Considered a helping profession, the study of psychology focuses on understanding the mind and how to help people who are stricken with mental illness. This field has other applications in business, marketing, research and the judicial system. Most psychology-related professions require an advanced degree, but there are some jobs that only require a bachelor’s degree. If you’re planning to major in psychology, use your high school experience to become prepared.
Consider High School Subjects for Psychology
In high school, it’s important to take college preparatory classes. The rigor of a psychology major requires critical thinking, an aptitude for math and science and excellent writing skills.
Advanced Placement courses in science, math and English will provide a solid foundation of knowledge for the college classes that you’ll take. If Postsecondary Enrollment Option classes are available, take an introductory psychology class. This will give you a taste of the curriculum you will encounter once you start college.
Take Advantage of General Education Classes
Before you begin the subjects needed for psychology, you’ll become immersed in general education classes. Offering a broad overview of college, general education classes include topics like science, math, history, public speaking, English and a foreign language. Most undergraduate degrees include two years of general education curriculum.
Begin Core Psychology Classes
There will be some introductory psychology classes sprinkled throughout your general education curriculum. Some of these will even count toward your general education requirements. Use these classes to help confirm your interest in psychology. Lower-division courses include introduction to psychology, developmental psychology, research methods in psychology and abnormal psychology.
Subject Choices for Psychology
As you progress in college, you’ll begin taking higher-level courses. You’ll also have some subject choices for psychology that will help you begin to specialize. Required courses may include practical experiences in psychology, history and systems in psychology, professional development and ethics and advanced research methods.
Consider Psychology Electives
In addition to required courses, you’ll have the opportunity to take a few elective courses. Choose courses that help you explore a potential area of specialization. You may even be able to earn a minor with your electives. Common areas that are pursued by psychology majors include sociology, communications, criminal justice, health sciences, public affairs and social work.
Explore Out of Class Opportunities
Getting involved in extracurricular activities demonstrates that you’re eager to go the extra mile to learn and make a difference. Most colleges have psychology student organizations, but you can also get involved in other leadership roles to demonstrate your commitment to personal growth and development. Look for opportunities to help with research projects and consider volunteering in a nursing home or mental health facility to prepare for graduate school.
Meet With a Psychologist
To get a better idea of career possibilities in psychology, meet with many different working professionals during your educational journey. Since psychology is applicable to a wide variety of career fields, it’s important to learn as much as possible about career opportunities and match them with your personal interests. You may even be able to shadow a psychologist in certain work settings.
Consider Your Next Steps
During the beginning of your senior year, it’s important to determine your next steps. Most career areas involving psychology require graduate school. If you’re considering graduate school, you should begin applying at the beginning of your senior year. Here is a list of potential career fields in psychology and the minimum educational requirements:
- Market research analyst (bachelor’s degree)
- Clinical therapist (graduate education required)
- High school guidance counselor (graduate education required)
- Forensic psychologist (graduate education required)
- Corporate manager (bachelor’s degree)
- Health psychologist (doctoral degree required)
- Substance abuse counselor (graduate education required)
- Industrial organizational psychologist (graduate education required)
- Researcher (doctoral degree required)
- Genetics counselor (bachelor’s degree)
- American Psychological Association: Psychology Careers for High School Students of Color
- University of North Dakota: Psychology (B.A. or B.S.)
- University North Dakota: Four Year Plan: B.A. or B.S. with Major in Psychology
- My College Guide: 10 Things You Can Do With a Psychology Degree
- Psychology Today: What Extracurriculars Will Help Me Get into Grad School
Dr. Kelly Meier earned her doctorate from Minnesota State Mankato in Educational Leadership. She is the author and co-author of 12 books and serves as a consultant in K-12 and higher education. Dr. Meier is is a regular contributor for The Equity Network and has worked in education for more than 30 years.