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I am debating on whether to study teaching or psychology. I know that if I put my mind to it I can do which ever one, but how can I come to a conclusion on which major to focus on when I love helping others?

I am a senior in high school and I have always loved helping and putting others before me. With having to help out in the house as well as my siblings, helping is second nature to me and it is something that I excell at. I really want to have a profession in which I could help others with their lives. I asked this question because I feel as if I need more advice by people who do not know me and can give me an opinion that is not biased as other people that I ask advice from. #teacher #counselling #women #therapists #helping-others #adults

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Elaine’s Answer

Hi Sinai,

This is a great question. Picking a major is not an easy decision, and I experienced this when I entered college as well. Keep in mind that generally, colleges don't require you to declare a major (declare = choose) until the end of your second year/beginning of third year in college. There are exceptions, and some colleges may require you to declare the major earlier (especially if the major is quite popular or competitive to get in). If you are able to declare early, that's great. If not, don't feel pressured , and just take the first couple of years of college learning more about yourself, and your interests, to determine which major to choose.

I would suggest the following tips:

1. As a freshman or sophomore in college, enroll in a couple of psychology classes, and classes geared towards teaching (eg. classes in the school's education department). See which classes you find more interesting, and consider that as a factor in your decision to pick your major.

2. There are a lot of opportunities in college to join student groups geared towards certain professions, or volunteer opportunities. This might give you more insight into the professions related to teaching or psychology through hands on experience, which will help you in your decision to pick your major.

Finally, I would research both majors at the college you end up going to, and keeping the requirements of those majors in the back of your mind to ensure you are able to declare after you end up deciding which major. For example, if to enter the psychology major , you must meet the requirement of a 3.0 GPA, and teaching does not have such requirement, be sure to keep your college GPA your first couple of years at least a 3.0 GPA so you keep your options open.

I hope this helps!


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Kristin’s Answer

Hi Sinai,

I completely agree with Elaine - picking a major is a difficult decision, and one with ramifications that will continue throughout your life. I would like to add one more consideration to her response, and that is the length of your education. As a psychology major, I can attest to the fact that while you will certainly learn things that you will use in any career, there is not much that can be done with a bachelor's degree in psychology; you need a more advanced degree to make full use of it.

You will need a PhD to work directly with patients as a therapist. If you are able to commit to a master's degree, then you might consider getting an MSW (Master of Social Work) degree instead. That would let you work as a counselor, which sounds like it might be a good fit for you. But if you are only able to commit to a bachelor's degree, and want to get a job in your field of study, I would recommend sticking to education.

That said, a psychology degree can lead to many interesting occupations. I personally work in marketing and software development and there is nothing as germane to marketing as social psychology. But it doesn't sound to me like that's the path you want to take, so consider your end goal carefully.

I hope this helps - and best of luck :)


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Ariana’s Answer

This is a great question and something I didn't know how to prepare for as I thought about college majors. Perhaps my experience can offer a different perspective: I majored in Psychology in college and loved learning about the field, but knew I didn't want to pursue a career in counseling or research. What I didn't realize immediately after graduating is there are many opportunities to leverage these fields in a business setting. HR/People Operations and Sales Enablement are a few fields that can blend aspects of psychology with the benefit of helping or teaching others in a business setting. For example, in my Sales Enablement position at a technology company I have to be aware of effective strategies for adult learning. But I also facilitate a lot of in-person trainings as we onboard new hires in their roles, which has put me in more of a "teaching" position that I wouldn't have thought possible prior to joining the business world. It certainly helps fulfill the desire to help others and have a career that feels rewarding in that sense.

Hopefully my experience highlights that there are opportunities to pursue related careers in a business setting as well.

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Rachel’s Answer

I was in the same boat as you as an undergrad! So I double-majored and studied both. It's helpful to take higher-level classes in Sociology, Psychology, and Human Development. Definitely take at least two or more 2000+ level courses in these subjects. You will learn about society and how it functions in a way that may be harmful to our student and how to combat social constructions and become more aware of them. This will make you a better teacher in the long run and having and understanding of sociology as a whole will make you a better person, help you understand your students and connect with them. Studying psychology and human development will help you learn about the way people learn (and therefore you will learn how to best teach your students). Depending on the phase of life adolescents and children are in, they learn differently, and their brain works differently as well. It is essential to have an understanding of this prior to becoming an educator. It will also help you to connect with students, parents, and families. Human Development and Family Studies will also allow you to become more culturally aware of students and families that come from different backgrounds; this will allow you to unlearn implicit biases and recognize them in yourself and others (and therefore, grow from them). Overall, these three fields of study are absolutely essential when pursuing teaching. Taking the time to take 2 or more classes in each of these subjects will help you become the best teacher you can possibly be. Other than these, the more obvious answer is take as many classes as possible in the subject-area you want to teach AND take education courses.