If you’re thinking about majoring in psychology, you aren’t alone. Year over year, it’s consistently one of the most popular college majors.
In fact, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) estimates that six percent of all undergraduate degrees conferred in 2018-2019 were in psychology. That amounts to about 116,500 people graduating that year with a degree in this field.
A 2021 survey by Niche shows that psychology was even more popular that year, coming in at number three on their list of the 44 most popular college majors.
As with any college degree, there are advantages and disadvantages to studying psychology. In this guide, we’ll explore some of these pros and cons as a means of helping you decide whether this is the right major for you.
Pros of a Psychology Degree
Psychology Degrees are Offered at Virtually Every University
Since this is such a popular course of study, just about every four-year college and university offers a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
Sometimes, the field of possible schools is quite narrow because of a desired degree path. But that isn’t the case here. You can get a psychology degree at a public college, a private one, a big school or a small one, too.
The quality of these programs isn’t the same at every school, though. Be sure you thoroughly research the colleges and universities that interest you so you know that you’re enrolling in the best program.
You Can Get an Undergraduate Degree Online
Psychology degrees aren’t just popular for on-campus students – they’re a popular option for online students as well. And like brick-and-mortar colleges, most online colleges offer psychology degrees.
Studying psychology online gives you the added flexibility of not having a strict study schedule. You might not have set class times to “meet” with your classmates and professors online. You will likely be able to take most classes in the order that suits you best as well.
Best of all, online degrees in psychology are accepted as being every bit as good as traditional degrees. Again, just be sure the schools you’re interested in offer a quality education. A good place to start is to check that the school is accredited.
You Can Double Major
Pursuing a double major isn’t terribly common, but if it’s something that interests you, psychology is a great candidate for doing so.
That’s because psychology relates to so many other different fields. You could double major in psychology and education, psychology and criminal justice, or psychology and business, just to name a few options.
If a double major isn’t on your list of priorities, there are many fields you could pursue as a minor to complement your psychology major.
You’ll Gain Practical Experience
Many undergraduate psychology programs offer you the opportunity to get practical experience in the field.
A prime example of this is a senior research project or capstone project. These kinds of activities help you build upon your classroom learning and apply the skills you’ve gained in a real-world situation.
For example, you might conduct a senior thesis in which you test a hypothesis that people with symmetrical faces are perceived to be more attractive than those with asymmetrical faces.
Of course, your options for research are virtually unlimited, so you could choose to do your research in an area related to your desired career field. This experience would look great on a resume or a CV for graduate school.
You’ll Learn More About Yourself
Psychology courses don’t just reveal more to you about human behavior in general. You can also learn more about yourself and what motivates you to behave the way you do.
You might also find that you gain insight into the behavior of your friends, relatives, or spouse. Your studies could open doors into examining how you communicate with others, how you react to stress, and why you feel certain emotions as well!
You Can Pursue Many Different Careers
Having an undergraduate degree in psychology prepares you for many different career paths. Obviously, you can get an entry-level job in a helping profession, like:
But there are many other professions you can pursue with a bachelor’s in psychology:
- Market researcher
- Probation officer
- Police officer
- Advertising specialist
- Sale representative
Now, some of these jobs might require additional education or training, like an internship. But, a degree in psychology is a great foundation to get you started.
This Degree Prepares You for Additional Education
A psychology degree also prepares you to continue your education in graduate school. The clear choice of a graduate degree would be psychology or something closely related.
But, again, this is a flexible degree that you can use to jump into a different field of study.
For example, some people with a bachelor’s degree in psychology go on to get a master’s degree in education. This could help you pursue a career as a college professor in psychology.
As another example, you might use your psychology background to help you get a graduate degree in criminal justice. An understanding of human behavior is certainly helpful for people that work in the criminal justice system.
You Can Build on This Degree in a Specialist Field
Just because a psychology degree can be used to pursue many different careers or graduate degrees doesn’t mean that you can’t specialize, too.
An undergraduate degree in psychology is a solid foundation for exploring niche topics of human behavior.
For example, you might build on your understanding of psychology to study abnormal behavior in graduate school. You could specialize in research, animal behavior, or counseling. You can use a bachelor’s degree in psychology to study Alzheimer’s disease, ADHD, or educational techniques for special needs students. And that’s just a short list – there are many, many more options!
There are Many Professional Organizations You Can Join
Even as an undergraduate psychology student, you can join professional psychology organizations (and many academic organizations as well) to gain additional experience and begin building your professional network.
For example, the American Psychological Association (APA) has an undergraduate affiliate program that gives you access to research materials, journals, and career information, among other valuable benefits.
You Gain Transferable Skills
Undergraduate psychology programs help you build a wide range of skills that are applicable to other areas of study and careers.
For example, you’ll do a lot of reading and research in your undergraduate program. The ability to digest information from multiple sources, analyze it, and report on it is a critical skill for careers in every field.
Likewise, psychology students learn about the human condition and how we communicate and learn, what motivates us, and how we perceive the world around us. Having a good understanding of these qualities of the human condition is invaluable for any career.
Psychology Has Well-Paying Jobs
A bachelor’s degree in psychology won’t qualify you for the highest-paying jobs in this field. You need a master’s degree in psychology or a doctorate for that. But, you need to have an undergraduate degree to pursue a master’s degree, so your undergraduate studies will eventually lead to a career with excellent earnings.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for psychologists in 2021 was $81,040. That’s an excellent income that’s far above the median national income of $67,521.
Cons of a Psychology Degree
You’ll Likely Need Additional Schooling
As noted above, to make the best income in this field, you need at least a master’s degree, if not a doctorate. A master’s degree will take two to three additional years of schooling after your undergraduate degree. A doctorate will take four to five years after that. So, you could be in school for the better part of a decade!
Additionally, many psychology jobs require at least a master’s degree. If you want to teach, become a therapist, or work as a school counselor, you’ll need a master’s degree at a minimum.
Everyone Has a Degree in Psychology
Not “everyone” has a degree in this field, but since it’s so popular, you’ll graduate with many other students that have the same degree as you do. This might make it tough to stand out in the crowd as you pursue a job after graduation or you apply to graduate schools.
In either case, you’ll need to differentiate yourself in some way. This is easy to do in psychology because of the many different specializations you can pursue. There are often many ways to get experience in the field as well, which looks great on a resume.
There’s a Lot of Statistics and Research
If you think studying psychology is all about Freud, personality disorders, and learning how to manipulate people’s behavior, think again.
While all of those topics are studied, there’s also a healthy dose of statistics and research courses. You’ll learn about ANOVAs, Chi Squares, and the scientific method. You’ll learn how to use inferential and descriptive statistics. You’ll also learn about null hypotheses, how to write a paper in APA format, and the difference between reliability and validity.
These subjects might not be as interesting to you as learning about dissociative identity disorder, but they are nonetheless critically important as part of your undergraduate psychology degree.