Aug 19, 2015
4
0
Status
Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
Hello all, I am starting my second year of university soon and must therefore seriously begin considering my major and career path. Last year I was on the pre-med/pre-dent track but decided by the end of last semester that it clearly wasn't for me and have since been reconsidering my options. Admittedly I have little prior experience with psychology. I took a general psychology course in high school and liked it well enough and I have had some contact with psychologists and psychiatrists in the past and what they did appealed to me, so I have been considering it. I am registered for general psychology next semester and am trying to register for a statistics course should I decide to declare psychology as my major. Is there any advice you would all be so kind as to give me? Perhaps even direct me to some reading materials?

Thank you in advance
 

bmedclinic

10+ Year Member
7+ Year Member
May 9, 2008
901
241
Status
Psychologist
First, I must say you're asking good questions at the right time.
Some things you should know. Going beyond a bachelor's degree (which, is admittedly very easy) to a graduate degree in psychology can be very challenging. I know that at some places there's a perception that just anyone can get into a PhD program in psychology. This is far, far, from the truth. It's very competitive. I'm glad you're thinking about this now and asking questions. To be honest, I would take that statistics course and a research methods course and volunteer in a lab or two as an undergraduate RA to help you decide. If you don't like research and statistics, frankly your journey will go from being difficult to excessively difficult.

Also, don't rule out other mental health disciplines. It's significantly less time, burden, money and competitiveness to get a MSW (masters in social work) to do some of the same things (e.g. you still get to help people, sometimes in more hands on ways). The scope of practice, as often discussed on this board, is not at all the same between psychologists and social workers, but they also do therapy.

If you really enjoy that general psych course, challenge yourself to think what specifically about psych it is that you really find interesting.

Good luck!
 
OP
Severus of Antioch
Aug 19, 2015
4
0
Status
Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
Thank you, sir. Are there any books, articles or other reading materials you would suggest?
 

bmedclinic

10+ Year Member
7+ Year Member
May 9, 2008
901
241
Status
Psychologist
Actually, I'd start reading the what are my chances thread, to help you get a barometer for how competitive it is. If you think you can cut it (honestly), hit the floor running. Talk to psychologists in academia, volunteer in their labs (dont volunteer at random other places and expect it to look good, it doesnt help at all, and neither does being the president of some bull**** undergrad club, IMO). Track down a private practice psychologists, ask them about their career, how they got there, etc. Maybe a VA psychologist, read their profiles ( I think APA does some of these, too). Get a variety of experiences from people in real life and off this board. I hypothesize that when people dont get answers from this board like they want (2.2 GPA, GRE of 990, no research experience, no articles, no presentations) they say "you guys dont know crap" and still apply to programs they have zero shot at, so I think it's important to ask these professionals that you see face to face (not just us anonymous people on here) how they got there.

Then, look into the finances. Figure out how you're going to fund grad school. Are you going to take out loans? Hope for 100% funding? Bank of Mom and Dad? Marry rich? Trust fund? Look into psychologist salaries, too.

FWIW I make pretty decent money for a first year psychologist, but I had a plan 6 years ago. It was to join a sleep medicine practice in the state I went to grad school. That fell through when billing for sleep medicine changed somewhat (more home sleep tests) and the finances of the practice changed alot and they could survive, but not grow enough to bring me on. So, consider things like that in your financial planning. Plan to have an average salary and see if that will work for you.

And finally, think about where you're going to practice and if you're willing to move several times and give up to 6 or so years post bachelors degree of your life to doing this. Daily, I mean, daily, you'll see people on this board say something that looks a lot like "well, I took an unpaid postdoc, and now I cant find a job in this one city I live in. I love this one city, and I'm unwilling to move or look for jobs elsewhere. Psychology did me wrong."
 

bmedclinic

10+ Year Member
7+ Year Member
May 9, 2008
901
241
Status
Psychologist
Also, I didnt use it, but apparently the Insider's guide to graduate ed in psychology (link here) is good stuff. Maybe your school has it? Or your department?
And, I'd spend good time in undergrad making sure you're a great writer. It'll pay off later. Not a good writer. Not passable. A great writer. Just my 2 cents. FWIW I'm only a decent writer, but not good or great, and that got in my way a few times.

Oh, and one more thing- look into different APA divisions to get a more expanded idea of the variety of professions psychologists do, to help you cultivate what you think you might want to do. The type of research experience you get in undergrad doesnt matter all too much, but it DOES matter in grad school.

Again, good luck!

bmed
 
  • Like
Reactions: Lurking Oracle

WisNeuro

Board Certified Neuropsychologist
10+ Year Member
Feb 15, 2009
10,166
8,849
Somewhere
Status
Psychologist
And finally, think about where you're going to practice and if you're willing to move several times and give up to 6 or so years post bachelors degree of your life to doing this. Daily, I mean, daily, you'll see people on this board say something that looks a lot like "well, I took an unpaid postdoc, and now I cant find a job in this one city I live in. I love this one city, and I'm unwilling to move or look for jobs elsewhere. Psychology did me wrong."
I have lived in 5 different cities and 5 different states in the past decade (most recent move was actually to be with fiancee, though). I've always gone with the "best training available" approach, regardless of location, and it has served me very well. My CV is solid and I've had phenomenal opportunities. I still advise people that the worst thing you can do is limit yourself to one city or state. You're putting a ceiling on your training, which puts a ceiling on your career.
 
Mar 24, 2014
4,393
3,841
Rural Area Medical Facilty
Status
Psychologist
Begin reading anything in the psychological literature. Your university library should have online access to a wealth of articles. Start by searching for any topic of interest. Hopefully, your research methods class will help you learn how to begin deciphering those articles as they can be a bit challenging to say the least. When I was in undergrad sometimes I felt like they were written in a foreign language, but I started getting the gist of it when I started creating my own research and writing it up.

For lighter reading, I read The Road Less Traveled by Scott Peck, MD early on before even making the decision to become a psychologist. It is the personal experiences and perspectives of a psychiatrist who provided psychotherapy to patients. It gave me a good flavor of what psychotherapy would be like. Another cool book is The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sachs, MD
 
  • Like
Reactions: Chalupacabra
Aug 21, 2015
105
10
Florida
Status
Psychology Student
Hello!
I am a sophomore in college and a psychology major :)

My decision for choosing psychology was that nothing else was better for me, honestly. The only issues I am having with the whole "psychology major/career" is choosing a specific psychology for my graduate programs. I would suggest researching every type of psychologist (every single type) and narrowing down which one is best. There are so many fields including neuropsychology, sports psychology, I/O psychology, Clinical/Counseling psychology, school psychology, etc. I think you should also look into more of the bachelor degree curriculum for psychology majors and see if you are interested in any of the courses listed. General Psychology is not really helpful for deciding if psychology is the right major for you only because it's based more on the history and famous, and well-known psychologists.

Like the others said, talk to psychologists, do some research projects, read some books, etc. Get in contact with the psychology departments and visit their advisors to see what their paths were, etc. Also, you can major in other things as well and then decide on psychology a little before your graduate program. I have some friends that are doing Business and Criminal Justice as undergraduates and branching off to psychology for the graduate degrees.

Hope all works out! :) I am very excited for you!
 

Fan_of_Meehl

2+ Year Member
Oct 22, 2014
749
879
Status
Psychologist
I would recommend Aaron Beck's Cognitive Therapy for Depression...it's a classic that holds up well and it looks like it can be had cheap (used) on Amazon

Amazon product
Gives a good introduction by way of example to cognitive (-behavioral) therapy.
 

hamstergang

may or may not contain hamsters
7+ Year Member
May 6, 2012
1,898
1,800
NJ
Status
Attending Physician
Last year I was on the pre-med/pre-dent track but decided by the end of last semester that it clearly wasn't for me
I'd be interested to know more about this part. Why was medicine and dentistry clearly not for you? I ask only because whatever you answer may also be a factor in psychology, which would make it also a poor fit for you.
 

PsychMajorUndergrad18

Future School Psychologist
Jan 27, 2015
292
56
Status
Pre-Psychology
As a psych major currently I'd say that being a psych major is not easy. Not only do you have to have a heavy understanding of cognitive and abnornal psychology but you also need to be able to understand how to read and write in a scientific manner (most research classes teach this at the undergrad level but graduate school deepens your understanding and ability) and have a good grasp on statistics. If these subjects do not deter you but make you interested then I'd say go for it (as they say, the skys the limit). Now keep in mind that in order to prepare yourself for graduate studies you need to have a solid gpa (around 3.0 for masters level and around a 3.5 for PhD). If you want to do just therapy and not conduct research or teach then look at masters level options such as social work or counseling. One last piece of advice. If you want to go into private practice in the future a minor in business would help alot. Good luck with your decision and if you have any questions feel free to message me.
 

WisNeuro

Board Certified Neuropsychologist
10+ Year Member
Feb 15, 2009
10,166
8,849
Somewhere
Status
Psychologist
Just to add, undergraduate psych courses are generally not like most of what you will experience course-wise in graduate school, at reputable programs anyway. Honestly, undergrad psych is a fairly easy degree, where most people do not continue on to graduate work. Expect things to be much harder later on.
 

bmedclinic

10+ Year Member
7+ Year Member
May 9, 2008
901
241
Status
Psychologist
Just to add, undergraduate psych courses are generally not like most of what you will experience course-wise in graduate school, at reputable programs anyway. Honestly, undergrad psych is a fairly easy degree, where most people do not continue on to graduate work. Expect things to be much harder later on.
Agree. My undergrad courses mostly were me and 30-40 other people doing the same homework and showing up to a classroom expecting to be taught. And yeah, participating in research, too. Masters courses were me and 13 people doing the same thing, and being relatively accountable, while also holding a GA 10-20 hrs a week and working on other research. When I was in my doctoral program, I supervised a lab, worked on manuscripts and posters, did my own research, and was typically in courses of about 6 or so people where it was expected that everyone was accountable for being able to discuss everything at a relatively high level. And then you add in practicums and therapy experience on top of that, and it gets to be quite a bit being asked of you. Not some cake walk. TBH, in my program we usually started with 6 or so and only 4-5 graduated six years later. That's why. Lots to do and life gets in the way for people sometimes.
 
Jul 20, 2014
103
62
Status
Psychologist
Actually, I'd start reading the what are my chances thread, to help you get a barometer for how competitive it is. If you think you can cut it (honestly), hit the floor running. Talk to psychologists in academia, volunteer in their labs (dont volunteer at random other places and expect it to look good, it doesnt help at all, and neither does being the president of some bull**** undergrad club, IMO). Track down a private practice psychologists, ask them about their career, how they got there, etc. Maybe a VA psychologist, read their profiles ( I think APA does some of these, too). Get a variety of experiences from people in real life and off this board. I hypothesize that when people dont get answers from this board like they want (2.2 GPA, GRE of 990, no research experience, no articles, no presentations) they say "you guys dont know crap" and still apply to programs they have zero shot at, so I think it's important to ask these professionals that you see face to face (not just us anonymous people on here) how they got there.

Then, look into the finances. Figure out how you're going to fund grad school. Are you going to take out loans? Hope for 100% funding? Bank of Mom and Dad? Marry rich? Trust fund? Look into psychologist salaries, too.

FWIW I make pretty decent money for a first year psychologist, but I had a plan 6 years ago. It was to join a sleep medicine practice in the state I went to grad school. That fell through when billing for sleep medicine changed somewhat (more home sleep tests) and the finances of the practice changed alot and they could survive, but not grow enough to bring me on. So, consider things like that in your financial planning. Plan to have an average salary and see if that will work for you.

And finally, think about where you're going to practice and if you're willing to move several times and give up to 6 or so years post bachelors degree of your life to doing this. Daily, I mean, daily, you'll see people on this board say something that looks a lot like "well, I took an unpaid postdoc, and now I cant find a job in this one city I live in. I love this one city, and I'm unwilling to move or look for jobs elsewhere. Psychology did me wrong."
This is a spot-on post. Read it several times. Self-imposed geographic restrictions will hold you back. Sure, there are exceptions to which everyone can point... and that is why they are the EXCEPTIONS. Never, EVER, assume that you will be the special snowflake.:)
 
Jul 20, 2014
103
62
Status
Psychologist
I have lived in 5 different cities and 5 different states in the past decade (most recent move was actually to be with fiancee, though). I've always gone with the "best training available" approach, regardless of location, and it has served me very well. My CV is solid and I've had phenomenal opportunities. I still advise people that the worst thing you can do is limit yourself to one city or state. You're putting a ceiling on your training, which puts a ceiling on your career.
This is particularly true in highly desirable cities/regions (e.g., San Diego, San Francisco), or "lifer" cities (NYC might take the prize here), where people were born and then plan to live/learn/work/retire/die, no matter what, no matter the loan size, and who cares if the training generally lags behind the literature? These are all GREAT places to live, but unless you are a big name (not just in your own head) and can bring your own bucks to the table (i.e., NIH dollars or a national forensic consultation reputation), you will be paid much less than you would make in a "less preferred" city or climate. There will be PLENTY of well-trained individuals that will immediately agree to whatever the HR dept MBAs decide to pay. Salary negotiators need not apply.:)
 
Last edited:
OP
Severus of Antioch
Aug 19, 2015
4
0
Status
Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
Hello again.

I'm wondering to what extent (if at all) double majoring in philosophy will affect my chances at PhD/PsyD programs. Any input would be appreciated.
 

PsychPhDStudent

7+ Year Member
Sep 5, 2009
1,041
238
Status
Post Doc
Hello again.

I'm wondering to what extent (if at all) double majoring in philosophy will affect my chances at PhD/PsyD programs. Any input would be appreciated.
Probably doesn't matter. Some faculty might find it especially interesting, some might find it especially disinteresting. I'd be curious if there any other opinions on this, but my experience is...largely doesn't matter.
 

eremitestar

2+ Year Member
Jan 13, 2015
149
84
Status
Psychologist
I feel like philosophy would help with your writing skills and also with your critical thinking skills.
I completely agree with this. I majored in psych and minored in philosophy (and dance, because one ridiculous minor wasn't enough for me). I don't think my philosophy background made me a stronger applicant, but it definitely made me a stronger grad student once I did get into a program.
 
  • Like
Reactions: biscuitsbiscuits

biscuitsbiscuits

2+ Year Member
Oct 27, 2015
187
146
I completely agree with this. I majored in psych and minored in philosophy (and dance, because one ridiculous minor wasn't enough for me). I don't think my philosophy background made me a stronger applicant, but it definitely made me a stronger grad student once I did get into a program.
Me, too (but with visual arts as second minor- ha). Agree, agree. But also? I don't think it matters much what you minor in. I think these are all pretty minor distinctions.
 
  • Like
Reactions: eremitestar