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R. Eric Landrum , PhD Department of Psychology Boise State University Prince George’s Community College Largo, MD October 18, 2012. The Psychology Major: Career path Options and Success Strategies. Overview. People, Skills, and Money Preparation: Your Undergraduate Career

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R. Eric Landrum, PhD

Department of Psychology

Boise State University

Prince George’s Community College

Largo, MD

October 18, 2012

The Psychology Major: Career path Options and Success Strategies

  • People, Skills, and Money
  • Preparation: Your Undergraduate Career
  • The Launch: Applying to Graduate School
  • The Launch: Workplace Readiness
bachelor s degrees in 2009 2010
Bachelor’s Degrees in 2009-2010
  • Over 1.65 million students received their bachelor’s degree
  • 20.9 million students enrolled in 4,495 colleges and universities in the U.S.
  • The national graduation rate at 4-year universities was 57%
  • How will YOU stand out from the crowd?
acquire lifelong learning skills via the covert curriculum
Acquire Lifelong Learning Skills Via the Covert Curriculum
  • Reading with comprehension and the ability to identify major points
  • Speaking and writing in a clear, organized, and persuasive manner
  • Writing in a particular style
  • Listening attentively
  • Taking accurate notes
  • Mastering efficient memory strategies
  • Developing critical thinking skills
  • Submitting assignments on time and in an acceptable form
  • Behaving in a responsible, punctual, mature, and respectful manner
  • Managing stress and conflict successfully
  • Organizing the physical environment to maximize efficiency
  • Observing and evaluating the attitudes and behaviors of role models
  • Maintaining an accurate planner or calendar
  • Working as a productive member of a team
  • Interacting successfully with a wide variety of people
  • Seeking feedback about performance and using it to improve future performance
  • Accepting responsibility for your own behavior and attitudes
  • Utilizing technology
what can you get paid with your bachelor s degree in psychology
What Can You Get Paid with Your Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology?
  • There are a variety of estimates available. These are average STARTING SALARIES for psychology graduates:
    • American Economic Association (2007): $31,631
    • (2008): $35,085
Average Annual and Median Lifetime Earnings for Full-Time, Year-Round Workers by Educational Attainment

1U.S. Census Bureau (2009) Current Population Survey

2Carnevale, Rose, and Cheah (2011)

research assistantship ra
Research Assistantship (RA)

What is a research assistantship? It is an opportunity for undergraduate students to assist a faculty member (or members) in a program of research. When you serve as an RA, you’ll actually be involved in doing the research rather than reading about it.

what do ras do
What do RAs do?
  • Administer research sessions with student participants
  • Score and/or code the collected data (SPSS)
  • Conduct literature searches using resources like PsycINFO and Social Sciences Citation Index
  • Work with the faculty member to develop new research ideas
what do ras do1
What do RAs do?
  • Attend lab meetings
  • Use word processing, spreadsheet, and scheduling software
  • Work on poster or oral presentations for local or regional conferences, prepare materials
  • Collaborate with faculty member to submit work to an appropriate journal
research assistant benefits
Acquisition of skills not easily gained in the classroom

Contribute to the advancement of the science of psychology

Become familiar with general research techniques

Opportunity to practice written and oral communication skills

Cultivation of a mentoring relationship with faculty; helpful for letters of recommendation

Research Assistant Benefits
how to negotiate a research assistantship
How to Negotiate a Research Assistantship
  • Do your homework on the instructor prior to contact (e.g., PsycINFO author search)
  • Contact the instructor using his/her preferred method (office hours, email)
  • Discuss the level of commitment expected (hours/week, number of semesters)
  • Discuss up front any plans for conference posters, papers, and order of authorship
teaching assistantships ta
Teaching Assistantships (TA)

Serving as a teaching assistant is usually much less involved and time-consuming than being a research assistant. Usually, a teaching assistant helps a faculty member for one semester in the administration of a specific course, such as General Psychology or Statistical Methods.

what do tas do
What do TAs do?
  • Attend class and take notes so that students have a resource available when they miss class
  • Hold office hours where you answer class-related questions
  • Help to proctor exams, help to grade exams and/or term papers
  • Hold general review sessions prior to tests
  • Help the instructor in the general administration of the course
benefits of internships
Benefits of Internships
  • Practical, on-the-job experience
  • Development of professional and personal confidence, responsibility, and maturity
  • Understanding of the realities of the work world and acquire human relations skills
  • Opportunity to examine a career choice closely and make professional contacts
  • Opportunity to test the ideas learned in the classroom out in the field
benefits of internships1
Benefits of Internships
  • Opportunity to make contacts with potential employers
  • Enhancement of classroom experiences
  • Learning what careers NOT to pursue
  • Development of skills that are difficult to learn and practice in the classroom
  • College credit in some but not all circumstances
  • Possible earnings to help offset college expenses
organizational involvement
Organizational Involvement
  • Psi Chi , the International Honor Society in Psychology (, was founded in 1929 for the purpose of encouraging, stimulating, and maintaining excellence in scholarship, and for the advancement of psychology.
  • Psi Chi membership is conferred on students who have met minimum qualifications.
  • Psi Beta for students enrolled in community colleges (
national organizations
National Organizations
  • You can gain more information and knowledge about the discipline through the American Psychological Association ( and the Association for Psychological Science (
  • Check out student affiliate opportunities.
local involvement
Local Involvement
  • Get involved in activities in your own department. Your department may sponsor guest speakers, or faculty members may participate in some sort of colloquium series (“brown bags”).
local involvement1
Local Involvement
  • As a student, you want your faculty to be supportive of your efforts—you need to be supportive of the faculty. Attending such presentations also gives you a chance to hear about faculty research, which might interest you and lead to an opportunity to serve as a research assistant.
updated statistics on psychology graduates
Updated Statistics on Psychology Graduates
  • In the latest year available (2009/2010), 97,216 undergraduates in the U.S. received their bachelor’s degree in psychology.
  • About 20-25% have an interest in graduate school, and apply at some point.
  • What can you do to help stand out from the crowd?
parts of the application process
Parts of the Application Process
  • Contact programs to request an application, departmental information, and financial aid information (if necessary).
  • Prepare the materials required by most applications (in addition to the application fee):
  • Letter of intent/autobiographical statement/personal statement
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Transcripts/grades
  • GRE scores forwarded directly from the Educational Testing Service (ETS)
  • Curriculum vita or resume and a cover letter
  • Personal interview (in some cases for some programs)
the data
The Data
  • The data in the following table was compiled by the APA Research Office based on admissions in 2001-2002.
  • This data was gleaned by APA from the Graduate Study in Psychology 2003 volume.
graduate admissions criteria
Graduate Admissions Criteria
  • The classic top 3 predictors of graduate school admission are:
    • GRE
    • GPA
    • Letters of Recommendation
  • More recently, these have been added to the list:
    • Research experience
    • Autobiographical statement
psychology admissions importance of criteria
Psychology Admissions: Importance of Criteria

Master\'s Doctoral

Criteria M SD M SD

Letters of recommendation 2.74 .49 2.82 .42

Personal statement/goals 2.63 .55 2.81 .41

GPA 2.75 .43 2.74 .45

Interview 2.30 .76 2.62 .60

Research experience 2.04 .74 2.54 .65

GRE scores 2.36 .66 2.50 .55

Clinically related public service 1.94 .70 1.91 .69

Work experience 1.91 .65 1.87 .68

Extracurricular activity 1.46 .54 1.41 .55

Means are calculated using 1 = low importance, 2 = medium importance, and 3 = high importance.

Norcross, J. C., Kohout, J. L., & Wicherski, M. (2005). Graduate study in psychology: 1971 to 2004.

American Psychologist, 60, 959-975.

letters of recommendation
Letters of Recommendation
  • When you ask a faculty member or other professional for a letter of recommendation, ask for a strong letter of recommendation.
  • Most faculty members would rather not write a letter than write a weak letter of recommendation.
  • The best letters are long, and tell stories about multiple contributions.
letters of recommendation1
Letters of Recommendation
  • Who should you ask for letters? Those who (a) have worked closely with you, (b) have known you long enough to know you fairly well, (c) have some expertise, (d) are senior and well-known, if possible (e.g., department chair), (e) have a positive opinion of you and your abilities, and (f) have a warm and supportive personal style.
asking for letters of recommendation
Asking for Letters of Recommendation
  • Be prepared to offer answers to the following:
    • When is the first letter due date?
    • What classes did you have with me, with semesters and grades?
    • Can you provide an updated CV/resume?
    • Have you completed all necessary forms/online URL links?
    • Can you provide your personal statement when it’s ready?
  • The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is administered via computer at authorized test centers located throughout the nation.
  • It is an adaptive test.
  • High GRE scores can help offset a low GPA; the reverse is NOT true.
gre changes for 2011
GRE Changes for 2011
  • Verbal reasoning: no more antonyms or analogies; more complex reasoning items
  • Quantitative reasoning: more real-life scenarios and more word problems
  • On-screen calculator available
  • New scoring scale for verbal and quantitative scores: 130-170 in one-point increments (previously 200-800 in ten point increments)
  • New GRE will take about 4 hours to complete (up from 3 hours)
gre and gpa data for applicants
GRE and GPA Data for Applicants

Source: APA Center for Workforce Studies, 2010 Graduate Study in Psychology (May 2010)

transcripts and gpa
Transcripts and GPA
  • Your grades matter. Undergraduate GPA is the single-most (statistically) significant predictor of graduate school GPA.
  • Every “C” hurts your academic future.
materials preparation
Materials Preparation
  • Make sure you follow all of the directions.
personal statement
Personal Statement
  • Basically what you are being asked for: (a) statement of your interests in psychology, (b) goals and ambitions, and (c) how the program to which you are applying can help you to achieve your goals.
  • Follow the instructions exactly!
curriculum vitae cv
Curriculum Vitae (CV)
  • Curriculum vitae literally means “academic life.” Your vitae chronicles your accomplishments, whereas the resume is a brief introduction to your skills, abilities, and employment history.
  • Be sure to follow student examples, and not faculty examples of how to prepare a CV.
what employers want top 20 qualities skills and abilities
What Employers Want: Top 20 Qualities, Skills, and Abilities
  • Listening skills
  • Ability to work with others as part of a work team
  • Getting along with others
  • Desire and ability to learn
  • Willingness to learn new, important skills
  • Focus on customers/clients
  • Interpersonal relationship skills
  • Adaptability to changing situations
  • Ability to suggest solutions to problem
  • Problem solving skills
  • Ethical decision making
  • Critical thinking
  • Ability to see the big picture
  • Flexibility/shifting gears
  • Being able to identify problems
  • Working smarter to improve productivity
  • Timely decision making
  • Time management
  • Problem-definition skills
  • Personality
your resume
Your Resume
  • Make the first impression count. A good resume may get you to the next stage; a poor resume may stop you from going anywhere.
  • Be concise—try to limit yourself to one printed page. Much more than that is too much.
  • Make sure others proofread your resume before you show it to potential employers (Utilize the Career Center!).
  • Keep your resume current. Make sure it has your current phone number, e-mail address, etc.
  • At this level, it’s all about match and fit.
  • Dress for the interview and for the job.
  • Express your interest in the job and the company based on the homework you did prior to the interview.
  • Speak positively of former employers or colleagues, no matter what.
  • Thank the employer for the interview, and follow up with a written (ink, paper, envelope, stamp) thank-you note.
  • Social networking WARNING
  • “Volleyball” analogy
potential interview questions
Potential Interview Questions
  • What do you hope to be doing five or ten years from now?
  • How has your education prepared you for your career?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • What did you learn as an undergraduate that you think will be helpful on this job?
  • Tell me something I should know about you.
improving your workplace readiness
Improving Your Workplace Readiness
  • Seek opportunities where you can develop real-world experiences and apply course concepts.
  • Join campus organizations and activities that promote collaboration, competition, and leadership.
  • No later than your junior year, starting working with your Career Center.
  • Establish realistic expectations about the workplace by avoiding an ‘entitlement mentality.’
  • Develop a strong work ethic; create meaning in your life; find value in what you do.
factors influencing the disciplining and termination of new hires
Factors Influencing the Disciplining and Termination of New Hires

Note. Items in BOLD are also reasons for termination of new hires.

Gardner (2007)