Deciding on a Career
A few courses, or a bachelor's degree in psychology alone will not qualify you to be a practicing psychologist. You need to go to graduate school for that. A psychology major is a liberal arts degree. It does not train you for a specific job. It provides the broad foundation necessary for you to be able to learn and adapt in the future.
Still, the skills you gain in our program are useful in just about any job, particularly for positions dealing with people. Our graduates have found jobs in the business world with management training, industrial relations and social work, as well as in many human service government agencies. Psychology is also a good background for teaching at the secondary level, but you will need additional education courses to become a teacher.
You should start to prepare to launch your career long before graduation. The Cohen Career Center provides resources and services to assist you in making career decisions. The counselors there can help you with self-assessment, finding an internship, and finding volunteer opportunities. You should start exploring the services of the Career Center by your junior year at the latest.
Career planning begins with gathering and organizing information about yourself. The Career Center office provides opportunities and tools for self-assessment. Some assessment programs are only available to freshmen and sophomores, and could be helpful when you're choosing a major. The sooner you get started, the better.
Applied work away from campus provides excellent experience and a source of recommendations. Short-term internships, volunteer or courses that include a practical field experience can help you decide which sort of work really interests you. The Psychology Club, the Psychology Honor Society (Psi Chi), and Career Center can help point you to an internship or other work. We also post announcements of internship and job opportunitites.
Internships are practical "work/learning" experiences that can offer you the opportunity to:
- Explore a career field or profession of interest
- Gain exposure to a professional environment
- Develop self-reliance and improve your ability to learn in a self-directed manner
You might be able to earn psychology credit for an internship. This involves finding a faculty member willing to supervise you in PSYC 498 (Internship). You need permission [pdf] to register for this course. Course credit is based on the evaluation of a site supervisor, a work journal, and a course paper related to the experience.
The Career Center can point you to databases to help you search for internship opportunities. Counselors there can also help you with your resume and cover letter.
Volunteer work at nonprofit organizations is another way to gain practical experience. The Office of Community Engagement can help you find an opportunity that matches your interests. You could tutor or mentor students in local schools, work on service projects with area nonprofits, or go on an alternative break trip in Virginia or around the world.
Psychology Courses Providing Practical Experience
See the Undergraduate Catalog for course descriptions.
- PSYC 402 Exceptional Children
- PSYC 404 Practicum in Community Psychology and Prevention
- PSYC 498 Internship Experience (permission needed [pdf])