Career Guide to JMU Majors: Psychology
Admission and Progression Standards:
Visit the Major Snapshots site to learn more about the admission and progression standards of this major.
Description of Major
Psychology is offered as a major at JMU. The mission of the undergraduate program is to provide broad training in psychological principles and in research methodology as applied to the study of psychology. The program is designed to prepare psychology majors for professional and scientific graduate-level training in psychology and related fields, and/or for employment in bachelor's degree-level positions in fields such as human services, education, government, non-profit and business. Students can apply what they learn in the psychology major when they enter such careers in the domains of: Human services (case manager, child protective services worker, Americorps counselor, youth director, volunteer coordinator), business (management trainee, human resources analyst, customer relations specialist, salesperson), criminal justice (court services worker, delinquency prevention specialist, probation officer, police officer), or scientific applications (research lab technician, statistical analyst, technical product sales, animal trainer). A student can choose to concentrate in Behavior Analysis which prepares them for employment with agencies that provide behavior analytic services and/or preparation for a graduate degree program in behavior analysis. Many careers require graduate training and the psychology major well prepares students to enter professional programs that focus on such professions as: counseling psychology, school psychology, education, social work, psychological science, forensic psychology, industrial/organizational psychology, behavior analysis, law school, medical school and many other professions. Students can also use the Psychology major as an enhancement to other majors or minors which would open opportunities to numerous career fields.
Tell me more about this field of study
Psychology is the scientific analysis of behavior. Psychology includes the study of human and animal behavior and the psychological, social, and biological processes related to the behavior. Psychology has three faces. It is a discipline, a major subject of study in colleges and universities. It is also a science, a method of conducting research and of understanding behavioral data. And psychology is also a profession, a field that requires one to apply special knowledge, abilities, and skills in order to solve human problems. Whether you are interested in computers, human services, management, education, criminal justice, high technology, sports, or many other fields, you are likely to find individuals with a psychology background working in that field. Since psychology includes the study of human behavior, it is not surprising to find it being applied to so many areas.
Tell me more about specializationAt JMU there are no formal specializations at the undergraduate level. One of our goals is to familiarize students with a diverse array of areas and applications of psychology and specialized training is reserved for advanced study at the graduate level. We want every student to complete their bachelor’s degree with the skills necessary to enter the workforce with the knowledge and skills that is expected for bachelors-level positions and also be prepared to be competitive applicants to graduate programs. It is not uncommon for psychology majors to be unsure of their precise career path at the time they declare the psychology major, and our coursework is designed to help students discover the options that are available.
At the graduate level there are numerous specializations; too many to describe in this format. However, it would be helpful to describe the more "popular" specializations. Counseling psychologists focus on improving normal human functioning across the life span and help people solve problems, make decisions, and cope with the stresses of everyday life. School psychologists help educators promote the intellectual, social, and emotional development of children. Clinical psychologists evaluate and treat people’s mental and emotional disorders, ranging from normal psychological crises to extreme conditions such as schizophrenia or depression. Industrial/Organizational psychologists specialize in the relationship between people and work. Forensic Psychologists apply the science and profession of psychology to questions and issues relating to law and the legal system. Other specializations include: Cognitive, Developmental, Educational, Environmental, Experimental, Family, Health, Neuropsychology, Quantitative, Rehabilitation, Social, and Sports.
Common majors or minors that complement this major
Some common combinations include: Anthropology, Art, Biology, Coaching, Communication Studies, Conflict Analysis and Intervention, Criminal Justice, English, English as a Second Language, Family Studies, Gerontology, Health Communication, Health Sciences, Human Resource Development, Human Science, Humanitarian Affairs, Kinesiology, Management, Modern Foreign Languages – Spanish, Nursing, Political Communication, Political Science, Religion, Sociology, Special Education – non teaching minor, Substance Abuse Intervention, Women's Studies, or Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication. Also, many students are enrolled in Pre-Medical Studies, Pre-Physical Therapy, or Pre-Law programs.
A willingness to work hard is perhaps the characteristic that describes success for any person in any field, including psychology. Other characteristics would include a desire to understand behavior, a questioning attitude, a tolerance for complexity and statistical and computer expertise are also assets.
Many graduates choose typical career paths associated with this major. However, some graduates choose unrelated careers that utilize skills and experiences developed during their years in college. Keep in mind, that some fields will require graduate study or further training. The listing below offers examples of possible career paths and is not meant to be comprehensive.
Who employs graduates?
Colleges and Universities, Business and Industry, Community Mental Health Services Agencies, Consulting Firms, Correctional Institutions, Court Systems, Family Service Agencies, Federal/State Government Agencies, Healthcare Organizations, Hospitals, Human Resource Departments, Law Enforcement Agencies, Non Profit Agencies, Nursing Homes and Retirement Communities, Private Psychological/Counseling Practices, Public School Systems, Rehabilitation Agencies, Residential Treatment Facilities, Social Service Agencies, Sports Organizations, Research Institutes, and Victim Services Centers.
Each year, Psychology Majors enroll in courses that give them direct experiences that apply their knowledge of psychology to the process of conducting behavioral science research, clinical practice, or counseling. Field Placement in Psychology (PSYC 495), provides students with a practicum experience. Students can also take Directed Studies in Psychology (PSYC 290) or Independent Research (PSYC 402) to participate in service learning or research. Students can get involved in student organizations such as Psi Chi, Psychology Club, the Association of Black Psychologists (ABPsi), Psychologists for Sustainability, or Active Minds. Many participate in volunteer activities like JMU’s Community-Service Learning Program.
View our list of internship coordinators for each major.
What are JMU graduates doing with this major?
School and Career Counselors
Forensic Science Technicians
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A broad range of resources on career fields, internships, and job search information is also available in the Career & Academic Planning Resource Center.
A few titles from our Resource Center related to this field include:
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All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without permission from JMU Career & Academic Planning. Content for each major has been written/reviewed by faculty in the respective department and is revised each year. Requests to update content can be submitted to the Career Guide editor, Barbara Daniel.