I’m always so pleased when my friends at The Novice Professor asked me to write about – well, anything. I believe in their mission and I’m happy to support their cause in whatever ways that I can.
I was asked a while back to write about how to talk to undergraduate students about their preparation for careers with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. For the sake of this blog post, I’ll divide this topic into two parts: some basic foundational ideas that I believe can be helpful to the conversation, and then share some new data that was reported at the 2019 Eastern Psychological Association meeting with my student Cierra Abellera (Abellera & Landrum, 2019).
The Psychology Workforce Conversation
Before presenting some data about career paths and plans relevant to undergraduate psychology majors, some basic terminology and demographics are in order. According to the American Psychological Association (2018a), of the 3.5 million people in the U.S. with a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2017, 14% earned a higher degree in psychology, 30% earned a higher degree in a field other that psychology (e.g., medicine, occupational therapy, law), and 56% entered the workforce with a bachelor’s degree as their highest degree. How this is framed to students (and to faculty, for that matter) is important. I recommend the phrasing be something like “56% are psychology workforce graduates” – and Jane Halonen supports this phrasing as well (all hail Jane Halonen). It is very important to avoid the ‘we’re not worthy’ phrasing, as in 56% of psychology baccalaureates did not go to graduate school – the “not” implies lesser than to some.
For decades we have, as a discipline, collectively poured our efforts into studying graduate school admissions policies, how to succeed in graduate school, the impact of graduate school debt on later success, and other related and important topics (I know this firsthand because I have a fair amount of these types of publications, such as Sanders & Landrum, 2012 or Landrum, 2003; 2004). Of course, academics would study these topics – nearly every academic teaching in higher education attended a graduate program, and we teach what we know (and some faculty members are interested in self-replication). However, this does not necessarily prepare us to assist, you know, the majority (56%) of psychology graduates who directly enter the psychology workforce (and there is a silent plurality of 30% that we hope are getting decent advising and advice somewhere on campus, because I certainly can’t help much with students who want to go to law school, medical school, occupational therapy programs, and so on).
Lack of knowledge about specific job titles truly does impair our ability to provide quality advising to undergraduate psychology majors in many circumstances. We do have some information about job clusters such as (a) insurance, securities, real estate, and business services, and (b) writers, editors, PR specialists, artists, entertainers, and broadcasters. But some of the larger clusters available (as depicted by a word cloud) look like this: (a) other service occupations, (b) other administrative occupations, or (c) other management related occupations. These specific data are from the Center for Workforce Study at the American Psychological Association (APA, 2018b). These are the best data available, and although I am thankful for these data, I am a bit greedy in the sense that I want finer-grained information to be able to provide to undergraduate psychology majors as well as that same data to provide to prospective majors and their parents/families. Someday I want to be able to complete this slide that I present sheepishly at conferences:
When students and faculty advisors have access to these finer-grained details about specific occupational titles and jobs, it makes the task explorations and consideration so much easier. If a student is encouraged to construct a life map (even a tentative one) from Point A (where they are now as an undergraduate) to Point B (where they want to be, eventually), it really helps to have a defined Point B. A GPS works better when a specific address is entered into the “Destination” field. When students are thinking about internships, job shadowing opportunities, informational interviews for careers course assignments, or just wanting to use O*NET or CareerOneStop to explore their options, exploration and consideration proceed better with potential definite destinations in mind.
Check out Part 2 of Eric's guest post here, where he shares some new data that was reported at the 2019 Eastern Psychological Association meeting with Cierra Abellera (Abellera & Landrum, 2019)!
Guest Post Written by Eric Landrum, PhD
Eric is a professor and Chair of the Psychology Department at Boise State University. His research focuses on identifying educational conditions that best promote student success and utilizing SoTL research to advance fellow scientist-educators. Apart from his extensive publications (including this book and this book on careers options for psych majors) and presentations, he has also served on numerous psychological committees, including (but not limited to) serving as the President of Psi-Chi (2017-2018), President of Society for Teaching of Psychology (2014), and President of the Rocky Mountain Psychological Association (2016). Eric also hosts the Psych Sessions podcast with Garth Neufel, where they discuss teaching (n' stuff) with professors from across the country. This year Eric was awarded the 2019 American Psychological Association Charles L. Brewer Award (congrats, Eric!!)
References for Part 1 and Part 2
Abellera, C., & Landrum, R. E. (2019). Development of the Campus and Career Resources Inventory. Poster presented at the Eastern Psychological Association, New York City, NY.
American Psychological Association. (2018a). Degree pathways in psychology [Interactive data tool]. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/workforce/data-tools/degrees-pathways
American Psychological Association. (2018b). Graduate study in psychology 2018. Washington, DC: Author.
Landrum, R. E. (2003). Graduate admissions in psychology: Transcripts and the effect of withdrawals. Teaching of Psychology, 30, 323-325.
Landrum, R. E. (2004). New odds for graduate admission in psychology. Eye on Psi Chi, 8(3), 20-21, 32.
Sanders, C. E., & Landrum, R. E. (2012). The graduate school application process: What our students report they know. Teaching of Psychology, 39, 128-132. doi:10.1177/0098628312437697
U.S. Department of Labor. (2019). CareerOneStop: Your source for career exploration, training & jobs. Employment & Training Administration. Retrieved from https://www.careeronestop.org/
U.S. Department of Labor. (n.d.). O*NET OnLine. Employment & Training Administration. Retrieved from https://www.onetonline.org/