A Major is a Minor Commitment #03: Psychology

A natural transition from first to second “episode” in A Major is a Minor Commitment is my other college major, psychology. I wasn’t the only one to major in psychology — in fact, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, 22% of all Bachelor’s degrees issued in 2016, psychology was amongst the six most popular majors. There’s a reason why it’s so sought after… and no, it’s not because it’s “easy.”

 

Background

Psychology derives from the Greek roots psyche (soul) and logia (study of). Its theoretical beginnings date back to Ancient Greece and China, but philosopher William James is known to be the first to formally define the field. Psychology has since become a focused study of the mind and its links to human behavior. Similar to many academic fields, it can be categorized into many schools of thought, ranging from more theoretical focuses like social psychology, to more applied focuses like clinical or industrial/organizational psychology. In sum, psychology is an incredibly diverse discipline, but all sub-fields tend to align with a common goal of furthering our understanding of a) how the human mind functions, and b) how the human mind interacts with and impacts our environment.

Life as a Psychology Major

Folks studying psychology take classes that are heavily lecture-based, as the major requires memorization of hundreds of key psychological theories – and for the more fulfilling courses, their practical applications. Hopefully, time is spent focused on case studies and contemporary empirical research, but some classes may take an historical approach. Not all psychology courses are so magnified on conceptual plug-and-chug, though, since they may take a quantitative approach, teaching students the value of empirical research and statistics through practice. Psychology majors are unique in that they have the capacity to build an elevated understanding of human behavior — something that most other majors can’t boast.

Top Transferable Skills

Observation: A psychology major is well-practiced in the skills needed to step back and gather information about their environment. Applicable in private and public contexts, psychology majors can address physical and mental stimuli when placed directly in any given context.

Deducing meaning and motive from behavior: Once information is gathered, a psychology major can then use their theoretical knowledge of human interaction to assume true intentions, motives, and meanings of others’ behavior. This is very practical. In social contexts, psychology majors have a leg-up when interpreting others’ actions.

Changing human behavior: While this could be reduced to simple persuasion, human behavior is more complex than that. Psychology majors can use inferences from their observations to provide suggestions for wise courses of action in a wide variety of contexts.

Possible Professions

  • Researcher — Psychology is a perfect merging of qualitative and quantitative reasoning, which is a great foundation to launch from as a researcher. This can be applied in almost any research setting, from the academic world to business world (as long as you know their research variables well). Can require additional degrees, but not for all positions.
  • Social Worker — A direct way to reinforce others’ well-being via provision of resources and understanding larger social contexts; social work is a respectable route to take as a psychology major. While it might not boast high pay, it is incredibly rewarding. Note: this requires a separate degree focus, but a psychology major is a fantastic supplement.
  • Marketing and Advertising — More of a general field than a profession, knowledge of psychology can allow one to take a creative and strategic approach to marketing/advertising products and services to either targeted audiences or the general public.
  • Healthcare — Whether it’s psychiatry, nursing, administration, or a full-on MD, psychology majors are naturally geared towards the medical field.
  • Economist — An interesting choice here, but very applicable for the more quantitative-minded. Behavioral economics is a field experiencing rapid growth, and it is a direct intersection of psychology and economics. May require additional schooling.

 

In the professional world, the true value of this major is its flexibility. There are only five professions listed here, but in reality, there are many more professional applications (not to mention the classic examples of psychology professions, like therapy, academics, or education). In fact, many employers in most fields have psychology backgrounds, adding to the overall professional flexibility of the major.

 

-Sean

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