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August 10, 2010 > Counseling Corner: What can you do with a degree in psychology?

Counseling Corner: What can you do with a degree in psychology?

By Anne Chan, PhD, MFT

I am often asked what one can do with a degree in psychology. My answer is always an enthusiastic "Plenty!" People often think that there are few jobs available to psychology majors beyond counseling. However, there's much you can do with this degree besides becoming a psychologist (although being a psychologist in itself opens the door to multiple exciting and interesting career possibilities).

People often equate psychology with what they see in the movies. The stereotype of the psychologist is the stern-faced analyst who sits in a rigid high-backed chair taking notes while the patient lies on the couch and muses about life. This portrait actually represents only a tiny fraction of what psychology graduates actually do in the real world.

For starters, let's clarify a few terms:
Psychologist refers to a person who has completed a doctoral program in psychology and holds a license to practice psychology.

Psychotherapist refers to someone who has completed at least a master's degree in psychology and is licensed to practice psychotherapy. Note that psychologists are also licensed to provide psychotherapy services.

In January of this year, Senate Bill 788 went into effect in California. This bill introduced a new licensing category of Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) for those in the general practice of professional counseling.

There is a tremendous range of jobs and types of work settings in which you'll find psychology graduates applying their skills. On any given day, you will find them working in corporations, nonprofits, government agencies, and private businesses. In fact, there are very few sectors where you won't find psychology graduates at work. Moreover, they can find work locally as well as globally. The new trend is for some psychologists and psychotherapists to provide services over the Internet, so it seems that the sky is the limit for where psychology graduates can work.

The range of things that psychology graduates do at work is incredibly varied, from human resource management and mediation to forensics and industrial/organizational analyses. Whole books have been written on the subject of applications for a psychology degree. One helpful resource is Robert Sternberg's "Career Paths in Psychology: Where Your Degree Can Take You." Another great starting point is a free "Careers in Psychology" brochure created by the American Psychological Association (http://www.apa.org/careers/resources/guides/careers.aspx).

Of course, many people study psychology to provide direct psychotherapy and counseling services. If you are interested in working primarily as therapist, there is also a tremendous range of specialized niches to help people. Some popular ones are couples counseling, divorce counseling, parenting coaching, and career counseling. Therapists provide help with every sort of problem imaginable and work with every age group, from preschoolers to post-retirement elders.

A career in psychology can be varied, fulfilling, and exciting. I highly encourage those who are interested to consider taking a class at Ohlone College in Fremont or Chabot College in Hayward. Both of these community colleges offer Associate degrees in psychology. For those interested in pursuing a Bachelor's degree in the subject, check out California State University East Bay, San Jose State University, and Santa Clara University, all of which have solid psychology programs.

Anne Chan is a career counselor and licensed psychotherapist in Union City. She specializes in helping people find happiness in their careers, lives, and relationships. She can be reached at (510) 744-1781. Her website is www.annechanconsulting.com

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