I Wish I Knew: What to Do With My Major

“I wish I knew” is a blog series from Cram Crew about the benefits of our College Readiness program for high school students (and how those services would have benefited us had it been available for our use)

By Heidi Coogler

Once upon a time, I was a biology major. I was going to study biology, go to medical school, and become a physician. My freshman year in college, however, I discovered that you learn a lot about plants as a biology major. And plants are boring. I decided to go with Intro to Psychology as my elective, and I vividly remember discussing language acquisition in infants, Broca’s aphasia, and Skinner boxes every day for three months. I decided that unlike plants, brains are cool. Very, very cool.

During my time at Baylor University, Psychology and Neuroscience degree plans only differed by a handful classes. My degree was a hard science, just like biology or chemistry. Many (frankly, most) universities group Psychology in with the social sciences: sociology, education, or social work. Being able to major in a hard science was important to me, and I’m thankful Baylor gave me that opportunity. However, two years after I graduated college, I was still unsure of what path to go down next. Medical School? Graduate School? What kind of degree? What now?

One thing I wish I had been told was that you can’t do much of anything with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology—in the Psychology field at least. To become a counselor, you must hold a Master’s degree and have gone through very specific training. “Psychologist” only applies to those with doctorates, and to become a psychiatrist, you have to head to medical school. To teach in high school, you must get a teaching certificate, and teaching in college? You need a Master’s, you need to conduct research, and you must have years of experience. This is the downside of a Psychology degree—you have to keep going. If you want a career right out of college or you don’t particularly like school, majoring in Psychology is not for you.

If you are up for a few extra years in classrooms, there are a number of different psychology paths you can follow: clinical, cognitive, developmental, educational, industrial-organizational, neuro-cognitive, social, and so on. You can work one-on-one with people or you can focus on research. You can have a private practice or work in universities, hospitals, or government agencies. There are so many options if you are willing to put in the extra time.

A minor in Psychology, though? I think it should be mandatory. Especially if you intend to work with people (which I would say is a good majority of folks). Studying psychology helps with communication. It promotes critical thinking. It helps you understand your coworkers, clients, friends, family, and neighbors. It gives you a new set of lenses to look through in order to consider the world in a different way. Reality is only what we perceive, after all, meaning that different realities exist for every single individual on the planet. (Too Carl Sagan-y? I’ll scale it back).

I guess what I’m trying to say is: brains are just so cool.