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What can you do with a psychology degree? A lot!

This article goes over the most frequent questions you might have if you’re about to graduate with your bachelor’s degree in psychology. We’ll answer the 2 questions as best I can as a mental health counselor with my years working in US healthcare:

1) What work can I do with my degree?

2) Should I go on to do graduate school?

If you have your own experiences or answers to share for these questions, please comment! Let’s help one another out!

1) What work can I do with my degree?

As far as working generally in the field, in a nutshell, you can think of things in a tiered 'level of care' where the highest level is inpatient hospitals/centers, followed by lower levels of intensive outpatient programs, then WISe wrap-around programs, then outpatient clinics, and community supports (youth centers or school programs). Some things fall outside of that such as crisis lines, emergency rooms, and the Department of Youth Children and Families (DYCF previously known as CPS Child Protective Services).

For starting specifically with working with families and therapy work there is a lot of direct and indirect starting jobs that may include tutors (typically part-time), even case coordinators (case managers), to more serious roles such as Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) or Court appointed special advocates (CASA). I would honestly email or call the direct manager from the nearest site/clinic and ask them what kinds of positions you would fit into. I know that’s super old-fashioned to call places up but a lot of these places are pretty old fashioned as well. Right now the healthcare system for lower-income facilities is in such high demand they’ll probably be happy with anything you can offer. I've made a list of jobs that you might not have thought of in your area. Just googling these will get you pointed in the right direction though. They are not in a particular order because it really depends on what you’re looking for.

Generally more part-time or Volunteer work:

· Crisis line (Crisis Connections, NAMI, and many others)

· Big Brothers and Big sisters programs

· Your local NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness)

· Homeless outreach programs (Adults, families, teens, etc. there’s many types)

· YMCA, boys and girls club, or Youth city center counselors

· Guardian ad Litem services (GAL) or court-appointed special advocate (CASA

Full-time and career work:

· Child advocacy centers (Typically for sexual assault or abuse)

· Youth wilderness counselors

· Substance Use Disorder clinics and Rehabilitation centers

· WISe programs (intensive outpatient/wraparound services)

· Hospitals (Inpatient stay programs)

· Community health centers

· Crisis and Stabilization centers. Sometimes known as E&T stabilization centers (Evaluation & Treatment)

· Applied Behavior Analysis centers (ABA centers) (Often working with the Autism Spectrum populations)

· School paraeducators and behavioral analyst aids

· Outpatient health clinics, even if they don’t have a behavioral health program directly they may need case managers to help clients get better connected to those programs

· Foster system (tutors or other care coordinators)

· Prisons and jails.

· CPS/APS/DCYF (Also your local county will have mental health services which are always understaffed)

· Specialization care centers rather than just “counseling” in general (E.g. ones that work with specific populations such as Schools for those with Autism, Centers that specialize in ADHD, etc.)

· Even outpatient group sites are always looking for front office staff who have some training in helping clients. It's not a bad way to pick out an easy job for a little bit of time while also getting some exposure to some of the real ins and outs of counseling work directly. They are also always looking for Case Managers which may do a lot of administration as well as some counseling work with clients.

· Much more!

2) Should I go on to do graduate school?

For graduate school I’d understand feeling pretty burnt out on being a student by this point. For the questions on graduate school, there is not really any way to answer this without knowing more answers to some of your exact goals. Every program has pros and cons and most programs are only as good as the effort the participant/grad student puts into it. Just because it is accredited doesn't mean it's good. Be particularly wary of expensive schools that will let anyone into the program regardless if they have any experience yet working in the behavior health field.

Things to put in your calculations on graduate school include: cost, duration, class/cohort size, are they research-focused, career placement options/flexibility, supervision levels, flexibility in class options, accreditation, graduation rates/drop out rates. If they are not accredited ensuring they have classes that ensure you still meet license standards in your state, and other questions are important factors to consider. I personally do not recommend starting graduate school unless you've done some level of work in the field for a year or more in an undergraduate level or some other similar life work (life experience is not a 1:1 for work experience). This is from my experience as an instructor and a clinician working with other therapists. My reasoning is that a lot of good programs don't accept people unless they've put in some time in the field anyway. The reason they do this is because they want to make sure you know this is the job you want and won’t drop out when things aren’t how you expected them to be. There’s a lot of reasons though. I agree with this logic and have seen people drop out of graduate school or go through it only to find that they now have a degree to do a very specific kind of job that they don't want to do because going into the graduate school they didn't fully understand. That would have been resolved if they had put in just 1 year of work first. Lastly, I'd recommend not making big life choices though based off of what only 1 person says, including myself.

Don’t underestimate the usefulness of your school’s career center too! Most schools have services to help new graduates get jobs right away!

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