Whenever I tell people that I am majoring in Psychology, a couple of the many immediate reactions is asking me if I can read minds or if I want to be a therapist. Unfortunately, I definitely cannot read minds and while many psychology students do plan on becoming a therapist, there are many other career paths one can do with a psychology degree ranging from human resources to teaching to research.
Besides the restricted view on psychology from those who are more unfamiliar with the subject area, I have also been met with doubt before? Can I actually find a job with a degree(The answer is yes.) Many people, myself included before I started my degree, do not realize that there are actually many skills a psychology student can get out of their degrees that are perfectly applicable to many areas. Here is a list of six skills that we as psychology students can talk about in a job interview or just to explain to the general public.
1. Statistical Analysis
Psychology is the study of mind and behavior, and we often conduct experiments and non-experimental studies like surveys on a large group of people. Since the human mind can be very abstract, we have various ways to quantify thoughts and behaviors - which leaves us with a lot of numerical data. Therefore, we are trained to perform statistical analysis on all the responses we gather in order to form a coherent results that most people can understand. In fact, in a standard American Psychological Association (APA) paper, the Results section is required to present the statistics we have collected. In the era where big data is vital to a company's operation, statistical analysis is an important skill to have.
2. Software proficiency
Since there are often a myriad of data points to analyze, statistical analysis is rarely done by hand. Rather, there are many software programs that psychology students employ, such as SPSS developed by IBM, Stata or Microsoft Office Excel. In addition, many psychology students have been involved in lab work from being a volunteer research assistant, and there are many other software programs that are specific to each study such as Qualtrics for survey studies and various computerized cognitive tasks. While the specific software programs or websites psychology majors used are not necessarily used in some other places, the fact that we are familiarized with these applications means that we have the ability learn to use whatever software needed as quickly as possible. In an age where organizations are extremely reliant on software programs, this is a valuable skill to have.
3. Writing Skills
Being in psychology means you will have to write a lot of papers. Not only that, you are also required to write study proposals. These writing experiences will all train you to become more concise and clear in writing, which is important to high quality writing communication. Considering how sought after writing skills are now, almost every job posting considers communication an important qualification, it is definitely a skill to put down on your resume as a psychology student.
4. Verbal Communication
Along with written skills, verbal communication skills are also highly valued by employers. This is another skill set that you can obtain as a psychology student since you will be involved in a lot of presentations on your research topics. Psychology students also participate in poster presentations, where you are not necessarily allocated a time slot to talk in front a group of people. Rather, it is more like a science fair and you will have your poster ready and talk to whoever comes to your table and wants to learn about your research. This also requires verbal communication skills that will be valuable in future job prospects when interacting with your supervisors and coworkers.
5. Research Skills
Psychology is so much more than learning about the theoretical concepts. If you are a psychology student, chances are you have stayed up late to finish a research paper before. Writing a research paper entails being able to systematically research other studies conducted in your area of interests and to write a comprehensive summary of past studies based on your research. This is a valuable skill to have, because it speaks volume about your organizational skills. In addition, being skilled at such a time consuming activity shows that you know how to manage your time well.
6. Critical Thinking
This is another skill you can gain from doing research. There is usually a myriad of research papers and studies that relate to your current research topic, so it is important that you carefully weigh each article and consider which ones fit with your specific hypothesis the most. This requires in-depth analysis on the strengths and shortcoming of each study, and how you can develop a good experimental design based on the studies. Having research experiences definitely foster your ability to think critically about past experiments.
Being a psychology students involve a lot of activities throughout your undergraduate career. Besides lectures and exams, there are also research papers and lab works, whether it is in-class or though contacting a professor you are interested to learn from. All these activities will allow you to gain skills that are transferable to many other different types of jobs. If you are a current psychology students, I hope this article can help you realize the skills that you are gaining, and if you are considering pursuing a psychology degree, I hope this article clears up some preconceptions you have and can convince you how valuable the psychology experience will be for you!