Knowledge, Skills, and Characteristics
Part of knowing and marketing yourself involves a
clear understanding of the specific knowledge, skills, and characteristics
(KSCs) valued by employers and obtained through completing the bachelors
degree in psychology. Numerous studies have documented the KSCs employers
look for in prospective employees, and they are summarized in the following
lists. Psychology courses that emphasize specific skills or types of knowledge
are indicated in parentheses. It is important that you develop and communicate
your proficiency in these KSCs to be successful on the job market.
by Psychology Majors That Employers Seek
How attitudes and opinions are formed and changed
Principles and techniques of personnel selection
and organizational development (Industrial Psychology)
How people think, solve problems and process information
Structure and dynamics of small groups (Social
Effects of the environment on people's feelings
and actions (Psychology of Motivation)
Principles of human learning and memory (Psychology
Skills Learned by Psychology
Majors Who Employers Seek
Identifies and solves problems based upon a knowledge
of research methodology and understanding of human behavior (General Psychology
and Experimental Methods in Psychology)
Performs statistical analyses (Statistical Methods)
Designs and conducts research projects (Laboratory
Research in Psychology)
Selects, administers, and interprets psychological
tests (Tests and Measurement)
Gathers and organizes information from multiple
sources (Senior Seminar)
Works productively as a member of a team (Laboratory
Plans and carries out projects successfully (Laboratory
Ability to manage stress (Stress Management)
Conducts interviews (Theories of Counseling)
Writes proposals and reports (any psychology class
that requires a paper)
Speaks articulately and persuasively (any psychology
class that requires an oral presentation)
Highly by Employers
Strong communication and interpersonal skills
Ability to present oneself in a positive manner
Relevant previous employment
Problem solving abilities
High energy level
As you can see, many of the skills listed above are
important components of the psychology curriculum. In fact, the core of
courses that all psychology majors take emphasizes skill development in
all of these areas. When it comes to content areas in psychology, however,
it is important to carefully select courses that best match your potential
Another important, yet often overlooked, aspect of
skill and knowledge development is your selection of elective courses and
a minor. For example, many graduates with a bachelors degree in psychology
are employed in business settings. Therefore, it would be wise to consider
taking some business courses. Courses offered by other departments can
be essential in obtaining job skills and knowledge for your future occupation
as well. These courses can be used as electives or applied to a minor.
Once you have narrowed down your potential employment settings, you should
meet with your advisor to discuss the best selection of courses to help
you obtain your career objective.
Potential employers also value practical experience.
There are several options to obtain this experience. One strategy is to
seek part-time or full-time jobs related to your desired employment setting.
You may also want to consider obtaining course credit for practical experience
by enrolling in Psyc 490 or 491 Fieldwork in Psychology, which combines
an individual's on-site practical experience with readings and individual
meetings with the supervising faculty member. Enrollment in this course
requires junior or senior status and permission of the department. A cumulative
and psychology GPA of 3.00 is recommended (See Dr. Spitzer). You may also
want to consider volunteer activities that can provide practical experience
in social service settings. Active involvement in leadership positions
in student organizations (e.g., Psychology Club and Psi Chi) can also provide
you with practical experience in developing, organizing, and running service
programs (See Dr. Rager).
Skills Possessed by Psychology Majors
"When people consider the question, What
am I able to do with a bachelors degree in psychology, they are usually
thinking about what kind of job they might get. However, there is
another way of looking at this question which you should consider as part
of your career planning. That is, you should seriously think about what
in fact you are able to do in terms of the skills you may have acquired
while majoring in psychology" (Edwards, 1989, p. 1). These wise words are
the introduction to the following lists of skills that Edwards compiled
for his students at Loyola University.
Human Services Skills:
These are skills necessary for successful employment in situations where
direct services are provided to individuals who are in need of help.
These are some of the types of skills essential to jobs in which information
based on basic or applied research is provided to assist decision making.
Perform institutional research and evaluation. Write
reports and proposals clearly and objectively.
Organize and lead groups, organizations, or committees.
Recognize and understand behavioral and emotional disorders.
Select, administer, score, and interpret psychological
Respond in an unbiased and tolerant way to individual
Display fundamental counseling skills with individuals
Collect, record, and report statistical and qualitative
Perform crisis intervention techniques (e.g., listening
Perform interviews to learn about people's history,
problems, and plans.
Contribute to program or treatment planning, evaluation,
Demonstrate small group skills (e.g., team building
and conflict management).
Communicate effectively and sensitively in both individual
and group situations.
Obtain information about problems through library research
and personal contacts.
Critically evaluate theories and research and apply
the results to solve problems.
Analyze problems on the basis of personal experience
and psychological principles.
Understand and modify your attitudes and actions in
interactions with other people.
Construct and administer questionnaires.
Use a variety of types of research equipment.
Collect, organize, analyze, and interpret data.
Present verbal presentations clearly and persuasively.
Defend ideas in a clear, objective, non-dogmatic manner.
Be familiar with a variety of research methods and designs.
Recruit research subjects and treat them in an ethical
Select, administer, score, and interpret various psychological
Write reports clearly, concisely, objectively, and in
the correct style.
Use library resources to research problems and prepare
Identify problems and suggest solutions on the basis
of research findings.
Create easily understood graphs, tables, and verbal
descriptions of results.
Select and compute appropriate statistical tests and
interpret their results.
Assemble, interpret, and critically analyze research
findings in specific areas.
Use computers to write reports, analyze data, and perform
Deal effectively with financial, temporal, and personnel
constraints on research.
Students should realize that they may not develop
these skills if they do not take full advantage of all their undergraduate
opportunities (e.g., research and extracurricular activities). It is also
equally important to obtain a broad, liberal education in addition to these
Edwards, J. (1989). What are you
able to do with a bachelor's degree in psychology? Unpublished manuscript,
Loyola University, Chicago.