload, and diversity in courses. Some of these courses include: statistics and research methods, neuroscience, individual and group dynamics, memory and learning, and psychopathology/psychopharmacology.
Psychology Today states that these ten skills are among the most desirable of psychology graduates:
- predict and understand the behavior of individuals and groups;
- understand how to use and interpret data
- evaluate the legitimacy of claims about behavior
- know how memory and learning function
- have insight into problematic behaviors
- demonstrate the capacity to adapt to change
- understand and operate effectively throughout the channels of an organization
- manage difficult situations and high stress environments
- start and carry out projects with limited information or experience
- show persistence in challenging circumstances
This is a formidable set of skills and you might wonder how the average 22-year-old college grad can implement such skills. If you understand how the major works, the answer is not an enigma.
Psychology is the science of behavior, and psychologists learn how to predict, understand, explain, and control behavior. Though BA or BS students are not (yet) professional psychologists, undergraduates are still taught how to look carefully at behavior, and gain exposure to the most fundamental principles such as motivation, learning, thinking, sensation, and perception. The average psych 101 course surveys the field, and provides students with the proper background information to get them started in the major, regardless of which area they choose to specialize in during grad school.
The introductory statistics courses generally offered in the major exposes students not only to such topics as probability theory, but also the use of statistical software packages that only 15 or 20 years ago became a hit in the field. Students can now understand the reasoning behind the statistics that they insert on their own via SPSS. Many students also complete their own research projects (under the guidance of a professor), or at least participate in a lab to gain relevant experience. This gives them an appreciation not only for how research gets done, but why research is necessary to gain a scientific understanding of behavior.
The content areas in the undergraduate psychology major are built on these basic scientific skills. The standards that accredited undergraduate programs stick to in order to ensure that students fulfill requirements that give them exposure to the major areas like social psychology and cognitive psychology. Students also typically learn how to conduct their own library research. They are able to choose from thousands of research articles, because online databases have now become so sophisticated that within a few keystrokes, one can gain access to almost any article on almost any topic on the internet.
Psychology majors also learn about the ethical principles of the field, as well as how social situations manifest themselves, and how groups think in social psychology. Many psychology students naturally gravitate toward volunteer opportunities, and it is pretty obvious as to why.
Bottom line: whether you are a parent, guidance counselor, teacher, advisor, or an actual student, don’t fear this major. There are few majors that are as intriguing and versatile as psychology. Besides that, though, the skills you gain through this degree are skills that can be used for life.