Human Resources: The Diamond in the Rough for Psychology Majors
In my undergraduate degree, an Introduction to Careers in Psychology class was required. We spent a whole semester learning about the different fields of psychology and what people can do at a bachelor's, master's, and PhD level in those fields. I would have to say this class may have been one of the best resources I have ever had the opportunity to take advantage of because it led me to my field of psychology! Additionally, I learned about human resources which is a field that can be entered at the bachelor's level and a field that I consider to be the "diamond in the rough" for entry-level jobs in psychology.
Not everyone who majors in psychology and does not plan to go to graduate school wants to be a social worker, a psychiatric technician (they pay you in gum), or a sales manager. There are a number of entry-level careers in this field, all of which have an annual salary of about $25,000-$35,000 on average. Unless you are passionate about your job, and it is what you want to spend your life doing, you might be disappointed that you went to college for four years to make a salary that you could have made shortly after graduating high school. This leads us to the first perk of a career in human resources and personnel.
Human resource specialists had an average annual salary of $59,000 in 2011 (http://work.chron.com/average-income-human-resources-director-5158.html). The job was ranked #72 in the Top 100 Best Jobs (http://money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/hr-specialist). This isn't too shabby considering the number of jobs out there! It gets even better: human resource directors reported an average annual salary of $108,600 in the year 2011 (http://work.chron.com/average-income-human-resources-director-5158.html).
Maybe you won't be able to jump from HR specialist to HR director and double your salary right away, but another great aspect of the field of HR is the various jobs available. If one does not suit your interests, there are several more out there! For example, in the $50,000-$80,000 average annual salary bracket alone, there are several different careers available. Career options include Benefits Administrator, Benefits Analyst, EEO Specialist, Employee Relocation Representative, Health and Safety Administrator, Organizational Development Specialist, Recruiting Specialist, Training Specialist, and Wellness Program Manager (http://www1.salary.com/Upper-Middle-Income-Human-Resources-Salaries-2.html).
One can deduce, then, that this field may very well be for everyone. If you prefer sitting in your office and doing paperwork all day, then benefits or payroll administration may be for you. If you love working with others and want communication skills to be a large part of your job, then recruiting and EEO (equal employee opportunity) specializations may the job for you!
If you're still working on your psychology degree, then there are a couple of things you can do to make yourself a better candidate for these types of positions. First, check to see if your university offers an emphasis in human resources and personnel or in industrial/organizational psychology. Generally, an emphasis with your degree means taking 4 or 5 specific classes that fulfill other requirements for your degree regardless, so no extra time is added. If there is no such emphasis available, then you can still take the classes you would need to meet the requirement if they are offered. My emphasis in human resources and personnel included industrial psychology, organizational psychology, group dynamics, and social psychology. Additionally, if human resources is offered at your university and you have some electives left, that class would certainly be helpful! The second thing you can do is choose a minor in business or even human resources if your university offers it.
Finally, make sure that you highlight your emphasis (or the classes you took) and your minor when applying for a job. Make it known that you have educational experience in the field of human resources. One last tip, although it may be common sense, is to be explicit about your lifelong interest in HR and your desire to have a career in the field. Maybe you decided to go into that field because you did not get into grad school, because life events kept you from going, because you were tired of going to school, or because you are taking a break. The hiring manager does not need to know that! Foster an interest in HR and let them know that you have honed that interest!