Social Sciences Department

What is psychology?

It's the science of the mind... but that's a simple definition for a broad and fascinating field!

Psychology examines such things as personality, intelligence, motivation, mental disorders, memory, dreaming, hypnosis and biofeedback. It studies everyday experiences and how they apply to family, school, work and recreation.

Psychology is a "helping" profession. Many people are drawn to this field because they like working with others and helping them overcome problems. A large part of psychology, after all, is making the world a comfortable place in which to live and work.

What can I do in the field of psychology?

Because psychology is the study of human knowledge and behavior, it's not surprising to find that it has applications in many areas -- from art and religion to the military.

Consider these few examples: Psychologists work for NASA in the development of space shuttles and space stations. They also treat patients with eating disorders, do marketing and promotion for corporations, counsel burn victims, direct community mental health centers, work as legislative aides, and train police officers to intervene effectively in family crises.

People trained in psychology can be found in businesses, hospitals, courtrooms, zoos, professional sports, government agencies, private laboratories and other settings. They teach high school and college students; they do research for universities, governments and businesses.

Some psychologists have independent practices where they counsel individuals, couples and families. Some combine jobs such as teaching and private counseling.

Which degrees do I need?

It depends on what you want to do. An understanding of psychology is valuable in any field. Some students take a few psychology courses for the personal enrichment they offer their lives, and never pursue a degree. Others use a bachelor's degree in psychology as a foundation for such fields as sales, personnel, teaching, training, management, public relations, childcare, law, social work or business. Psychology is one of many routes into these various fields.

However, students who are serious about the field of psychology will find that advanced degrees -- such as a master's degree or a doctorate in psychology -- are essential. Those with doctorates, for example, can do anything in the field, including directing research and counseling.

How much will I earn?

As in many fields, your earning potential in psychology depends on your education, your specialty, and your experience. Salary potential in this field increases after you have a master's or a doctorate. With a master's degree, salaries average from $26,000 annually for teaching, to approximately $46,000 for research administration. Doctoral salaries are higher, averaging from $30,000 to $52,000 annually. However, earnings of business and industrial consulting psychologists are often considerably higher.

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