Psych Majors Aren't Happy With Options

The Wall Street Journal

Psychology majors might want to put themselves on the couch.

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Only 26% of psychology majors are "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with their career paths, the lowest in a sampling of popular majors included in a Wall Street Journal study.

The psychology majors the survey captured had a satisfaction rate 14 percentage points lower than the next lowest majors, economics and environmental engineering.

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The survey, which was conducted by PayScale.com between April and June of this year, only included respondents with jobs, but could include people who went on to earn a graduate degree. It included 10,800 workers who got their bachelor's degrees between 1999 and 2010.

Part of the reason for the psych majors' low scores might be that few professions recruit for psychology undergraduate degrees specifically, said R. Eric Landrum, a psychology professor at Boise State University and author of "Finding Jobs with a Psychology Bachelor's Degree." Some young psych majors might be discovering there's not a lot of appetite for their major without a graduate degree, he said.

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Undergraduate psychology majors who don't go to graduate school tend to move to an unrelated field within a year, said St. Louis-based career counselor Sue Ekberg, a former director of career services for Webster University.

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In contrast, about 54% of chemical engineering and management information systems majors were satisfied or very satisfied, according to the survey, making them the happiest with their careers. "Engineers tend to proactively choose their career path and can easily find a marketplace for their skills," said New York-based career coach Bettina Seidman.

The PayScale survey was done as part of the Wall Street Journal's Paths to Professions project, which looked at jobs that are satisfying, well-paid and have growth potential. The PayScale survey examined people in a set of jobs that included industries such as health care, finance and government.

Ms. Seidman said that the least satisfied career changers she works with tend to be those who fell into general majors, such as philosophy or African-American studies, and ended up in unrelated fields. When those people apply to jobs outside their majors, she recommends that they don't even put the major on their resumes. "It's not something you want to advertise," she said.

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