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Is it better in the long run to major in general psychology or something more specific?

I'm starting college soon and not sure what future career I want but I know I want be in something with counseling. I would prefer to work with kids but also maybe adults? I know I don't need to choose a major right away and can change it if I wanted, but this is more so about what degree I get I guess. #psychology #child-psychology

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Brooke’s Answer

I would recommend majoring in general psychology. Do not be dissuaded by your 1st year. Intro to psych covers hardly anything you will use in your career. It can seem too generic or boring. Your core classes for your major should be broad when looking at programs. A good program offers all the different aspects of the field, research, clinical, abnormal, developmental, cognitive, personality, history and theories, etc. Your electives should spark your curiosity. Try your hand at a few things and let that lead you to your graduate program. In graduate school, you will pick a more specific area and even then, you will have options for concentrations. Typically, we dont specialize until a graduate program. Heads up: you will most likely need a graduate degree to do any of the really fun or rewarding work. Hope that helps!

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XXX’s Answer

If you would like to fins a position in counseling, ensure that you major in CLINICAL. You will at least need a Master's (that is CACREP accredited) to become licensed, but a PsyD if you want to practice alone (as in open your own practice). Check your state's Board site for specifics on obtaining a license in your state; trust me, it gets tricky.

XXX recommends the following next steps:

Find a great university that offers Clinical Psychology (or Applied Psychology with an emphasis on Clinical, which is what I did)
Research your states criteria to be licensed
Research Masters degrees that are CACREP accredited at CACREP.ORG

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Dr. Hanna’s Answer


There is no one path that is "better" than another. It depends on where you want to go.

When I was investigating options 40+ years ago,I met directly with Department heads at the university where I was an undergraduate to ask their advise. The head of the Dept of Recreation sent me to Social Work, based on the types of questions I was asking. I ended up with a double major in social work and psychology, without planning this, just because I was interested in so many psychology courses-I had enough credits for a double major. I went on to get my Masters in Social Work. I worked under my Masters, with adults and children, and wanted to go back or more clinical training--meaning more skills in counseling (although these days there is so much ontinuing education available , one could keep gaining clinical skills just by taking lots of targeted continuing education). When I decided to go for a doctorate I checked out my local universitie's Psychology Dept and also The Education Dept which offered degrees in Counseling Psychology and in Educational Psychology. I learned that, I THAT university, the Psychology doctorate was all about research and in those days, it involved a lot f rats in mazes. Educational Psychology prepared you to work in schools ONLY. I chose Counseling Psychology. In today's marketplace, The EdD in Counseling Psychology (my degree) would now typically be called a PsyD. and the more research oriented one would be a PhD. Once you have the PsyD, you can work with children or adults depending on what you z in. Specialization depends on 1) what you do your doctoral research studies on 2) where you go to do various pre and post doctoral internships . You can work with whomever you are COMPETENT to work with. You can also add competencies through continuing education courses, and certification programs. The only decision you must make early on is how high do you want to go in yoru education and do you want to work in schools or not. "School" psyhology requires you track in ducatioanl Psychology. All other settings ..you go after a PhD or PsyD and take all the courses you can related to child development, do internships under people working with children etc...

When you think of working with children, are you thinking of working in schools or other setting such as clinics , hospitals , private practice? This makes a difference.

Also, how far in your education do you plan, intend , hope to go?

You can work as a "counselor" in some states with just an associate degree. States vary in what they allow what type of license they recognize.

**If you want to become a LICENSED Psychologist , that requires a doctorate degree and there are two main specialities in terms of types of licenses.

To work in schools, after all your education you become an Educational Psychologist. To work in clinics , hospitals, private practice...anywhere other than schools, you become a Psychologist (The term Clinical Psychologist refers to simply Psychologist) . You need to decide by the tiem you go for your Masters which directino you want to go, becuase it impacts what types of courses you take. These two tracks are likely different departments.

To help you decide from a practical point of view investigate :

  1. what government body licenses psychologist and educational psychologists in your state? They will list requirements before you can take the exam.

If you are still not sure DO ADVICE CALLS. Find a local "counselors" who are eductional psychologist working with children in schools, Clinical Psychologist who work with children elsewhere and call them, Ask to chat with them for 10 minutes to "get your advise". Ask them what a typical work day is like. How they prepared for the field. What they like most about it, least...

Find a regional major university that offers each discipline.

Research to find those two Depts .

Look at what classes they offer , what is required and what is optional.

What type of internships do they require?

Make appointments to talk with the Dept. Chair of Clinical Psychology and also of Educational Psychology to get a FEEL for what each type of psychologist does .

Go with what facinates you the most. Your own fascination and inner motivation has to carry you through the tedious and tough parts of education and work in the field.

I hope this helps.

Dr. Hanna Chusid Ed. (California Lic #12001)