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Careers in Psychology Misconceptions

A psychiatrist is basically the same thing as a psychologist.

The truth is these positions are quite different and involve very different types of training. A psychiatrist is someone who is training in a medical model, has gone to medical school, and has completed an internship in a psychological setting. Due to their medical training, psychiatrists tend to prescribe medication and have less direct interaction or therapy with patients. Psychologists, on the other hand, are generally not able to prescribe medication, and are involved in a much more “hands-on” capacity with clients.

In order to get a job in Psychology, you must go to graduate school.

Not necessarily, though it certainly helps. In fact, only about 25% of graduates go to graduate school. The other 75% enter the workforce in other capacities. You can certainly get a job with a Bachelor’s degree, however it may not involve doing the types of things you hope. Only about 15% of psychology majors actually take positions in a health or health-related field following graduation. Significant numbers work in education, business, and administrative positions. (Source: APA Research Office and NSF survey)

There are no jobs in Psychology.

This isn’t accurate at all. It only seems accurate because an undergraduate degree in Psychology doesn’t prepare you for a specific job per se. Whereas an education major knows that they are majoring to be a teacher, a psychology major isn’t majoring to be a psychologist. The psychology major is a liberal arts degree that provides students with a range of skills that are applicable to a wide, wide, range of jobs. So while a psychology degree doesn’t prepare you for a specific job, it prepares you for almost any job. For example, with a psychology degree, you could be a career counselor, case worker, school services assistant, parole officer, public relations specialist, human resource administrator, research assistant, job analyst, technical writer, laboratory assistant, advertising agent, etc.

Once I earn my Bachelor’s, I will be able to be a psychologist and counsel people.

To be called a professional psychologist, you must have earned a doctorate in psychology (a master’s degree is enough in some states). In order to engage in counseling, you need to complete many hours of supervision (typically completed as part of graduate training), and pass a licensing exam.

I’m going to be rich…right?

Doubtful. Generally speaking, professions that involve helping other people tend to not pay as well as those that involve business. While some therapists can make a very good living, they are still likely to make around $68,000 a year (approximately for a psychologist with a private practice). Due to changes in insurance reimbursement and the costs of providing your own benefits, private practice isn’t nearly as lucrative as it may seem. More commonly, professionals in a helping field can expect to make $30,000-$50,000 annually (a decent salary, but not one that will break the bank). So if you are in psychology to make money, you are in the wrong field. But if your goal is to make a difference in another person’s life, then this is the place for you!