What Do Psychologists Do and Where Do They Work?
Careers in psychology are rapidly growing in number as the area is continuing to expand and diversity. The American Psychological Association (APA), the largest professional organization in the field, now has 54 separate divisions each representing a different specialty. Psychologists can be found working in a variety of settings ranging from health-care to business and industry to education and research. Many careers in psychology involve working directly with people, for example, as licensed psychologists, counselors, teachers and human service providers. Other career possibilities are more task- or research-oriented (e.g., consultants, administrators, and researchers).
Opportunities at the Bachelor’s Degree Level
According to the APA booklet, Psychology: Scientific Problem-Solvers-Careers for the 21st Century, some of the fields that graduates with bachelor’s degrees in psychology have entered include:
- Administrative support
- Public affairs
- Service industries
- Biological sciences
- Computer programming
- Employment counselors
- Corrections counselors
- Personnel analysts
- Probation officers
A baccalaureate degree in psychology also provides a strong foundation for further training in other fields including medicine, law, social work, and business.
Additional training beyond the baccalaureate level opens up even more career options, especially beyond the supervised research or human services assistant levels.
Counseling and Career Office
General information about career opportunities and procedures for finding employment can be obtained at the Career Development office in the Haubert Union Building. In addition, this office keeps on file lists of jobs that past psychology majors have obtained. For more information, please see the Career Center website.
Students who wish to pursue their studies to the graduate level can find our faculty to guide them through the process. Our department has a student resource center that enables individuals a comprehensive list of accredited graduates schools recognized by the American Psychological Association (APA).
Many electives will be appropriate for students who plan to go on to a graduate school of psychology. In addition to the courses recommended for different areas in psychology, certain courses in psychology as well as outside the field of psychology should be considered by the student who seeks an advanced degree. Several years ago, the American Psychological Association surveyed Chairpersons of psychology departments which offer graduate degrees to determine which undergraduate courses were considered to be the best preparation for graduate study in psychology. The courses which were cited most frequently and their equivalent at Moravian College are given below.
- Psychology 211 & 212 Experimental Methods & Data Analysis I & II
- Psychology 230 History, Systems and Theories
- Psychology 335 Conditioning, Learning and Behavior
- Psychology 340 Social Psychology
- Psychology 361 Personality
- Psychology 362 Abnormal Psychology
- Psychology 363 Psychological Testing
- Psychology 381 Independent Study
- Psychology 400 Honors
Letters of Recommendation
Some graduate school programs and employers place as much emphasis, and sometimes more emphasis, on letters of recommendation as on any other part of the application materials. Therefore, it is important that you (1) choose your recommenders carefully, and (2) encourage these people to write the best possible letters in support of your application. Concerning the first goal, potential recommenders include not only your psychology professors, but other professors from a related field, and a job supervisor or other professional persons with whom you have worked. When you approach the people from whom you want a letter, be sure to ask whether they feel they can write a strong letter of support on your behalf. Most people (including your professors) will be honest with you. If a person feels he/she cannot write a strong letter, discuss the reasons and perhaps reconsider your choices. A weak letter of recommendation is often worse than no letter at all!
The best way to accomplish the second goal is to provide the person with as much information on you as possible, including both personal as well as academic information. This will help the person provide an accurate, concise and personal letter, and will also make the task much easier for him or her. Supply your recommenders with a well-organized packet of information that includes the following
- A copy of your most recent transcript.
- A stamped envelope addressed to the location where the letter is to be sent.
- A description of the graduate program or type of position to which you are applying, or if the letter is to go to a general file, indicate this. The recommender is then better able to highlight or emphasize particular features about you that might be especially relevant.
- The recommendation form, if a specific form is required. Don’t forget to complete your part of the form, for example your full name, the program or job for which you are applying, the degree, whether you are also applying for financial assistance, your signature, etc.
- The deadline for each letter of recommendation. Please recognize that recommendations are very time-consuming to write. Therefore, if possible, give the person writing your letter at least 2 to 3 weeks to do it.
- The basis of professor/student contact: describe formal courses (title, grade and other aspects of your special performance); honors research; independent study; informal contacts; work-study program; departmental assistant, etc.
- Academic achievements: Tell about your overall GPA, your cumulative grade point in psychology, your major, your strengths and weaknesses, how your academic background has prepared you for what you are being recommended. Include anything “extra” or unique about your academic background – if you have any Board scores.
- Participation in psychology programs, conferences, Psi Chi, Psychology Club, etc.
- Non-academic background: Briefly describe extracurricular activities, jobs, hobbies, sports, community work, political or social involvements, overseas education, travel, etc.
- Pre-college background: Anything of note in your family or earlier life history?
- General goals for the future. What would you like to be doing with your life ten years from now?
- Anything else that you believe would strengthen your recommendation or would be of value to you.
To Waive or Not to Waive?
According to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, you must decide whether to waive or not waive the right to see your letters of recommendation. The principal advantage of the letters written under non-waiver is that you know exactly what has been written about you and can seek references from others if you don’t like the ones you have. On the other hand, it is generally felt that confidential recommendations have more credibility with prospective employers and graduate schools. The choice is yours.