Skills to Improve on as a Psychology Major

Psychology graduate skills: selling yourself

Skills to Improve on as a Psychology Major

Upon graduation from our BSc course you will have acquired a number of excellent skills that you should make clear on job applications.

You need to be able to write in an application and then convince someone at interview that you have these skills: it is also useful to think of specific examples where you have been able to apply these skills learned during your degree outside the academic setting (work, volunteering, clubs, sports).

Skills your degree has given you

Depending on the job or position you are applying for, the content of your degree (eg psychological knowledge about a certain area) may be highly relevant: you will need to judge this for each individual application.

Below are some of the common ‘generic’ skills you should have acquired through your degree, that are commonly required by employers.

This will not be an exhaustive list, but it’s a starting point – you need to tailor this to your experience and think of specific examples that you can communicate concisely and coherently.

Literacy (communicating in written format)

In your coursework (essays, practical reports, lit survey, project) you have shown the ability to make clear, structured arguments and support them with evidence, write with clarity and precision and to write concisely. You have the ability to write both succinct reports that adhere to a pre-set format and more creative, in-depth essays.

The ability to produce a concise report is often cited by managers as a skill they would their management trainees to have.


In your project, miniprojects and stats/research design modules you have shown you can compile, organise and analyse complex data sets. You have a good theoretical and practical grounding in handling and interpreting statistical information. You should be able to draw the implications data summaries and probability statements.

Computer literacy

You should be proficient in the use of MS word, MS excel, MS powerpoint, SPSS and Endnote – think of examples of coursework where you have had to use each of these.

Communication skills

Your ability to communicate in written formats is clear from your coursework (essays, lit review, practical reports, project) – see literacy for more info.

Your degree has also developed your oral communication skills, in terms of communicating with peers to negotiate, plan and deliver group projects and to discuss issues in tutorial groups, and also in terms of oral presentation skills.

You have had experience of giving oral presentations, supported by powerpoint slides, to a variety of audiences, including groups of over 100. You have also had experience of giving more intimate presentations of research results to individuals or small groups in poster sessions.

Most of you will have given presentations as part of your advanced modules and you all gave group presentations in 1st Year to large audiences, where you then reflected on your presentation skills.

Group work/leadership

You have had to work in groups to complete various assignments throughout your degree (miniprojects, advanced module presentations, projects), often with people you don’t know.

You have therefore had experience of negotiating and working with unfamiliar people to achieve a specific goal.

You may have contributed to the group in different ways: facilitating discussion between group members, resolving conflicts or demonstrating leadership (motivating group members, leading by example, making decisions).


Most of your degree is comprised of individual pieces of work: you have to show good time-management skills, self motivation and resourcefulness to complete these pieces of work. Your lit survey in particular is a very independent piece of work where you set your own topic area, title and goals.

Critical thinking/critical evaluation

You have had training (in 1st Year) on how to think critically about research problems and existing literature.

You will have demonstrated your ability to think critically in your essays/lit survey (critical evaluation of the literature/evidence for a point and considering the issue from different points of view), your practical reports/project (critical evaluation of previous work and your own work – identifying strengths and weaknesses of your study and how the weaknesses could be tackled).

You have also reflected critically on your oral presentation skills (watching the video of you presenting in 1st Year) and identified areas for improvement. Part of critical thinking is looking at issues from several different points of view and you have lots of experience in doing this.

Problem-solving skills

Think of examples where you have had to problem solve during your degree: tackling a difficult essay title, modifying an experimental design if things did not go to plan, solving interpersonal disputes during group work.

You should have the ability to identify different strategies and approaches to solving problems.

This may be on a macro-level, in applying totally different perspectives or levels of analysis to the problem, or at a more basic level in terms of choosing appropriate methods to deal with it.

It is a valuable skill in the organisational world, and one which psychology graduates are strikingly good at.

Information-finding skills

You know how to research a topic area and have a lot of experience in doing this (essays, project and lit survey). You know how to go about looking for information on a particular topic or general area.

This type of resourcefulness is potentially valuable in many types of job.

Research skills

Through your miniprojects and final year project you have knowledge and practical experience of considering the ethical issues surrounding research, designing a study that is suitable to answer a research question, collecting data in a professional and rigorous manner, and analysing and interpreting the results. You have knowledge of observational, experimental and case study designs. You understand the importance of psychological measures being valid and reliable and you’ve had some experience in designing and/or using questionnaires and psychometric measures (practical classes, possibly miniprojects/projects).

Interpersonal awareness

Through the social psychology modules you should have gained knowledge of the mechanisms of social communication and the potential sources of interpersonal conflict.

This may make a difference in understanding and dealing with interpersonal problems when they arise in the workplace and makes you better placed to deal with them effectively.

You might be able to think of examples when you’ve used this knowledge to solve conflicts during group work (miniprojects, projects).


By conducing psychological research (practicals, miniprojects, project) you will have learnt to make the best of often non-ideal situations and developed the ability to work within preset constraints. Such pragmatism is a very useful skill in many jobs.


University Career Center

Skills to Improve on as a Psychology Major

All academic programs offered at the UM help students develop valuable transferable skills. Psychology is the application of scientific methods to study how humans act, think, or feel.

As a Psychology student, you will gain an appreciation of human diversity, of the complexity of human and animal behavior, and of the value of the empirical approach to understanding complex problems. As a Psychology major you will therefore develop skills in critical analysis, accurate problem definition, and interpretation of data.

Because psychology draws from the biological and social sciences, you may want to combine your study in psychology with course work in related fields.

Related fields include Anthropology, Sociology, Statistics, Biology, Urban Planning, Women’s Studies, Program in the Environment, Education, and Social Work.

Research Skills

Framing a research questionDeveloping theories / ideasGathering informationObserving people / data / thingsClarifying goals / problemsSummarizing results

Synthesizing conclusions

Analytical Skills

Defining problem areasCreating a system to analyze dataOrganizing and analyzing dataOffering new perspectivesDeveloping new solutions for recurring problemsEvaluating theory and evidence

Comparing/contrasting ideas and information

Interpersonal Skills

Analyzing / modifying behaviorCounselingMotivatingPerceiving and understanding individual differencesFostering group dynamicsExhibiting empathy towards others

Identifying and understanding needs

Communication Skills

Influencing and persuading groups / peopleInforming / explaining ideasMediating / negotiating conflictsWriting clearly

Presenting complex ideas and information effectively


Employers seek out individuals who can demonstrate excellent verbal and written communication skills, teamwork and interpersonal skills, initiative, and a strong work ethic. The Psychology Department provides numerous ways for undergraduates to develop these skills, for instance through extensive research opportunities.

Student organizations and campus employment offer further ways to add to the skills you are developing in your classes. Other options include study abroad, off-campus employment, or volunteering in the community, for instance through service learning opportunities and the Ginsberg Center.

Finally, a summer internship may be the best way of all to test out a career field and develop marketable skills.


Psychology majors develop both general and technical skills applicable to a wide range of careers.

For example, developed interpersonal skills may be equally useful whether working as a clinical psychologist, a corporate recruiter, or a rehabilitation worker.

Many concentrators go on to graduate or professional school. The list below is a sample of careers undertaken by Psychology graduates.


The Psychology Department offers two different majors: Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience (BCN); and Psychology.

To major in BCN or Psychology, students need at least a C in Intro Psych, a C- in Stats 250, plus 32 additional credit hours. To declare the Neuroscience major, students are referred to the Undergraduate Program in Neuroscience.

To declare the Cognitive Science major, students are referred to the WeinbergInstitute for Cognitive Science. 

For more information visit the LSA Bulletin or the Department website.

Department of Psychology1343 East Hall734-764-2580

Newnan Advising Center1255 Angell Hall734-764-0332


For a list of volunteering and service learning opportunities, go to:

To learn about career and internship opportunities, along with career profiles of alumni, go to:

To begin connecting to professionals in fields that interest you, create your own LinkedIn account:

To identify internships or job opportunities, visit Career Center Connector:

Maize Pages list hundreds of organizations for students to get involved in:

On-campus jobs (work-study and non work-study jobs) are listed at:

The Career Center3200 Student Activities Building734-764-7460

The Career Guide series was developed by the University of Michigan Career Center, Division of Student Affairs, in cooperation with the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. ©2011 Regents of the University of Michigan


Should You Become a Psychology Major? Info and Advice to Help You Decide

Skills to Improve on as a Psychology Major

Majoring in psychology can not only be personally rewarding, but it can prepare you for a variety of careers. Beyond the human services field, a psychology major often leads to jobs in business, education, government and roles that require a deep understanding of people and how they interact with one another.

Students often choose to major in psychology because they want to help others. However, it’s important not to narrowly define what that means, according to Dr. Barbara Lesniak, senior associate dean of social sciences at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU).

“Students with a bachelor’s degree in psychology can certainly get non-licensed entry-level positions where they directly help and support others at places substance abuse clinics, social services agencies, schools and similar organizations,» she said. «However, they can also use their skills at businesses in areas such as human resources or training/development, or in customer-focused positions where they might deal with difficult situations that need to be de-escalated.»

A popular major, psychology is one of the top 10 undergraduate programs in the United States, according to The Princeton Review. Dr. Lesniak refers to the psychology degree as “the utility knife” of degrees because it is useful in most job roles – and whenever you’re in a position that requires you to interact with people.

What Do Psych Majors Learn?

As an undergraduate, you can expect to learn key psychological concepts, human behavior and research methods. Your classes will help you develop the critical thinking skills you need to communicate effectively.

More specifically, you’ll take a variety of general education courses in English, math, science and the humanities – as well as courses in your major. You’ll also be able to choose from a wide range of electives.

You may wonder, “Is psychology a hard major?” You might find classes to be rigorous and writing-intensive, but, to be successful, you must be able to write a paper and argue one’s point of view effectively, according to Dr. Thomas MacCarty, associate dean of social sciences at SNHU.

At some universities, you can choose concentrations within your major to prepare you for a specific career path or graduate study. Here are a few concentrations that allow you to learn more about a specific area of psychology:

  • Addictions — Understand how people's habits and activities can evolve into substance misuse and how that cycle can be treated to pursue peer-to-peer/community-related positions and/or future licensing opportunities.
  • Applied Psychology — Build skills in scientific inquiry while you hone your ability to interpret, communicate and apply data to prepare for roles such as human resources specialist, market researcher or management analyst.
  • Child and Adolescent Development — Study the unique physical, social, psychological and cognitive needs of children and teens. With a focus on experiential learning, you can gain real-world experience by doing internships, a practicum or research and volunteer projects in a child-focused setting.
  • Forensic Psychology — Apply your research skills, psychological knowledge and critical thinking abilities to a variety of issues facing the legal system to prepare for jobs that require psychological assessment, investigative research and crime analytics.
  • Mental Health – Focus on counseling techniques and psychological assessment to prepare for further graduate study in mental health counseling, clinical psychology or social work.
  • Social Psychology — Learn how people see and make sense of the world as you deepen your understanding of human behavior and prepare for roles in business, community relations, marketing or sales-related careers.

How Many Years Does it Take to Major in Psychology?

Bachelor's degrees are often referred to as «four-year degrees,» but the amount of time it takes for you to earn your bachelor's in psychology all depends on your goals, educational background and the type of program you choose. Online courses, for example, may allow you the flexibility you need, as well as more terms per year.

Once you choose your psychology program type, you'll need to consider the number of courses you want to take each term. It might be tempting to enroll in multiple courses each term to finish quicker, but it may not be feasible if you have other commitments at work or home.

You might also save time if you've already earned college credits. Some universities will allow you to transfer those credits toward your degree program. For example, SNHU accepts up to 90 transfer credits toward your psychology program. Whatever program you ultimately choose, your academic advisor can help you map out a plan to best help you reach your goals.

What Jobs are There for Psychology Majors?

While an undergraduate psychology degree alone won’t qualify you to become a licensed psychologist, it does open the door to many helping professions and entry-level roles in business.

The American Psychological Association identifies the types of jobs you may get with a psychology degree on its website. Here are a few jobs for which a bachelor’s degree in psychology might prepare you.

Probation and Correctional Treatment Officers

Often, when an individual is released from jail or prison, they must comply with court-ordered supervision.

Probation and parole officers provide guidance and help people get the resources they need to successfully reintegrate into society.

As a correctional treatment officer, you would help probationers and parolees create and stick to rehabilitation plans. Both roles require critical thinking and decision-making skills, as well as an understanding of substance misuse.

Probation and correctional treatment officers made a median salary of $55,690 in 2020, and the field is expected to grow by 4% through 2030, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Social and Community Service Managers

Social and community service managers work for nonprofit organizations, for-profit social service companies and government agencies. They may focus on providing services to children, the homeless, older adults or veterans, for example.

As a social or community service manager, you would focus on supervising staff and volunteers who provide direct services to their clients. You may also be responsible for collecting data, overseeing budgets or meeting with potential donors.

In 2020, social and community service managers earned a median salary of $69,600, and the job is expected to grow 15% (faster than average) by 2030, according to BLS.

Market Research Analyst

What makes buyers favor one brand over another? Market research analysts can help organizations get a better idea by studying market conditions to examine potential sales of a product or service.

If you have strong math and analytical skills, this role might appeal to you, as it focuses on collecting and interpreting data related to consumer demographics, preferences, needs and buying habits.

There continues to be a strong demand for market research analysts, as the job is expected to grow 22% by 2030, according to BLS, which is much faster than average. Market research analysts earned a median salary of $65,810 in 2020.

Human Resources Specialist

Human resources specialists screen, recruit, interview and place workers in job roles. They also handle complex employee relations, compensation and benefits, and training. If you have particularly strong interpersonal and communication skills, you may be well-suited for this role.

The median annual salary for human resources specialists was $63,490 in 2020 and is expected to grow 10% from 2020 to 2030, according to the BLS.

Sales Manager

Closing a sale requires understanding your customers, their needs and what it takes to overcome their objections. Sales managers can work in a variety of industries and typically set sales goals, analyze data and develop training programs for their sales representatives.

Sales managers made a median salary of $132,290 in 2020, and the role is expected to grow by 7% by 2030, according to BLS.

To advance your career or open doors to other professions, you might want to consider an internship.

Internships for a Psychology Major

Internships not only expose you to the real-world application of psychology, but they can also help you get a taste of what you might encounter daily in a particular job.

Completing an internship as part of your undergraduate psychology program can help you build valuable networks and contacts for post-graduation career searches or for letters of recommendation if you decide to apply to a graduate program.

You might consider completing an internship in your area of interest and work with your career advisor to find experiences that best match your career goals. Popular psychology internships, according to Handshake, include research and assistant roles in community clinics, nonprofit organizations, schools or correctional facilities, for example.

Successfully completing a bachelor’s degree in psychology can prepare for graduate study in psychology. As you navigate educational next steps, it helps to keep your end goal in mind, said Dr.

Nikolas Dominello, associate dean of social sciences at SNHU.

For example, if you want to become a mental health counselor, a school counselor or work with a specific population in the future, consider the coursework and internships that can bring you one more step closer to your goal.

After you’ve completed an internship and learned what types of jobs most appeal to you, you might be ready to consider graduate programs. There are many fields you can enter or advance in with the help of a master's degree in psychology, including child and adolescent development psychology, forensic psychology or industrial organizational psychology.

An undergraduate psychology degree provides you with a solid foundation to pursue graduate degrees in clinical mental health counseling and other fields such as social work or school counseling.

What Can I Do with a Graduate Degree in Psychology?

A master's degree in psychology can deepen your understanding of research methods, cognitive psychology, social psychology and personality, learning theory and ethical practice while focusing on the real-world application of psychological research.

A master’s degree in psychology doesn’t automatically lead to licensure as a clinical mental health counselor. Clinical mental health counseling is a specialized field that requires a prescribed course of study and skills development, along with internship hours, according to Lesniak.

Here are some concentrations you can specialize in as part of your master’s in psychology program and the types of jobs you can expect to be prepared for. Each of the concentrations positions you well to pursue doctoral-level coursework or seek employment in several fields.

  • Child and adolescent development psychology master's – Create assessment, intervention and consultation strategies that address the unique individual, cultural and psychological needs of children to develop, coordinate or administer childhood programming for community centers, daycares, schools and nonprofits. If this career path interests you, see how to become a child psychologist, what jobs are out there and the skills you'll need.
  • Forensic psychology master's – Master the research, analysis, assessment and human behavior skills needed to apply psychology principles in the criminal justice system. With your concentration in forensic psychology, you could pursue jobs such as crime analyst, forensic case manager or jury consultant. Want to know more? Learn how psychology, science and law unite in this career path.
  • Industrial organizational psychology master's – Improve employee performance, motivation and general well-being by studying individual and group behavior in the workplace. If you can see yourself using your psychology education to help businesses, explore what I-O psychologists do each day.

Becoming a Clinical Mental Health Counselor

When you think of someone with a background in psychology, you may think of a professional who evaluates, treats and follows up with clients struggling with mental health issues.

Only those licensed in clinical mental health counseling can provide these services to patients.

If your dream is to ultimately work as a clinical mental health counselor, an undergraduate background in psychology may be the first step toward reaching your goal.

For instance, at SNHU, the CACREP-accredited clinical mental health counseling master’s degree program requires you to complete 60 academic credits, a 100-hour practicum and two 300-hour internships. However, some states require additional hours for licensure. Potential career outcomes in this program include licensed professional counselor and substance abuse counselor, for example.

Summing it Up

Still on the fence about whether you should major in psychology? No matter what your ultimate career or educational goals might be, a bachelor’s degree in psychology helps you better understand concepts, principles and theories from a scientific standpoint—skills you can apply at work and to every aspect of your life.

If you're wondering what else you can do with a psychology degree, explore additional career options.

Krysten Godfrey Maddocks '11 is a writer and marketing/communication professional. Connect with her on LinkedIn.


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