SDN members see fewer ads and full resolution images. Join our non-profit community!

Second Undergraduate Degree in Psychology

Discussion in 'Psychology [Psy.D. / Ph.D.]' started by Confused_Engineer, Oct 30, 2014.

  1. Confused_Engineer


    Oct 30, 2014
    Hello all,

    Confused Engineer here. As you may have deduced, I am currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in engineering (Industrial Engineering to be precise). I am in my final year and am set to graduate this upcoming May.

    It is at this point (and, realistically speaking, throughout my entire UG career) that I am seriously questioning whether this is the field that I would like to be in.

    I have always had a strong interest in psychology. Or, rather, the career prospects offered by it. Plenty of people 'have a strong interest in psychology'...
    You see, I have always been an observer of the behavior of people. Human behavior has always perplexed me. I find it incredibly complex, but also at the same time incredibly predictable.

    This tendency of mine has given me a large degree of empathy. Through it, as well as other life circumstances, I have found that I am incredibly good at relating to other people and helping them through problems. This, of course, makes me interested in the counseling field.

    Of course, it is important to keep in mind that I have spent the past four years in an environment full of engineers and scientists. The prospect of pursuing a 'soft' career sounds like a betrayal to my prior training. Thus, I am interested in a sub-section of the mental health field in which I can apply systematic principles whilst at the same time providing help to those in need. I would like to one day become a clinical psychologist.

    Indeed, these are not the only reasons that I am inerested in this field. The part that truly lured me in from the start was my ability to relate to those who are suffering from mental illnesses, particularly anxiety and depression. I have dealt with such illness during my life, though I have always been able to push through it and put my nose to the grindstone, even though it feels hopeless at times. I would like to help other people achieve the same if possible.

    But, before I can do that I need to become qualified. It is at this point that I am seeking a path towards my goal. My initial impression is that I will need to pursue an undergraduate degree in psychology and then move to a graduate program.

    My question is, is this the only path? I do feel that I have wasted my time pursuing my Industrial Engineering degree if that is the case.

    Which, brings up another point. I have not done terrifically throughout my undergraduate career. My overall GPA is but a mere 2.8 and with only 1 semester left (I am currently studying abroad, so this one does not count) it will not increase dramatically in the time I have. I was quite a strong student when I was in high school (3.5), though I unfortunately was unable to perform in my major. Will this hinder my ability to get into another undergraduate program?

    -Confused Engineer
  2. SDN Members don't see this ad. About the ads.
  3. briarcliff

    briarcliff 5+ Year Member

    Aug 26, 2011
    I would complete your engineering degree, then take time after graduating to work in a psychology lab. Given your lack of experience you may have to take an unpaid position, before finding a paid research assistantship.

    If you are interested in becoming a clinical psychologist (a psychologist trained in research methodology and clinical practice), you will need a doctoral degree in clinical psychology from an APA accredited institution - Preferably (IMO) a PhD. Admissions to clinical psychology PhD programs are tough (~5-10% acceptance rate), but an undergraduate degree in psychology is usually not a prerequisite. Reputable clinical psychology programs are funded (meaning you receive a stipend and a tuition scholarship), and take 5-7 years to complete, after which you will most likely need to work under the supervision of a licensed psychologist for 1-2 years to become licensed yourself. Clinical psychologists can bill insurance and see patients without supervision, can work as university faculty, and principal investigators (PI's) on research studies.

    If you are only interested in seeing patients and are not interested in a research or academic career, I would suggest applying to Masters in Social Work (MSW) programs. Some MSW programs offer partial or total funding, but (to my knowledge) this is not the norm. An MSW will allow you to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). LCSW's can bill insurance companies and see patients without supervision. Admissions to MSW programs are less rigorous than admissions to clinical psychology PhD programs and the degree require much less time to complete.

    If you are interested in pursuing a PhD in clinical psychology I would suggest first earning a masters degree in psychology. This will help compensate for your low UG GPA and will provide you with opportunities to learn more about psychology and engage in empirical research. Admissions to psychology masters programs are less competitive than admissions to clinical psychology PhD programs, but I would still suggest working in a lab after earning your undergraduate degree given your lack of experience in psychology.

    A bachelor's degree in psychology really won't open any doors for you career-wise that won't already be open to you with a BS in engineering, so keep that in mind as your weighing the pros and cons of each option. Search through SDN for more information about specific programs, and pay keen attention to the sticky with the 'Kisses of Death in Grad School Admissions' - I mention this specifically since you mention your own history with psychopathology as part of your motivation for pursuing a career in psychology. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but be very careful how you frame it.
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2014
    submarine1991 likes this.
  4. PsychBiker

    PsychBiker 7+ Year Member

    May 6, 2008
    Your ingenuity and desire to explain and understand everything is an obvious benefit for many fields, Psychology and Engineering being two of them. For some anecdotal experience, I will throw in that all 3 of my roommates were aerospace engineer majors while I was a psych major during undergrad. We would look at each others textbooks; and as bright as there were, psychology made very little sense to them, as they told me. Now I, having a background in biology and physics, could not make sense of their textbooks either... The point is that your abilities, as good as they are, may not transfer from one field to another; in fact, it may hinder your ability to process the information presented.

    Beyond that, a lot of people who have experienced mental illness are interested in psychology, which isn't a bad or abnormal thing. I can't say I haven't met anyone in the field who doesn't have issues - that may or may not have been resolved.

    You do have a lot of options and paths, and I am sure people will note them, but think about focusing on one thing at a time; become an expert on what you already know first instead of becoming a jack of all trades. In terms of grades, you will be hard pressed to be competitive comparatively. I know that getting a B in an engineering class can feel like a miracle (or even passing at all!), but most admissions faculty will see a 2.8 gpa as a major fault. You should be able to get into an undergrad program, but again, think about why you got into engineering in the first place and if those reasons still exist (if even a little). Remember, you can still help people as an engineer.
  5. aly cat

    aly cat Assistant Professor 7+ Year Member

    Feb 3, 2009
    I understand that you are interested in clinical aspects of psychology, but have you thought about Human Factors/Ergonomics? It's also sometimes called Engineering Psychology. There are jobs at both the masters and PhD level, the schooling is shorter, and starting salaries tend to be higher than for clinical or counseling. As for the mental health aspects, my lab collaborates regularly with an HF lab that designed serious games for mental health interventions, so it is certainly possible to marry both interests. Feel free to PM me if you have questions :).
  6. Confused_Engineer


    Oct 30, 2014
    Thank you very much for your generous responses.

    Briarcliff, I particularly liked your suggestion that I work in a psychology lab upon graduation. In fact, I believe I may be able to do such a thing this upcoming semester or Summer should the deadline have already passed.

Share This Page