What Can You Do With a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology?
By Leighton E. Stamps, Ph.D., Professor Emertus
Undergraduates ask this question frequently. About one-third of our Psychology majors at UNO go to graduate school in psychology or a related mental health field such as social work, counseling, or rehabilitation counseling. Another third go to graduate or professional school in some other field such as law, medicine, nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, or business. The final third take jobs in a wide variety of fields. I will discuss some of these options in more detail in the sections that follow.
All graduate programs have minimum requirements for GPA’s, test scores, and prerequisites for admission. If you are considering graduate study in any field, you should find out what these requirements are very early in you college career so you will be able to plan your future.
Graduate Programs in Psychology
Students who are admitted to Ph.D. programs are expected to be full time students who will earn a Master’s and Ph.D. during their graduate training. It takes 4 – 6 years of full time study to complete both the Master’s and Ph.D. Students will usually need a minimum GPA of 3.50 to be admitted to a Ph.D. program in Psychology. Some programs require GPA’s even higher than 3.50. Before applying to graduate school, students must select their area of specialization within Psychology. At UNO, we have Ph.D. programs in Applied Biopsychology and Applied Developmental Psychology. Some of the other primary areas of specialization in Psychology include Clinical, Counseling, School, Industrial/ Organizational, Social/Personality, and Experimental. Those who complete a Ph.D. in Psychology usually get jobs as practicing psychologists, college faculty members, or researchers. Schools in Louisiana offering Ph.D.’s in Psychology include UNO, Tulane, and LSU.
Terminal Master’s Programs
Terminal Master’s programs are usually located at schools that offer only a Master’s degree and do not have Ph.D. programs. It takes about 2 years of full time study to earn a Master’s degree. Students will usually need a minimum GPA of 3.20 to be admitted to these programs. If a student excels in a Master’s program, it may be possible to get admitted to a Ph.D. program at another school. Not all students who complete a Master’s degree, however, are admitted to Ph.D. programs. Job opportunities for those with a Master’s in Psychology are rather limited. Some of these people work as assistants to Psychologists doing testing and interviewing in private practices and hospitals. Those with a Master’s in Psychology cannot work independently doing counseling or psychotherapy. Those with a Master’s in Psychology must always work under the supervision of a Psychologist who has a Ph.D. Schools in Louisiana offering Terminal Master’s degrees in Psychology include SLU, ULL, and Northwestern Louisiana.
Graduate Programs in Counseling
To earn a Master’s degree in Counseling normally takes 2 years of full time study, although many students attend on a part time basis. For most Counseling programs, a GPA of 3.00 is preferred for admission, although quite a few of our students in the 2.70-2.90 range have been admitted to these programs. Those with a Master’s degree in Counseling can be licensed by the state to practice independently. People with this degree do counseling with children, adults, and families. They work in mental health clinics, hospitals, private practice groups with Psychologists and Psychiatrists, and independent private practice. Some of the schools in Louisiana with graduate programs in Counseling include UNO (College of Education), Loyola, Southern University (Baton Rouge), and LSU.
Counseling Programs in Rehabilitation Counseling
Those in Rehabilitation Counseling assist people having physical, intellectual, emotional, and social disabilities learn to lead more productive lives. They help these people deal with both emotional and job related issues. In some cases, a person is forced to change occupations due to an injury or illness. The Rehabilitation Counselor would assist the person in getting training for a new occupation and finding employment in that field, as well as dealing with the emotional issues of dealing with a serious injury and the multiple lifestyle changes that are necessary.
While much of the training for Rehabilitation Counseling is similar to that in general counseling, the focus is on dealing with people who have disabilities. To earn a Master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling normally takes 2 years of full time study. For most Rehabilitation Counseling programs, a GPA of 3.00 is preferred for admission, although quite a few of our students in the 2.70-2.90 range have been admitted to these programs. Those with a Master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling can be licensed by the state to practice independently. People with this degree are often employed by private rehabilitation companies as well as by state agencies that assist people with disabilities. There are also some Rehabilitation Counselors who are in private practice. Schools in Louisiana with graduate programs in Rehabilitation Counseling include LSU Health Sciences Center (New Orleans) and Southern University (Baton Rouge).
Graduate Programs in Social Work
To earn a Master’s degree in Social Work normally takes 2 years of full time study, although many students attend on a part time basis. For most Social Work programs, a GPA of 3.00 is preferred for admission, although quite a few of our students in the 2.70-2.90 range have been admitted to these programs. Those with a Master’s degree in Social Work (MSW) can be licensed by the state to practice independently. Many of those with the MSW degree work in family service agencies, neighborhood centers, hospitals, institutions for children, courts, and schools. They can also be involved with community development, planning, and action, as well as the administration of social welfare programs. Some of the schools in Louisiana offering the Master’s of Social Work degree are Tulane, SUNO, and LSU.
Graduate and Professional Programs in Other Fields
As mentioned at the beginning of this paper, many of our UNO Psychology majors continue their educations in a variety of programs, such as law, medicine, pharmacy, nursing, dentistry, physical therapy, occupational therapy, business, speech therapy, and urban affairs. If you want to go to graduate school in most of these fields, you will need to take certain prerequisites for graduate training, in addition to the requirements for you Psychology degree. In most cases, you can use your electives to complete the prerequisites for these programs. One exception is law school. You do not need any specific prerequisites for admission, other than completion of a Bachelor’s degree in any field, such as Psychology. You are probably familiar with the type of work done in most of these fields.
Occupational Therapy (OT)
Many have not heard of Occupational Therapy (OT). Individuals in this field work with people having physical disabilities. OT’s teach those with disabilities to perform their daily activities in spite of their limitations. These activities may include eating, dressing, bathing, walking, and social interactions. Following injuries or illnesses, many people lose the ability to perform these activities. The OT assists people in re-learning the physical movements necessary to complete these activities as well as teaching them to use various types of equipment and technology to facilitate their abilities to function independently.
Those with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology are qualified to enter this program if they have 15 hours of science courses, including anatomy, physiology, physics, and chemistry. You can use your science electives and several general electives to complete all of these prerequisites. LSU Health Sciences Center (New Orleans) just started a Master’s program in Occupational Therapy within the last year and a half. This program takes 2 ½ years to complete. They are working very hard to recruit new graduate students for this program. Several of our Psychology majors are in this program now and are doing very well. At this time you will need at least a 3.00 GPA for admission to this program, although this GPA may be going up over the next few years. You also need 40 hours (about one week of full time work) of volunteer experience working with an OT before applying. Jobs are plentiful for people in this field.
Master’s of Business of Administration (MBA)
Some of our students have decided to apply their Psychology degree to employment in business. One way to facilitate a career in business is to earn a Master’s of Business of Administration (MBA). It is possible to enter directly into the UNO MBA program after completing your Psychology degree. You must complete 24 hours of Foundation Core Courses in business before entering the MBA program. If you use all of your electives to complete these Core Courses, you can finish your Psychology degree and qualify for the MBA program without taking any extra courses. The MBA program requires 33 hours of graduate courses that can be finished in about one year of full time study. You will need a minimum of a 2.75 GPA for admission to this program.
Master of Public Administration/M.S. in Urban Studies
Another area of graduate study that is available to Psychology majors is Urban and Public Affairs. The UNO College of Urban and Public Affairs offers Master’s degrees in three areas. The Master of Urban and Regional Planning prepares students to be planners in city, regional, state, and federal planning agencies. Students receive training in planning with specific emphasis given to the social, economic, environmental, political, and physical aspects of city and regional development. The Master of Public Administration prepares students for positions as managers and administrators in the public sector, including city, state, and federal government. The M.S. in Urban Studies offers training in a broad range of urban phenomena related to business, social work, law enforcement, education, journalism, and a variety of other areas. Those with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology can be admitted directly into to any of these three programs with a GPA of about 3.00 or more.
Several of our Psychology majors have become Teachers in elementary, junior high, and high school. After completing your Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, you can complete the requirements for teacher certification in 1 – 1 ½ years of additional course work and internship. This work can be done at the UNO College of Education through the Post Baccalaureate Alternate Certification Program.
The following are some other areas of employment that our students have entered after earning a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology:
- Case worker, children’s protective services
- Administrator, group home for the mentally retarded
- Law enforcement
- Probation and parole
- Research technician
- Psychiatric Technician
- Interior design
- Database administrator
You should start planning for your career after your Bachelor’s degree as early as possible. Many of the people who obtained employment immediately after college had been working in their fields on a part time or even volunteer basis while still in school. For example, one former student had been working part time at a large hotel in New Orleans while in school. When she completed her Psychology degree, she was offered a position in the hotel’s management training program. Another student had a similar experience while working part time at a Target department store. After graduation, she was given a job in management. The combination of work experience and a degree in Psychology enabled these students to obtain well paying jobs after graduation.