Career Planning

What can I do with an undergraduate degree in Psychology?

Approximately 62 percent of MSU PSY graduates go directly into the workforce with a bachelor's degree, while the other 38 percent go to graduate school or other continuing education (Destination Survey). Graduates can compete effectively with other students who obtained a general/liberal arts education, as well as those who opted for more specialized curricula. Academic performance as a psychology major and a student's willingness to prepare for a variety of career options will influence attractiveness to employers and eventual career placement. Preparing for the job market and then building to a career takes planning and effort over a long period of time. Students should take steps each semester, beginning in their freshman year, toward this end. Students should strive to incorporate a combination of coursework and experiential learning throughout their degree to gain: 

  • Oral and written communication skills
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Teamwork
  • Problem solving
  • Leadership
  • Research methodology
  • Computer literacy
  • Work experience

 Preparation for Graduate School in Psychology

 High-achieving, conscientious students who are motivated and dedicated to a much higher level of scholarly reading, writing and research, may be good candidates for graduate school. Students must be able to demonstrate a commitment to academic success through achievement in undergraduate education. Graduate school is not something students just fall into because they haven't chosen what to do next in life; it also does not guarantee a job or a high salary. 

Graduate study consists of advanced training in a specific area of study. Students should consider very carefully why they want to go to graduate school and what their expectations are. Those who are interested in graduate school in psychology will need to know which area of psychology they want to pursue.

  • Admission Criteria
    Admission Criteria
    Competition for admission in all graduate programs is intense. Only the most qualified students are admitted. Nationally, 14% percent of psychology graduates are accepted into a PhD program in Psychology ( For a good Psychology program, meeting the minimum standards for admission is not usually sufficient; students must do more. For example, the minimum GPA for entering most psychology PhD programs is a 3.2, but students who are actually admitted have a much higher GPA (generally a 3.5 or higher). Some programs place more emphasis on the GPA earned during the junior and senior years. Consult the APA's Graduate Study in Psychology (available in 100 Psychology) to see the specific criteria for psychology programs. A student's undergraduate GPA and coursework, Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores, letters of recommendation, research and clinical experiences, and personal statement must show potential to be successful in graduate school. Students wishing to pursue graduate study in psychology should work closely with a faculty member in the area that they want to pursue. Advisors can also be helpful when selecting courses and helping with the graduate school process. 
  • Graduate Record Exam
    Graduate Record Exam
    GRE scores are very important. The revised General Test includes three sections—verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing. The verbal and quantitative reasoning sections are scored in 1 point increments from 130 to 170. The analytical writing section is scored in half point increments from 0 to 6. The Psychology Subject GRE focuses on the core knowledge gained through a broad Psychology curriculum. All graduate programs have different admission criteria, so students will need to check with each program to determine if they need to take the GRE. The MSU Testing Office administers the GRE and other standardized exams. The Learning Resource Center offers workshops and tutoring. For more information on the General and Subject GRE, check out the official website
  • Research Experience
    Research Experience 
    Research experience is critical for most graduate programs, especially for psychology PhD. programs. It is also the best way to obtain stellar letters of recommendation! If the research results in students becoming an author or co-author of a journal article, or in the presentation of a paper, that will benefit them even more. Getting involved in research early as an undergraduate student and staying involved is critical.  Most clinical and counseling programs will expect you to have some clinical fieldwork or internship experience. 
  • Graduate School in Areas Other Than Psychology

    Graduate School in Areas Other than Psychology

    There are many graduate school opportunities available to psychology students outside of the Psychology discipline. Students interested in working closely with people may wish to examine graduate programs in human services, such as social work, counseling psychology, or family studies. Other fields of interest for psychology students may include (but are not limited to) education, law, public health, human resources, public affairs administration, and medicine. Please consult with your academic advisor for more information. 

    Below are a few examples of different types of graduate programs you may wish to explore at Michigan State University: 

    Clinical Social Work: Master's degree. This two-year degree program prepares students to work in the field of social work as therapists, mental health professionals, school social workers, and coordinators of various programs, to name a few. 

    Counseling, Educational Psychology, and Special Education: Master's degree and Ph.D. programs. MSU's College of Education offers a variety of graduate programs through Counseling Educational Psychology. Applied Behavioral Analysis, School Psychology, Rehabilitation Counseling, and Educational Psychology are a few of the programs offered in the College of Education.

    Marriage and Family Therapy: Master's degree and Ph.D. program.  Students pursuing a PhD in Human Development and Family Studies select a concentration in Child Development, Couple and Family Therapy, or Lifespan Human Development and Family Diversity.

    School Psychology: Ed Specialist and Ph.D. program.

    Educational Administration: Master's and PhD programs. Are you interested in working at a college or university with students and faculty? Does becoming an academic advisor, resident hall director, or working with special programs interest you? Areas of focus in education administration include Higher, Adult and Lifelong Education and Student Affairs.

    Human Resources and Labor Relations: Master's degree. The School of Human Resources or Labor Relations internationally recognized master's degree program prepares students to be leaders in their field. 

General Job Areas for Graduates with a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology

Child / Youth / Elder Care Human Resources Residential Services
Community Services Human Services Retail Management
Consulting Services Manufacturing / Production Retail / Wholesale Sales
Court / Juvenile Services Market Research Social Services
Customer Services  Government / Legislative Services  Special Populations Services
Employee Relations Personnel / Human Resources Student / Alumni Services
Employment Services Private / Nonprofit Management Substance Abuse Services
Financial Services Public Relations / Media Services Volunteer Services

Career Preparation Timeline

The suggested timeline below incorporates career planning strategies into your college experience. Our suggestions are not intended to be exhaustive. This section is intended to get you THINKING and TAKING ACTION.

  • Freshman & Sophomore Years

    Freshman & Sophomore Years 

    • Join a student organization. Participate in campus activities. Visit the Student Life Office 

    • Volunteer through the Service-Learning Center 

    • Schedule an appointment with academic advisor to set up academic plan 

    • Begin to develop relationships with the faculty

    • Set up your profile on Career Services and Placement's Handshake

    • Spend a day (or part of one) with a professional who has a job that interests you. 

  • Junior Year

    Junior Year 

    • Develop a career portfolio to chart your career and skills development 

    • Complete an internship or participate in research 

    • Aim for outstanding academic performance in all your course work 

    • Attend career fairs/seminars. Continue to use the Career Services Network 

    • Discuss academic/career decisions with your mentor, advisor, or counselor 

    • Update your profile on Handshake and monitor job opportunities

  • Senior Year

    Senior Year  

    • Propel your job campaign into full swing; continue to attend career fairs and workshops 

    • Know the job market you hope to enter! Be prepared to compete effectively with other candidates 

    • Update your profile on Handshake and monitor job opportunities. 

Career Planning Services

A degree in Psychology can offer students many opportunities, including some that they are not even aware of.  There are many resources on campus to connect students to these opportunities, but students need to seek out these resources. Psychology advisors are able to help students explore fields of interest, search for internship placements, and assist students with career planning.  In addition to the Psychology Department, students can seek out career information from the Career Services Network and the College Social Science Career Services.

  • The Career Services Network is a great place for MSU students to learn about jobs in their field of interest, resume writing, and job postings.  It is important for students to get to know the services available to them early in their MSU career so that they are prepared when the time comes to get an internship or a job.
  • Although students can work with anyone from the Career Services Network, the College of Social Science has Career Field Consultants who can assist you also. The CSS Career Services site hosts their information as well as other career related information for Social Science majors.


Job Listings/Job Search Online 

Psychology Career Center:  

Mental Health Net- Professional Employment Resources: 

MSU Career Services:


Career Planning & Information

Careers in Psychology: 

Psychology Careers:  

MSU 2020-2021 Student Handbook: