Psychology is one of the most popular undergraduate majors, and applications to graduate programs in Psychology continue to be strong. Over the years I have heard many people criticize Psychology as a college major and as a career path, citing reasons ranging from low pay and few jobs, to “it’s not useful” to “it’s just an easy and fun” college major.
But there are many positive reasons to study Psychology that go beyond career possibilities (although those are not nearly as bleak as some suggest).
Understanding Basic Psychological & Scientific Principles. Psychology as a social science relies on the scientific method. Although Psychology’s emphasis on research methods and statistics turns many Psych majors off (these are the least popular courses in surveys of psychology graduates), years later, Psych graduates say that research methods and ability to interpret statistical results are the biggest contributors to their career success, regardless of whether they pursued a career in psychology or elsewhere.
Critical thinking. A great deal of psychological content, and the methods taught and used by psychologists, focus on how to think critically. Critical thinking is considered to be essential to being an educated person, and is often a general education requirement in colleges. Psychology courses develop the critical thinking skills that are important in business, law, and other professions.
More Effective in the Workplace. Industrial-Organizational Psychology (one of the top-10 highest paying professions) focuses on understanding human dynamics in the workplace. A knowledge of human behavior is one of the ‘selling points’ for Psych majors when it comes to gaining employment, and a knowledge of basic psychology makes you a more effective supervisor/manager.
Understanding of Relationships and Well-Being. Although studying psychology doesn’t necessarily make you psychologically healthier (any more than studying medicine makes you physically healthy), Psych majors do have this knowledge at their fingertips and should be more aware of the fact that good interpersonal and family relationships require attention and work. Psych majors should, at least, know where to go when they need counseling or psychotherapy.
Improves Employability. Contrary to popular belief, Psychology is a very good, general major for careers in law, social services, education, business, and many other occupations. The trick is knowing how to “sell” your Psychology degree and background to a potential employer (the employer may hold to stereotypes that Psychology is an ‘empty’ major without real skills). However, savvy employers (and savvy job applicants) know that an understanding of human behavior is essential to success in the workplace, and this needs to be emphasized as an important, and employable, competency.
Graduates with psychology degrees end up in a wide array of occupations, and most are quite successful because of what they learned in college.
Here are other posts on why you might want to study psychology.
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5. You Gain Insight Into People's Behavior
Doing, thinking, feeling, and acting—as a student of psychology, you will get to study all aspects of human behavior. You will learn not only about the general characteristics of human behavior, but also about the differences.
What drives people? And how can you influence human behavior? These two questions are central to the practice. Examples of questions psychologists address include:
- How do people react to stress?
- Do athletes perform better after mental training?
- What is love, anyway?
- Why does one child perform better in school than the other?
- How is it that some of us are friendly and relaxed while others are often tense or stressed out?
The reason I chose to study clinical psychology was a direct result of suffering from panic attacks. I was dealt a bad hand of psychologists. As a consequence, my condition only worsened. And when I hit rock bottom, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I set out to learn more about psychology—in particular, I wanted to learn about anxiety disorders and find the best treatment options.
For me, this turned out to be a smart choice that I never regretted. I got my life back.
Truth be told, I enjoyed all the other reasons listed above as well—except for the research, which involves a lot of statistics and math, subjects I try to avoid like the plague.