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Psychology Degrees

Updated on August 30, 2011

Too many undergraduate students studying psychology think that they will be able to become therapists after they graduate with their bachelor’s degree. They may have a rude awakening when they realize that a master’s degree is required in most states. Anyone wanting to pursue a career in psychology should have a basic understanding of the numerous possibilities and their requirements.

Even without a degree, a person can get a job in a psychological field as direct care staff. Direct care staff are counselor aides or psychiatric assistants that work in a mental health facility, psychiatric hospital, or group home. Another form of direct care in psychology is as therapeutic staff support (TSS) worker. The TSS worker may work with families who need assistance and guidance in raising children with behavior problems or mental health concerns. Most of the companies that hire direct care staff require a minimum of two years experience or an associate degree. So, even if an individual has not studied psychology, they may obtain an entry-level job by having similar experience.

Direct care staff positions commonly involve monitoring the behavior of the clients in the mental health care setting. Generally, the direct care staff must do paperwork documenting the activities of the residents or clients. Some facilities encourage direct care staff to facilitate some of the groups, though other companies restrict the facilitation of therapeutic groups to the therapists and caseworkers.

Having a bachelor’s degree in psychology offers some new opportunities. An individual with a bachelor’ degree may seek employment as a caseworker, probation officer, or similar position with government agencies. They may also find employment in a scientific field as a research assistant or laboratory assistant. Private mental health service providers often hire people with bachelor’s degrees in psychology as assistants to therapists, caseworkers, human resources assistants, positions in marketing, public relations, or advertising, and sales representatives for products relating to psychology or mental health.

Anyone who is seeking a career in psychology which involves direct contact with clients or consumers should realize that there is typically an extensive amount of paperwork involved. Caseworkers and direct care staff may spend hours every day on paperwork alone.

Some areas of psychology have taken a hit due to the economy. While there will always be a need for direct care staff, some psychology careers have all but disappeared. Music therapy, occupational therapy, and art therapy used to be part of the therapeutic programs for many psychiatric hospitals. However, many such programs have been discontinued or restructured due to a lack of insurance coverage for these programs. Psychiatric hospitals still retain some of these components by therapeutic recreation staff.

Any specialized psychological careers such as therapist, psychologist, sociologist would require at least a master’s degree. Psychiatry requires a medical degree, not a degree in psychology itself. The real value of a bachelor’s degree in psychology is that it provides the student with information about numerous opportunities in the field that require an advanced degree.

An undergraduate student of psychology has classes about neuropsychology, social psychology, industrial/organizational psychology, abnormal psychology, counseling, and other courses that correlate nicely to specific careers. After a student completes a course in industrial/organizational psychology, they have a better understanding of the dynamics in any workplace and insight into the responsibilities and actions of an industrial/organizational psychologist. However, a master's degree is almost always required to get a job within these psychological specialties.


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    • Sheila Wilson profile image

      Sheila Wilson 6 years ago from Pennsylvania

      I believe that peer support has been a positive force in the mental health field considering the budget restrictions that county agencies face. The recent cutbacks in Pennsylvania's county mental health system has reduced the services that a person's case manager can provide. According to my source, case managers no longer can take clients to psychiatrist or therapist appointments which means there will be more mentally ill people not getting proper treatment. I'm not sure if PSS's can provide that kind of service, but at least a PSS is one more person monitoring the well-being of the mental health consumer and providing emotional support. Considering that many mentally ill people isolate themselves, I believe a PSS can be especially valuable to those who have limited social supports.

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 6 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      Great informational hub,Sheila. I wonder what your thoughts are on the new trend of hiring Peer Support Specialists. I am thinking about going into that field. Where I live PSS's are used extensively in just about every area of Mental Health treatment. Of course they don't do therapy. They are support workers. I have been in places where they are used and I was very impressed. It doesn't take a degree to do it and they are monitered for their own mental health issues.