TIPS TO HELP FUTURE PSYCHOLOGY PROFESSIONALS JUMP START A CAREER
Psychology is degree field growing in popularity; according to the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of associate degrees earned in psychology more than doubled between 2001 and 2010. As a result, there are also a growing number resources to help psychology students prepare for a career and get a head start while still in school.
From those who intend to earn a terminal degree in the field to students who simply want the psychology background that an associate or bachelor’s degree can bring, these tips and resources can help psychology students make the most of their educational experience. Read on to discover information on everything from career resources to interview questions and clubs and organization that might prove helpful for psychology students.
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Student Resources: Exploring Psychology
FIELDS TO EXPLORE
Many students already have a career path in mind when they choose to pursue a psychology degree. Others simply have a vague idea of what they might want to do, and they know a psychology degree can provide a strong foundation for numerous job opportunities. However, narrowing down potential careers while in school can be helpful, as it allows students to tailor their electives, internships and volunteer work to give them an edge when hiring time rolls around. Here are a few options for psychology careers.
Marriage and Family Therapist
These therapists work with individuals, couples and families, using a family-centered approach to treatment. They deal with family roles and development, but might also address related issues such as stress, substance abuse or self-esteem.
These psychologists apply the principles of psychology to the workplace. They might explore employee testing and selection, training and development, organizational development and policy planning; they often work closely with management to improve worker productivity.
Working at the intersection of the criminal justice system and psychology, these professionals work to determine why certain types of crimes are committed and how to prevent them, or why certain people commit crimes. They might also testify in court, work with the victims of crime or meet one-on-one with the perpetrators.
Those who have earned a master’s or doctorate in psychology or a closely related field can opt to teach others in the same area. In addition to teaching in the classroom, university professors might also conduct independent research and publish their findings in medical or research journals or as large studies.
Gaining a strong background in psychology is an important step for a social worker, who often assists individuals during difficult times in their lives. Clinical social workers might also diagnose and treat mental, emotional and behavioral issues, and may work with anyone from children to adults and seniors.
One of the reasons for the popularity of psychology programs is the fact that so many potential careers start with the psychology degree. Mentorships, internships and volunteering are just some of the resources psychology students can utilize while still in school to help clarify their choices. Learn more about the differences and exactly what these options entail below.
|What it Entails||Benefits||How to Get Started||Example|
|Students work in an area of psychology that interests them, often performing in-depth job duties or research under the close supervision of psychologists or other trained individuals in the field.||Allows students to get a good sense of what the full-time job will entailPrepares students to handle the rigors of their chosen areaProvides hands-on experience with clients and colleagues in a professional setting||1) Pinpoint a field of study or interest in psychology2) Search for internship opportunities through professional organizations or the college career centerOR1) Research local offices or private psychology practices and determine the best person to contact2) Inquire about the possibility of offering an internship opportunity in their office||The American Psychological Association offers a comprehensive list of internship opportunities.The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers psychology internships at VA facilities around the country, such as the VA Sierra Nevada Healthcare System psychology training program.|
|What it Entails||Benefits||How to Get Started||Example|
|An opportunity for students to help those in their community or abroad while learning important psychology career skills, sometimes working directly with clients or certain populations.||Offers psychology students hands-on training with clientsExposes students to clients in situations that they might not encounter during the normal course of their educationHelps students decide if a career in psychology or a related field is right for them||1) Determine the skills and knowledge you can offer, as well as how much time might be available to devote to the cause2) Get in touch with local, regional or national organizations to learn about the application processes3) Work with the organization to choose a date, time and location that works with your schedule||Psychology Beyond Borders works with government agencies throughout the world, especially in war-torn or disaster areas.The Soldiers Project offers professional mental health services free of charge for military members who serve or expect to serve in areas of conflict.|
|What it Entails||Benefits||How to Get Started||Example|
|A mentor serves as a guide for students who are new to the world of psychology or who are trying to decide which area or specialization within the field they want to study and work in.||Many mentors have ‘been there, done that’ and can provide real-world adviceMentors serve as excellent networking sourcesMentors provide feedback on resumes, statements of purpose, applications and much more||1) Request information on mentors from professional organizations or the schoolOR1) Seek out a mentor who works locally in area of psychology you are interested in||The Association for Psychological Science offers an official mentoring program.There are several mentoring programs affiliated with the American Psychological Association.|
QUESTIONS TO ASK
Any work-related experience a student can get related to psychology should provide a wealth of real-world information on the field. Students should go into these opportunities with the expectation of learning a great deal more than is taught in the classroom, furthering their experience and laying the groundwork for networking and potential job options.
Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind while interviewing and after landing an internship, mentorship or volunteer opportunity in psychology.
AT THE INTERVIEW
When attending an interview for an internship, mentorship, or volunteer opportunity, students should always have a short list of questions in mind. These questions can help prove their interest in the subject and find out more about the potential work. They should also be prepared to answer in-depth questions about themselves during the interview process. Here are some of the more common questions asked of psychology students vying for coveted psychology practice positions.
1. What is your professional philosophy?
How do you feel about the psychology field in general? What do you want to accomplish or change someday? What specific populations do you want to help? Have a firm grasp of what you are doing, and why you are doing it, before you sit down for the interview.
2. Describe one good and one bad professional experience.
It can be easy to talk about the good experiences, but the way someone handles the bad experiences can reveal their true abilities in the field. Be prepared to discuss both sides and focus on how challenges were conquered.
3. What are your strengths and weaknesses as a clinician or student?
A savvy interviewer wants to see that you have made mistakes, learned from them, corrected them, and will not make those same mistakes again. The goal here is to show personal growth. And of course, that growth is also one of the biggest strengths.
4. How did you choose psychology as a career path?
An interview gives the interviewer an opportunity to decide if the person in front of them is serious about their career plans. They will want to hear more on why psychology is the right path for you, what led you to that realization, and what steps it took to get on the right educational track.
5. What questions do you have for us?
The only incorrect answer to this one is “none.” Go beyond the basics and ask about an organization’s overall philosophy, explore a potential mentor’s background, and ask about the wider opportunities available when an internship is over.
ON THE JOB
Students shouldn’t stop asking questions after the interview process is complete and they’ve landed a position, they should come in each day prepared to ask numerous questions that will help them fully grasp the complexities of the work they have chosen, as well as show their enthusiasm for learning as much as possible. Here are a few examples of questions to get the answers to during an internship, mentorship or volunteer opportunity.
1. What classes best prepared you for this job?
When speaking to those in the psychology realm, it is a great idea to get a feeling for what classes they took during college, as well as which ones proved most helpful. With so many available electives in psychology and closely-related fields, knowing which courses will bolster eventual career goals can help streamline the process of choosing the best ones.
2. Where are the best opportunities for advancement in the field of psychology?
There are typical advancement opportunities, such as those that take a person from an intern to a licensed clinician, and then into the management circle – for example, a clinician who chooses to step away from patient work and move into administration. But there are also lateral opportunities, where experienced workers can move from one career path to another. A good mentor can help uncover all the possibilities.
3. How can I best function as a professional yet still keep my personal identity?
Sometimes the need for being impartial can lead to tamping down one’s own beliefs and ideals, which can eventually lead to a moral conundrum on a personal level. Talking with someone who has already gone through that struggle can help an aspiring psychologist understand what it takes to do the job yet still retain a strong sense of self.
4. What have you learned as a psychologist that you didn’t learn in college?
Though a great degree program will ensure graduates are well-prepared to enter psychology and related fields, there are some things that simply cannot be learned in the classroom. Though a graduate will learn a great deal during their internship or residency, advice from those who have walked that road before will be very valuable.
5. What are the biggest issues and challenges you have faced at work?
Psychology and related careers often lead to work with challenging patients. Besides that, there might be issues with administration, policy and legislation that directly affect the day-to-day work. Obtaining a firm grasp of these issues during an internship or volunteer experience can prepare students for what’s ahead.
Psychology Student Networking Resources
Psychology students can start their networking journey with those they work with on a regular basis, including professors, fellow students, clinicians they meet during the course of their internships, social workers, counselors, therapists and anyone else who has a vested interest in the psychology field. Those connections can eventually lead to strong opportunities for future jobs, career assistance and even professional friendships. These networking tips are a great way to start.
Create psychology business cards.
Always have an attractive and informative psychology-related business card ready to hand out. Without a business card, a good meeting has no opportunity for a follow-up.
Attend social hours for psychology groups.
The food and drinks are great, but that’s not the point: The idea is to use these social hours as a way to approach various psychology professionals in the field without the pressure of a presentation, interview or the like weighing on everyone’s mind.
Say hello to interesting psychology professionals.
Though it might be intimidating at first, approaching complete strangers at a psychology conference or academic event can lead to interesting conversations and possibly a great networking opportunity.
Use online means to make psychology connections.
Social networks are a great way to stay connected to psychology contacts and make new ones. At least once a week, look over social media accounts to find new potential connections, reach out and say hello to old contacts, and post a few things that reflect current events in the field.
Send thank you notes after meetings.
After meeting with someone and making a professional connection, especially during the interview process, always thank them in person, and send a follow-up note as well. A handwritten note is much more memorable to a psychology professional than an email.
Remain friendly, yet professional.
Always maintain a professional demeanor, but don’t hesitate to be open and friendly as well. A warm welcome and kind goodbye can help etch an up-and-coming psychology student into a busy professional's memory, and everyone tends to respond better to a genuine, friendly tone.
Clubs & Organizations for Psychology Students
College offers a wealth of opportunity to join clubs, organizations and the like. By targeting those clubs that focus strongly on psychology and closely related subjects, students can bolster their networking opportunities, find support among fellow students and explore career options through a variety of opportunities presented by their club or organization membership. Here are some of the most popular options for psychology student resources through clubs and organizations.
This national organization hosts resources especially for ultrasound technology students. Find information on membership, exams and career resources.
The APS is home to a Student Caucus, which presents publications, a convention, grants and awards, community involvement opportunities and a funding database. All are designed to help students advance in the psychology field.
The leading organization for psychology in the United States, the APA provides a wealth of information on a variety of psychology topics, current issues, career information and much more.
Tailored specifically to those in graduate school, the APAGS offers grants, an annual convention, numerous student resources and awards, all designed to enhance the educational experience and produce well-rounded psychologists.
The International Honor Society in Psychology is over 700,000 members strong. Opportunities for students include networking, awards and grants, a career center and chapter involvement that might include mentorships, local conferences, leadership experiences and more.
Psychology Student Certification Prep: Study Resources
Among the most important resources for psychology students is certification preparation. To obtain licensure, students will be expected to fully prepare for the certifications necessary to enter the workforce and do their job effectively. To learn more about psychology certification options, explore the pages below.
Psychology certification tests are in-depth and thorough, covering a wealth of information that students should have learned during their time in school, internships and the like. Brushing up on both the basics and the more in-depth concepts and principles is vitally important; that’s why exam and study resources matter so much. Here are some study resources to help psychology students on the path to certification.
Designed for psychology students, the site provides members with flashcards, quizzes, guides, APA citations and more.
GRE Psychology Test Practice Book
This book focuses on the GRE psychology test, and includes numerous questions to help students prepare.
Online Dictionary of Mental Health
This wide-ranging dictionary focuses on various subjects familiar to those in psychology, discussions on current issues, lists of helpful books and research developed through clinical studies.
Praxis Study Companion: School Psychologist
Those who are interested in becoming a school psychologist can find a great deal of information in this study companion, including sample test questions and test-taking strategies.
Students can download numerous resources, including worksheets, audio, books, scales and measures, and information for therapists and supervisors.
Sample Questions for the NCE
Presented by the National Board for Certified Counselors, these sample questions are meant to prepare students for what to expect in the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE).
Though designed for the public, this comprehensive encyclopedia of mental health topics can serve as an excellent study guide for students in all areas of psychology.
After Earning a Psychology Degree: What’s Next?
Once students have their psychology degree is in hand, what happens next? That largely depends upon their career goals. Those who want to work as a licensed psychologist will likely have more education or an internship ahead of them. Those who choose to use their undergraduate degree as a stepping stone to other careers, such as that of social worker or counselor can begin their job search before graduation. These tips are designed to serve psychology students when they are ready to begin looking for their first job in the field.
Building a Psychology Resume & Interviewing
A good resume should have a little bit of everything: volunteer work, internships, experience, education, and anything else related to the field of psychology. Potential employers respond to those who are up-and-coming movers and shakers.
Create strong statements in regards to psychology philosophy.
Inevitably, employers will ask about a student's psychology philosophies, why they chose this particular field or job, and how they intend to change the field through their work. Having a strong statement that addresses these philosophies can make for a stand-out interview.
Collect excellent psychology references.
The best references are those who know you well, but who are also well-known in the field. Good candidates include psychology professors with many publications, those who have performed groundbreaking research or those who have somehow ‘shaken up’ the psychology field.
The resume and interview are the first impression, so make it count. Make sure all resume information is accurate, be certain of interview times, and always have a Plan B, or even a Plan C, for when things inevitably go awry.
Tips & Advice for Your First Psychology Job
Be honest with yourself.
Psychology majors may find opportunities across a wide variety of environments. What do you want to get out of the job? What skills do you want to build? What kind of working environment do you prefer? Make all of those decisions before jumping into job interviews.
Use campus services.
Campus placement services are there to help students land a job in their field after the education is done. Always take advantage of the opportunities offered for grads, and talk to psychology advisors about networking within the field.
Take your work seriously.
Psychology grads must always remember the rules that govern work with clients. Do everything by the book, keep great documentation, and make a point of becoming a strong team member.
Stay in touch with psychology contacts.
Keep in touch with contacts through social media, emails, and the occasional lunch date. Networking does not stop for psychology or any other grads when the job search does.
Joining a Professional or Psychology Organization
Choose those that match your interests.
Join organizations that fit with your field of work or specialization within psychology, but also consider those that match interests related to psychology; for instance, a clinical psychologist might want to join a social work organization.
Use the resources.
Many psychology organizations provide a wealth of resources for members, including everything from grant opportunities to conferences that are ideal for networking. Take advantage of as much as possible.
Become a psychology mentor.
Giving back to the field is one of the thrills of becoming a psychologist. Organizations in the psychology world can match members up with students who need a mentor.
Enhance your professional and psychological network.
Those in psychology organizations often collaborate on research, discuss the latest issues in psychology and meet up at conferences to share new information. Every connection is another networking opportunity.
Continuing Psychology Education
Go above and beyond psychology standards.
Though continuing education is required to keep up licensure, attending even more events, seminars and classes can provide more networking and educational opportunities, as well as keep you more up-to-date on psychology events.
Choose psychology credits wisely.
Psychology professionals often have a wide range of continuing education credit options to choose from. Opt for those that build knowledge and skills directly related to psychology career goals.
Ask for advice.
When a particular class or session is worth the time, word gets around the psychology community. Pay attention to the continuing education opportunities within the field of psychology that everyone raves about and plan to attend.
Opt for online and in person.
Though many continuing education credits are available online, make sure to earn a few in person as well. This provides an opportunity to meet with others in the psychology field and build those important connections.
Sometimes students graduate with a psychology degree but still haven’t narrowed down their options for a future career. Our Psychology Careers page can help students figure out what they might be really interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Additional Resources for Psychology Students
Focused on the specialty of clinical psychology, this site offers up-to-date publications, news, continuing education, and board certification.
Board certifications, workshops and more are available through this reputable organization. A search function to find a forensic psychologist is also provided.
The ABPP offers a comprehensive site filled with information on certifications, early entry options, continuing education, awards and more.
Doctoral or post-doctoral students seeking internships can find a great deal of information here.
The ASPPB develops the licensing examination for psychology that is used in most states; information on policies, tests, credentials and more can be found here.
The CNS offers a news center, annual conference, awards and much more for professionals in the cognitive sciences.
Students can broaden their global understanding through the European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction. The Junior Researcher network focuses on assisting students who are in the fields of learning and instruction.
Designed to advance the sciences of mind, brain and behavior, these organizations provide advocacy and important information for members.
The lead federal agency for research on mental disorders, NIMH provides vital information to mental health professionals, including psychologists, as well as the general public.
Maintained by Wesleyan University, this internet site is devoted to psychological research and teaching. Extremely comprehensive, students can find information on almost anything related to psychology.
With sections for students, professionals, educators and the media, this society provides job boards, publications, advocacy, student resources and more.
With areas for students, educators, media and researchers, SPSP provides publications, a news center, career guidance and more.