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Careers for major in psychology

I’m a first generation college student. I want a career in clinical psychology. I want to apply to Psyd programs. How can I better prepare myself for the application process? What career advice would you give a future psychologist? Do you have any resources that help with the application process and information about psychology career paths? Any information and advice regarding anything about careers in psychology would be appreciated.

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Ebony’s Answer, CareerVillage.org Team

Hi There,
MA Clinical Psyc Student Here

Is it safe to assume that you are working on your undergrad now? If so, I am also assuming that you already have your major declared. If I am wrong please feel free to let me know.

How can I better prepare myself for the application process?
The best advice I can give about preparing early for the application process is to use this time researching the school(s)/program(s) you'd like to apply to. As you know, each will typically have its own unique spin on what they'd like to see from applicants. I found a good starter list for questions to help guide your selection process.
-Which schools offer the focus or concentration I want (if any)?
-Will I attend online, on-campus or some combination of both?
-How much can I afford to spend?
-Will I be able or willing to go full-time?
-Does the school have a track record of professional placement or networking?
-Are any psychologists I follow and respect alumni?
-How involved are faculty in my development?
-What is required to graduate, such as research projects and/or internships?
Once you know which school you'd like to attend (along with a backup option) then you can tailor yourself to their application process (internships, GPA, Letters of Rec, studying for any required exams, etc).

What career advice would you give a future psychologist?
There are soooo many areas of expertise you can dive into with clinical psychology. Use this time to expose yourself to working with all groups to determine your niche. Is it residential, eating disorders, children, etc that you'd like to focus primarily on? Try a little bit of everything.

Do you have any resources that help with the application process and information about psychology career paths? If you have an opportunity to intern with orgs in the mental health space, I say do it. It's a great way to learn more about all that's out there. These are offered in the non-profit, county, and private spaces and really depends on your location.

Hopefully this helps

Thank you comment icon Thanks, can't wait to put this advice into action! Nataly Z.
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Priya’s Answer

Hi Nataly,
There are many career paths you can take with a major in Psychology, in and outside of mental health professional fields. I will mention a few within mental health professions:
1) You can definitely pursue your PsyD or PhD to become a psychologist.
2) You can pursue a master-level degree to become a licensed professional counselor, a licensed professional social worker, a licensed marriage and family therapist, an art or music therapist (provided you have the background needed in art and music as well,) school counseling (which requires teaching experience in my state as well) etc. These programs are *typically* shorter than a doctorate degree. They will usually involve experience hours you must gain before getting a full license (the lpc route has proven tough for me in regards to accruing hours, but many have been able to achieve it in time.) LPCs can also be called Licensed Mental Health Counselors in some states.
3) You also may be able to pursue Bachelor level work such as case management or teaching behavioral/coping skills.
These paths may look different depending on your country and state but these are some options you can begin to look into! I was accruing research experience and a thesis in my bachelor's degree but was guided that I did not need the thesis because I was leaning toward practitioner training as opposed to the research that is valued in a PhD program. Think about whether you would enjoy the research background, you want to be a practitioner, and go from there. Your psychology professors can also be a great help in guiding you in what you need for the admission process! Get a binder to get organized in everything you need if that helps and good luck! Glad to have another wonderful addition to the mental health field if you so choose!
Thank you comment icon I appreciate this, thank you for the advice. Nataly Z.
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Kristine’s Answer

Hi Nataly.

You've gotten 2 thorough responses, so I'm not sure whether an additional one will add anything. But let me first say, congrats on taking the step into college as a first gen student. In my experience as faculty, that takes courage and tenacity.

As to your question about pursuing a PsyD, my personal advice to all undergrads is, if possible, take some time off after your Bachelor's to explore positions that relate to what you think you want to go to grad school for. This allows you the chance to get hands-on experience that may point you towards or steer you away from options that you think are of interest.

Also, I would be curious to know what draws you to a PsyD specifically as compared to, say, a Masters in Counseling or a Masters in Social Work? A PsyD is a longer and likely more expensive degree than those other two, and there may be pathways to the same end you desire with less time in school and less cost. Given that you are near L.A., there are likely countless schools that offer all of these possible degree pursuits. Maybe reviewing the coursework offered in each degree program across several local universities may give you a better feel for which path makes the most sense.

Finally, just know that an undergrad in Psychology, sadly, prepares you for pretty limited work roles without further education. I don't in any way regret doing my Bachelor's in Psych; it gave me terrific foundation for my graduate work, introduced me to doing observational research as an undergrad research assistant, and connected me to a tremendous faculty mentor who I remain in touch with, 30 years later! But when I graduated with my BA, the jobs I was eligible for paid poorly and I'm not sure that has changed.

Hope this helps!
Thank you comment icon Thank you! Nataly Z.
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Theresa’s Answer

The best thing I ever did as a clinical social worker providing psychotherapy to clients was to develop a daily mindfulness/meditation routine. It not only helped me build awareness and a life worth living as a human, it also helped me with tremendous success professionally. I do a daily iRest yoga nidra meditation and became a practitioner of it as well. So not exactly what you asked and I hope you’ll consider. Good luck!
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much, Theresa! Nataly Z.
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