5 Unexpected Career Options for Psychology Majors

Just because you majored in psychology doesn't mean you only have one career path after college.

Just because you majored in psychology doesn’t mean you only have one career path after college.

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You lay back on the brown leather recliner, your hands folding over your chest as you close your eyes. Behind you sits a man with a large notepad and a pen that he drums against the paper over and over again.

“Mmmmm, and how do you feel about that?” he asks.

How do you feel?

How you feel is that you do not want to become a therapist who asks things like “How do you feel about that?”

But you chose to major in Psychology! Do you have any other choice? College has taken four years’ worth of tuition from your pocket and you can’t imagine wasting your major on a totally unrelated field.

Still, the thought of living your post-college life as a pseudo-Freud (or worse yet, Joey as Freud) is seriously freaking you out. Is there anything else you can do?

In fact, there is! We’ve talked to quite a few Psychology majors who have applied their major to a variety of different professions. Here are five unexpected career options for Psychology majors.

1. Career Counselor at a Non-Profit

Cassy Huang works for a San Francisco-based non-profit, First Graduate. First Graduate helps students finish high school and become the first in their families to graduate from college. It also prepares them to pursue meaningful careers after they’ve graduated.

Cassy studied Psychology at UC Berkeley and focused on Developmental, Clinical, and Social Psychology. This has served her well in her role as Career Success Manager. Among other things, she is responsible for the development and implementation of the career program starting at middle school and continuing on through college.

Cassy says her studies have helped her to be more aware of her students’ mindsets. She understands their social, emotional, and cognitive developments, which allows her to approach each project or task from a place of non-judgment.

One of her favorite parts about her job is the fact that she gets to work with students who are a variety of different ages. It’s both exciting and challenging to help such a range of ages and developmental stages. Her background in Developmental Psychology makes it easier to be prepared for her work and understand where the students are likely coming from.

Working at a non-profit definitely has its challenges, but it can also be extremely rewarding. Being passionate about what you do can make your job much more enjoyable.

Want to know more about Cassy’s job and what her organization, First Graduate, is all about? You can read her full interview here and her colleague Loren’s here.

Want to learn more about working for a non-profit in general? You can find all of our content about that here.

2. Human Resource Manager

Talk about a career that relates perfectly to a Psychology major! Human resources is all about working closely with employers and employees and managing those relationships.

Director of Human Resources at The Huntzinger Management Group, Inc. Heather Clark got her undergraduate degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. She makes use of her degree on a daily basis. Her understanding of human behavior in a work environment helps her to improve employee satisfaction, safety, performance, and overall well-being. She is constantly working “to create the black and white out of a gray situation.” It’s the job of a human resource professional to make sure that employees feel comfortable and that employers are happy. It’s a social job and being good at interpersonal interactions is important.

Interested in hearing more about Heather’s job as Director of Human Resources? You can read her full interview here. Also, if working in Human Resources sounds like the right fit for you, you can learn more about the field in the HR section of our blog.

3. Writer / Publisher

Looking for a creative way to put your Psychology major to use? Laura Pepper Wu started by self-publishing a book written by her husband and instead of just sticking to one type of project, the two worked together to turn the business into what she calls a “book studio.”

What is a book studio, you ask? Well, Laura and her husband do all sorts of things that are book and writing-related. They publish books, take on PR and marketing clients, build websites for authors, teach online classes, and have even founded a digital writing magazine. They call their endeavor 30 Day Books.

How does her Psychology major relate to any of this? When starting the business, she had to do a lot of writing and a lot of research (and has continued to do so throughout the development of her business). Her Psychology/Philosophy background definitely prepared her for this aspect of her job. She was used to writing and researching for both her majors.

Then there is the marketing side of 30 Day Books. Laura has found that Psychology relates a lot to marketing and she uses her degree to help figure out strategies for the authors who want to promote their books.

You can read the full interview about starting 30 Day Books and the daily duties Laura has here.

4. Financial Analyst

This may be a little shocking to hear, but you don’t have to have majored in Accounting to get a job in finance. When I picture financial analysts, I get a mental image of a guy in a suit, probably a business major of some sort, who is really only interested in numbers.

I definitely do not imagine a Psychology major who probably spent most of his college years dissecting the human mind and focusing on qualitative analysis of clients. And yet Porter McKay, an Analyst with Square 1 Bank, is certain that his Psychology major has had a positive impact on his job.

A large part of Porter’s job is building relationships with clients. Because most of the businesses that he works with are not functioning profitably yet, he has to be able to evaluate them based on things like the experience their management team has, how they plan on attracting additional investment, and what milestones they have and should be hitting. Though he definitely has to work on the numbers side of things, he also has to be familiar with the human aspect of businesses.

His Psychology major works well in this environment because it has equipped him with the communication skills to thrive in such a high-touch work setting.

Want to learn more about Porter’s experience working as an analyst at a venture bank? You can read his full interview here.

5. Pain Psychologist

So, say you loved majoring in psychology and do want to pursue this career path professionally. That doesn’t mean you only have one job option. In fact, Naomi Edelson had never even heard of a Pelvic Pain Psychologist before she made the switch from Chronic Pain Psychologist into this position. It ends up she loved it.

A Pelvic Pain Psychologist helps clients manage their chronic pain conditions and treats contributing factors such as sleep problems, mood disorders, relationship issues, or sexual trauma.

There are a lot of different reasons why patients might be having chronic pelvic pain and Naomi worked with them to find ways they could manage their condition. She also continuously documented all of her work, took notes, and worked to develop the pain psychology practice at Kaiser.

Naomi took a scientific approach to psychology. She chose not to be a psychoanalyst because she realized there weren’t nearly as many opportunities in that profession and followed up her college and graduate years at the VA Medical Center in trauma and did a post-doc at Kaiser Permanente. This led her to a type of psychology she had never expected to work in.

Want to know more about Naomi’s position as Pelvic Pain Psychologist? You can read her full interview here.

So there you have it. Just because you like learning about the inner workings of your peers’ minds doesn’t mean you have to start analyzing everyone’s dreams like Carl Jung. If that’s what you want to do, go for it (and please let me know what it means if I keep dreaming of a giant cat playing with me like a ball of yarn) BUT if that’s not the path you have in mind, remember that there are other careers you can relate to your studies.

Homework time! Any of the careers mentioned above catch your eye? Start exploring them a bit further. Read the content we have on the AfterCollege Blog and spend some time looking into other resources. See if you can talk with alumni or other acquaintances who work in the field or majored in Psychology. Find out how they have used their education to thrive in the workplace.

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