Developing 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.

Knowledge Learned by Psychology Majors That Employers Seek

• How attitudes and opinions are formed and changed (Social Psychology)
• Principles and techniques of personnel selection and organizational development (Industrial Psychology)
• How people think, solve problems and process information (Cognitive Psychology)
• Structure and dynamics of small groups (Social Psychology)
• Effects of the environment on people's feelings and actions (Psychology of Motivation)
• Principles of human learning and memory (Psychology of Learning)
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 Courses)
• Plans and carries out projects successfully (Laboratory Courses)
• 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)
Characteristics Rated Highly by Employers
 
• Satisfactory grades

• Strong communication and interpersonal skills

• Outgoing personality

• Ability to present oneself in a positive manner

• Relevant previous employment
• Enthusiasm

• Flexibility

• Leadership

• Problem solving abilities

• High energy level

• Maturity
 
 

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 career.

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).

Job 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.

Research Skills: 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.