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Is a Psychology degree really considered useless?

  1. Jan 14, 2016 #1
    I am so fed up of majoring in IT. I have a decent GPA but I must say that I am miserable in the process. I was initially a Psychology major and that was something I was passionate about. I enrolled in Physics more than once and still do not have a firm grasp of the concept! Whether I utilize a private tutor, use khan academy, chegg or sources provided at my college. I am tired of being miserable in something that may earn me decent money in the end but will be extremely overwhelmed in. I withdrew from Physics already along with a Java Programming course. I enrolled in another required Developmental Psychology course, including the Biology pre req, a concept that I can grasp :p. Will a psychology degree get me somewhere? Did I make a drastic mistake ladies and gents? :( :)
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 14, 2016 #2
    Are you looking for confirmation that you'd be making the right choice by switching majors? You don't need our confirmation. Are you looking for one of us to magically pull a statistic out that'll guarantee you'll be alright? That's not possibly something we (or anyone) can determine. Sorry, there's no way anyone can possibly know what a psychology degree will get you. We don't even know what an IT degree will get you. So, the best we can fall back on is "look at the statistics" or "follow your passion," but the fact that you've asked this question several times indicates that you don't want someone to tell you to stick with your IT degree--you want someone to affirm that psychology is a good choice so you'd feel better switching. You've already decided what you'd prefer. That's just my thought.

    No one can predict the job market. If you end up switching, just make sure you make yourself marketable, and I don't think you'll starve.
  4. Jan 14, 2016 #3
    Look I was not necessarily looking for a snarky remark, I can hear the annoyance in your composition. I am just an anxious college student, I am sure we have all been there. I do look at statistics. And they say counseling Psychologists tend to make less money than the industrial/clinical psychologists. So far, that is most of what I have gathered.
  5. Jan 14, 2016 #4
    It's not annoyance, and I didn't intend it to come out like that, so I apologize if it did. I'm just trying to stress that it seems to me that you have already in your mind decided that you would prefer psychology, and you just want confirmation that your choice is correct so you can go ahead with it. Correct me if I'm wrong there. I've been there too, and really, all I can say is that you may or may not make a good living with psychology, and it's hard to comment on job prospects. You won't starve on the street with a psychology degree, but there's no guarantee you'll make a lot of money. There's also no guarantee you'll live a comfortable life with an IT degree. I don't think anyone can comment on which one you'd be more successful at, but if you hate IT, and I mean truly can't imagine working in IT for 30-40 years, then no amount of money will make the job more interesting.*

    Also, you ask if a psychology degree will get you somewhere, and my response to that would be: where do you want to go?

    You have to evaluate where you are in life--what kind of job you want, what kind of job you're willing to work for, how comfortably you want to live, how difficult would a major switch be at this point in your college career, etc. Then you just have to pick. And I'll be honest--switching is always the more exciting option. If you've got a nagging feeling to switch and you do, it's a whole new adventure. If you don't, you end up wondering what you missed out on. I had the same feeling. I decided not to switch. I'm happy with my decision, but it was a personal decision, and you've gotta force yourself to sit down and make it.

    I repeat--in some fields, the unemployment rates are quite high. This is always subject to change based on the economy, the demand for those jobs, etc. However, if you are in America, you will not starve. Build up marketable skills in whatever major you pick, because no degree guarantees a job.

    *okay, maybe a few million a year, but with that kind of money, you wouldn't need to work 30-40 years, now would you?:biggrin:

    *hands obligatory grain of salt since this post is coming from an undergraduate*

    Also, do always maintain hobbies that you enjoy outside of work and school. If you're overtly stressed out, it can help to have a hobby--particularly one you can find other people to participate in.
  6. Jan 14, 2016 #5


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    Whether it's "considered" useless is impossible to answer. By whom? However, the HR departments of bigger companies will certainly not regard it as useless. There may be more examples but this one was the first that came to my mind and what I'm sure of not telling nonsense.
  7. Jan 14, 2016 #6
    Alright, so you're implying an IT degree nor a Psychology major will determine a great career. Although, what career were you happy to stick with? And what career gave you second thoughts?
  8. Jan 14, 2016 #7
    No major guarantees a great career. A major gets your foot in the door. What you do after that determines your career.

    I wanted to switch from electrical engineering to physics, then electrical engineering to math, both "less employable" than engineering. I decided to stay and found aspects of electrical engineering I enjoy.
  9. Jan 14, 2016 #8
    No degree on its own determines a "great" career. It's all about how you market yourself. As axmls said, the degree is often just the foot in the door.
  10. Jan 14, 2016 #9
    My wife makes more and is far more employable with her psychology education in health care than I am with my physics eduacation in engineering. Our jobs are very different and hers is very high stress. Mentally ill families on the brink, life and death situations, torment and abuse are part of her daily grind.

    I think psychology is very much an over saturated degree. But many psychology grads do not want to apply it to social services and health care. I think there is a thought that psychology is a way to get the prestige of science without the difficult math... That perspective leaves them unsatisfied. Otherwise, if you have a passion for helping the needy, providing social services and health care psychology can be great.
  11. Jan 14, 2016 #10
    Thank you
  12. Jan 14, 2016 #11
    I guess trusting your first instinct can be an ideal notion at times.
  13. Jan 14, 2016 #12


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    Well, when I was a kid and touring colleges to check them out, my parents and I had lunch near VA Tech's campus. Our waitress was a recent psychology grad. So there's that.
  14. Jan 14, 2016 #13
    At the same time, there have been posts on these forums of recent Ph.Ds in physics/math who were working in restaurants/as bartenders/as cab drivers, so certainly there are other factors that come into play when that happens to a degreed person (like lack of geographical flexibility).
  15. Jan 14, 2016 #14
    So what do you think the reasoning behind this misfortune is? You said they "were"? Did they end up getting a better occupation? That sucks.
  16. Jan 14, 2016 #15


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    To Danielle,

    I had replied to one of your previous posts with the following questions, which you've never answered:

    What kind of a career do you want? What do you actually like doing? Do you like work interacting with lots of people (e.g. customers)? Do you like to sit in your desk and work on the computer all day? Do you like working with your hands?

    So whether a psychology degree or any other degree is useful or not will depend ultimately on what you would like to do.

    If this helps, I've known several psychology graduates in my life, and they have worked in the following fields: (1) clinical psychologist/therapist (after earning her PhD), (2) biostatistician working in design of clinical trials (after earning her PhD in social psychology), (3) health care IT work, (4) lawyer (after finishing his law degree), (5) doctor (after finishing his medical degree), and (6) market research analyst. So a psychology degree did turn out useful for these people.
  17. Jan 14, 2016 #16
    Wow I never got your reply till you sent it a second time. I'm just that oblivious . Anyway thanks for the information. I would be interested in a career consisting of helping people, sitting down would be nice. Statistics is fun too.
  18. Jan 14, 2016 #17
    I think it should be said that in this job market not all degrees are equal. Though, as already stated, the person's abilities and drive matters more than the degree.

    I make more money with no degree than my two roommates who both have 4 year degrees from a state college.
  19. Jan 14, 2016 #18
    Likewise, a number of my friends who have no degree (or a diploma in some cases) make much more than most of people I know who have graduated from university by going into welding and other trades.
  20. Jan 14, 2016 #19
    This jives with what I think is the case for all science degrees. A marketable, specific graduate degree adds a great deal to an academic undergraduate science degree. For these people, psychology looks like it was a stepping stone into an advanced degree.
  21. Jan 14, 2016 #20
    For sure, it can happen to people with any degree. When I was delivering pizza I worked with drivers with Biology, Math, History and Business degrees. I had a degree in Physics.
  22. Jan 15, 2016 #21
    It's time to burst a bubble: One does not go to a college to study jobs. One goes to college to study the foundations for a body of knowledge that may lead to getting your foot in the door for a career. And then again, it might not.

    The difference is your attitude.YOU make the difference based upon your interests, your enthusiasm, the way you market your enthusiasm and so on. I have known many people over the years who just like to coast through school, through work, and through life. They coast and then sometimes they wonder why nothing great has suddenly dropped on their lap and made their lives a success.

    As Thomas Edison once said: "Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." You have to be ready, and eager to work hard on something (it hardly matters what) --and then your opportunities will become apparent. This is what makes careers --not education. The education is what helps you along. But ultimately the education does not make your success, it only opens opportunities. I've known some arrogant twits with degrees in engineering from well known engineering schools. They went nowhere in their careers.

    People aren't going to kiss that graduation ring from Jostens and give you work knowing that you will get it done. You can still fail big time if you aren't enthusiastic and committed to some sort of career.

    So it is time to make a plan about what you like to do. You have interests and strengths. You don't have to love your career, but you do have to be committed to it. And if you need any further advice of that sort, I suggest watching old episodes of Mike Rowe's Dirty Jobs. Read what he has to say about these people. Nobody gets up one morning and says "Gee, I'd like to be a worm farmer" or "I'd like to make a living repairing septic tanks." But people do. And many make a very nice upper middle class living that way. So think back to Thomas Edison's remark, and recognize that you might not LOVE your work, but you do have to find something about it that plays to your strengths.

    And that's something you need to figure out for yourself. Congratulations, you are at least asking the right questions. Many people don't even get that far. Now you need to find some working answers and decide what should come next. Don't worry, you can change your mind at any time. Just know that if you keep changing your mind every few weeks, people will see you as a flaky person who is afraid to commit to anything.
  23. Jan 15, 2016 #22
    I think the design of American college degrees is outdated and modern career planning with current market trends should be a part of the material for all STEM degrees. This might attract more people to physics degrees. Look at all the threads made by physics majors worried about the job market. What better way to prepare them for the job market with confidence than to have industry professionals come in and speak with them during their first and final years?

    I agree 110%. Education is a tool, like any tool it is only as good as the person using it. For example, take one of the many controllers I install. I take the time to learn all I can about them so that upon installation I can be confident that my installation is the most efficient and fail-proof. I've seen others that were not so dedicated and I have had to repair their installations.

    Imagine if they taught this in college instead of telling people they can be whatever they want if they just wish it to be so. I cannot even describe to you the number of college students I see coasting through instead of dedicating themselves to maximizing the potential of the opportunity before them. Honestly, the hardest working students I see are usually older students...
  24. Jan 16, 2016 #23
    My brother completed his psychology degree. Then he completed law school and passed the bar in two states. I stayed in physics. My impression now 40 years old is getting into a graduate school in psychology is very competitive, maybe more than physics. Many students use psychology as a springboard into other fields, for example law. I know some others who use their psychology degrees in high schools, middle and elementary schools. I think their pay is commensurate with a teacher. It may be a little less, because they do not teach regular classes. I'm not sure, they may even be part-time.
    I do know in my school the freshman physics class had 400 initial physics students and graduated about 15 majors. My brother's freshman psychology class started with about 150 students and graduated 500-600 majors. Many pre-meds that did not do well in classes, transferred to psych.
    The physics faculty met the parents and the graduates in a classroom in a separate ceremony and talked to us all one on one. (there were not that many of us.) The psychology faculty practically waved their hands over the crowd of psych majors and parents in an auditorium, and said, "Yea, you all graduated". (There were so many of them). But in the end they were both Bachelor's degrees.
    I would say psychology could be a good springboard for law, business management, teaching, but with so many graduates, professional schools can afford to be very selective. Some human resource departments, and career development staff are trained in psychology. Sales and commercial interests use psychology. Police forensics and profiling must involve psychology. I could probably come up with more.
    I'm sorry to hear that you found physics difficult, (but we all do). I also know a lot of people that left physics for fields they were more passionate about. My brother was happy with his choice,
  25. Jan 17, 2016 #24
    I think the better way would be to have them come in to interview for internship and permanent positions. The only organization that took the time to try to recruit us just before graduation was Teach for America. When I visited the engineer's career fair there was zero interest in a physics grad, after both undergrad and grad school. If industry professionals want physics grads so bad, they should take the time to try to recruit them.

    I work with quite a few technicians and engineers with DeVry degrees. Technical companies fought each other for those graduates. They speak of companies even trying to get people to sign on the week before the official career fair to get the grads they wanted before other companies did... That is the kind of thing that builds confidence in the job market.
  26. Jan 18, 2016 #25
    If it is any consolation, people laughed at me when I decided to get a degree in English. What could be more useless?
    Well, it took 30 years, but I got the last laugh.
    I learned how to code, and I can write; now I have plenty of work designing websites.
    So, the take-away is: do what you want and are comfortable with. The job(s) and money will follow.
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