A lot of people have those “I know I wanted to study _ since I was 5.” stories. I have a “For weeks and weeks, I researched possible majors I could see myself in, then sent my uni applications.” story.
Looking back, I realize I made an educated guess that landed me on the wisest choice, maybe the only choice that made sense: psychology.
When I was researching majors, I saw psychology as something I would like to study and do, but I landed on a very specific kind, forensic psychology. The American Psychological Association defines it this way, “Forensic psychology is the application of clinical specialties to the legal arena.”
Forensic psychologists aid the legal system in civil and criminal matters, but I would only be involved in the latter.
The places I’d applied to offered the degree, but seeing as going there would take some time, as I was arranging everything, I thought it’d make sense to also register to uni where I lived.
Albanian students send off their “top” 10 choices, then wait until the statewide results are published to check whether they got in.
Grades are the most significant factor for acceptance, but the quotas are strange, and sometimes even great students don’t get accepted to their first-choice uni on the first round. Average students might not get in either of their 10 choices.
Being my fearless reckless self, I only filled one out of 10 choices, psychology. That was the only major I wanted, plus I wouldn’t be staying for long anyway.
Well, I’m glad I chose psychology because after getting accepted, I stayed at my first-choice uni not a month or two, but 3 whole years until I finished my bachelor’s.
The first day was disappointing. I had a real issue with authority and condescending people. Put those two together, that’s a recipe for disaster for me. Put those two together, and you get the dean who came to speak to us first-year students.
Expecting fascinating talks about the power of the brain and all we were to learn about human behavior, I was disheartened to encounter a plain, lifeless talk.
It was obvious the spark between the dean and psychology, if there’d ever been one, was now long gone.
Planets away from David Foster Wallace‘s 2005 commencement speech, the “speech” we heard our first day was something along the lines of “You have to study. We will fail you if you don’t.”
That’s what I remember from the beginning, strangely enough, what I was wearing too (low-cut jeans and a cozy dark green H&M sweater that I’ve lost).
No socializing attempts either, the whole hour and a half I was there, all I did was write my thoughts down.
Huh, maybe that should’ve been a further indication of the actual career path I’d follow.
How to choose a major: the key factors I considered
I had no idea that was what I was doing at the time, but I did a SWOT analysis on every major I even remotely considered.
Its strengths and opportunities were that this was my dad’s and my brother’s major. If I imagined hard enough, I could see us having our firm and happily working together. The weaknesses were that I didn’t see myself learning hard or enjoying myself in the process.
Taking four years to study something I wasn’t passionate about was unfathomable to my 18 years old, highly idealistic self.
The threat remained that I would be two years in, having to learn about, I don’t know, cement, and just feel like I’d wasted those two years, and I wasn’t about to waste another two.
Have you ever interviewed for a position at a news channel?
My first and last interview for one was very weird (maybe I’ll write about it). In the less strange spectrum of the questions, the HR manager wanted to know why I hadn’t studied journalism since I was pursuing a writing career.
Well, I said, because I don’t want to be a journalist. For a lot of people, and maybe even rightly so, journalism is held in a higher place than writing, newspaper writing is more important than online publications, all those status games.
However, it’s been a few years since I broke free from “other people” constraints. Eventually, I realized the only way to be content is to do what you were going to do initially before friends, teachers, family members or even strangers, start telling you what you should and shouldn’t be doing. I simply cannot please everyone, and that’s not what I’m trying to do.
Journalism is viewed highly, but I wanted to write, not report. My full-time work is related to brands and agencies and business, but that doesn’t stop me from creating accurate, thoughtful, entertaining pieces. My writing is sometimes strange, confusing, wildly ranging from the obvious to the thought-provoking, and it’s exactly what I want to do.
My mother was a teacher, so I considered teaching too. Just like her, I loved helping others, but patience? Not my strongest suit.
A threat was I saw, and still see, teaching as something you do once you have truly perfected a craft. I wanted to be a professor, not a teacher. I was a teen, so don’t judge my love of shortcuts or my limited cognitive skills, please.
Since my tolerance for injustice is incredibly low, I considered a law degree. Might as well learn the semantics and technicalities and make people pay for their crimes, right? Not sure why I didn’t choose law, maybe because if I did eventually move, I’d have to start over and relearn another country’s laws. I chose forensics though, not letting my low injustice tolerance and passion for truth go to waste.
Even though a law career is fulfilling, a teaching career is admirable, engineering is a secure choice, I didn’t choose either of them.
At the weird news channel interview, when asked “Why not journalism?”, I also mentioned I wanted to create pieces combining words and introspection and psychology, which brings us to my actual choice.
Reasons to major in psychology
Charming AF subjects
Some subjects I had to learn:
- stats (ofc)
- abnormal psychology
- cognitive science
- dream analysis (don’t ask).
The therapy stories we heard were very captivating too.
The 3 professors who made it worth it
Three professors were the ones that made the whole difference.
Sadly, the factor most professors lacked was respect for student’s time and attention.
Some teachers were unfit for the incredibly important positions they were in, but most were prepared, unfortunately, their heads too far up their smart asses. They left me wondering whether they realized they were teaching psychology, not mechanics.
What’s more fascinating than human behavior, our minds, and inner worlds?
Everyone romanticizes their degree to an extent, maybe I did too, but I perceived a lot of the professors as being in the wrong place. A lot of the students too. When they were asked why they chose psychology, some students would answer with “This is the school I got into.”
Imagine if your kid needed therapy, and one of these people would be responsible for their mental health. They couldn’t even rationalize as much as to give a decent answer!
I was a little too passionate.
Self-reflecting alone time
Besides a group of girls (bless their souls) who came to ask me if I wanted to join their group, I didn’t have many social interactions. I politely declined the group’s kind offering. Only by the end of the first year, I met two people I could gladly give up my peaceful alone time for, so I did. I truly enjoyed my alone time, I have no problem being alone, but leave me with the wrong people, I will lose my mind.
Oh, here’s a piece on the time there was a bomb threat at uni.
Besides the great teachers and the two people I liked talking to, there were plenty of other aspects I appreciated about my major.
Recognizing patterns in human behavior
My psychology degree teaching me a lot about human behavior wasn’t just something I mindlessly put in my resume.
- why people do the things they do
- the way our past actively affects our daily interactions
- how see-through (not necessarily in a bad way) a lot of people are.
Familiarized with psychological conditions, symptoms, and disorders
I’m thankful for the abundance of information and knowledge I gained on different psychological disorders: anxiety, BPD, depression, hypochondria, eating disorders, sociopathic behavior, all that good stuff.
My field of study put me on the right path, but after I finished university, I self-taught way more in-depth than when I was in school, but that’s my mistake for not giving it my all. The programs from 1998 didn’t help either.
In more ways than one, my psychology degree changed my life for the better. There were a lot of triggering lessons and discussions, I mean, psychology majors being rape apologists? The irony, but that’s just some of the people that were there.
Better communication and confrontational skills
Psychology helped teach me how to be assertive, to communicate properly, to know my worth. Thinking back to instances where my degree proved beneficial, a time comes to mind, when I found DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) and this specific worksheet. I confronted someone important in my life using the tools I’d come across. They were speechless (then they started turning it against me, but still). I felt so powerful!
The other many things psychology helped with were:
- healthier relationships
- clearer boundaries
I mean, I didn’t get to study forensic psychology like I intended, but I don’t view that as a bad thing. My character developed, as did my self-worth since I understood better everything that had happened to me, and how to turn these occurrences into strengths instead of weaknesses.
Negative aspects of my psychology degree
- The rape apologists, openly sexist, ableist students
- Professors who should’ve had nothing to do with a major that affects society as heavily as psychology does
- A lot of people will ask you to help them with their relationship issues, depressed cousins, etc.
- How much the Freudian agenda was shoved down our throats all the time. There’s a reason why most health insurance plans don’t cover psychoanalysis. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is just one of the many other concrete, scientific approaches to therapy and getting you where you want to be mentally. Freud wanted to fuck his mother, and a lot of people were like “Brilliant.” I wouldn’t dare to diminish his tribute to psych, but damn it is the trope is tired.
- Since most psych majors are natural empaths, it’s easy to end up at the place where you’ve justified so much that nothing makes sense and become prey to energy vampires, people who use their mental health conditions to be shitty, manipulators, etc. You excuse a lot of shit, drawing from your psychology knowledge. “They’re doing this because they have depression.” “He only said that because of his family dynamics.”
Did I regret my degree and do I recommend it?
And after all, you’re still my wonderwall. Umm, and after all, do I recommend it as a degree? Did I make the right choice?
I’ll keep it real with you, some of the psychologists I know, simply put, aren’t happy.
It’s equally rewarding as tiring. If you’re a next-level empath, becoming a psychologist or therapist might not be the best path for your mental health.
However, I highly recommend majoring in psychology, or just taking a course or reading more on it, to everyone, even those who don’t intend to practice it.
You could learn so much about yourself and your relationships, as well as be of extreme help to those who suffer from conditions like anxiety or depression.
If you’re not scared to dive deep into your psyche and what you might find there, and hell, even if you are terrified, especially if you are, I highly recommend learning about psychology.
Things you can do with a bachelor’s degree in psychology
What can’t you do?! JK, there are plenty of things you can’t do, medicine for example. Actually, there’s an article in one of my favorite publications titled “That Time I Conducted an Autopsy Without Any Medical Training”, unfortunately not clickbait. People take “rules were meant to be broken” too damn far.
Jokes aside, skills and career paths aren’t as set in stone as they were in 1930. As Paul Jarvis noted in Company of One:
According to Carter Phipps, author of Evolutionaries, generalists will continue to thrive in business as it becomes increasingly valuable to know “a little bit about a lot.”
There are different options when it comes to a psych degree and what you can do with it, besides the obvious therapist/psychologist:
- Forensic! Do it for me.
- HR manager
- UX psychology
- Business analyst
- Media roles
and many, many more. At the moment, I’m a writer, and I’m loving it, but who knows what life will throw at me, right? Look, it’s 2020, transferable skills are all the rage, you can do pretty much anything.
It’s not what you do with it, but what will you do with it.
Look at this tweet and the replies, and tell me you’re not inspired!
This was my process, from deciding on a major, to the benefits and disadvantages, to my endless tries to get people to enroll in psych courses.
I’m posting this series about education, careers and how to choose them to my blog over the next few weeks. Part 4 will be on how to make a difference in the world with your career. Find the others below
Part 1 – My Uncomplicated Relationship With Education
Part 2 – Choosing a Major, the Pros and Cons, Usages, Realizations, and Regret?
Reading this as a current psych student who doesn’t prefer going down the typical therapist route, after searching ‘what the fuck do I do with my psychology degree’ your article popped up! Thank you for your words and insight fellow Freud doubter! (Our messy psychology king).
There are SO many other things you can do with it, Sam! I’m sure you’ll bring your brilliance to any workplace that’s lucky enough to have you.
This was such a good read for me! In ways I could probably not justifiably describe in a thousand words or less. But I will try. Haha! I said to myself ” I know right!” I pondered my past university days. I laughed so hard tears were flowing. I related current work practices and situations. I self reflected. I could go on and on. Thank you!
I am extraordinarily affected beside your writing talents, Thanks for this nice share.