Now is the time that most people are thinking about what to do after they graduate. For psychology, most people follow the path of graduate school. Students may go onto graduate school in order to get masters in a specific field or even go on to get their PhD. Application deadlines are coming up and students are scurrying around preparing for the GRE, getting professor recommendations, and other things. One thought that may cross your mind as you wait to hear back from the schools to which you have applied is “what do I do if I don’t get into graduate school?” The first step is to take a deep breath and relax. There is no need to stress out because there are other alternatives such as looking for jobs that have similar skill levels, looking at entry level jobs, or staying home and working and then reapplying, or taking graduate level classes.
One of the alternatives to graduate school is looking for jobs that use the skills that were learned in psychology course work. Many of the concepts learned in psychology can be used in everyday life. Reinforcement or Behavior Modification for example can be used in any career such as teaching (Churchward, 2008). Teachers use behavior modification in their classrooms to teach their children. Look for jobs that require skills such as critical thinking. Psychologists use critical thinking when it comes to problem solving. Critical thinking can be useful in careers that need help with problem solving. Other skills that can be used in other careers involve observation, group and one on one communication, and understanding human behavior. In every career, you observe how people interact with each other and act accordingly. Effective communication is an important aspect in an organization and will make the organization more efficient. These are the types of skills that are learned in basic psychology courses and can be used in other careers (Chendra, 2012).
Another alternative to graduate school is looking for entry level jobs. Although entry level jobs may not be your final goal, it will give you skills that can be used in other careers. Jobs such as teaching, sales, personal and training, and social work can be done with a bachelor’s degree. By having a degree, you have more opportunities and have better chances of getting a good job (Lorenz, 2012). In order to teach preschool, all you need is your teacher’s certificate. Having a degree in psychology will help you with training people for jobs or other organizations. These jobs will then provide you with the necessary tools to go on to bigger and better jobs. They may then see your work ethic and those skills that you have gained from these experiences. These jobs will also give you some money so that if you decide to go to graduate school later you have money saved up.
Staying at home or getting an apartment and working is another alternative if you do not get into graduate school. Now I may know what you are thinking. “There is no way that I am going back home”. Believe me that have crossed my mind a time or two. It may not be such a bad thing. Going home may save you some money that you can spend on graduate schools. It would also give you a chance to work and gain some more research experience. Now, if you are not able to go home, consider renting an apartment for a year or two with a roommate.
A lot of graduate schools look at research experience, GPA, and GRE scores. While at home working, you can gain more research skills that will make you stand out more among other students. There are several ways to gain research experience (Swazey, 2008). As students, we have access to many resources. You can look for internships related to the field that you are interested in. Many professors have contacts with professionals who can help you get an internship. Many internships are not paid, but provide great insight into what you may do in that field. If you have trouble finding an internship, talk to a professor about it. Another kind of experience that you can gain is from shadowing someone in that field. For example, I have a friend that wants to be a dental hygienist and she shadows one in their office. Psi Chi is a great place to make contacts with people in certain fields. Doing research with other professors helps to make your mark and get your name out there.
Another way to gain experience is to take classes at a local university and do research with other professors. Many professors have their contact information and research interests online. If you want to work with a professor, contact them. Professors may need help in their lab and it will look great on your application. Even data collection will help you gain experience and may increase your chances of getting into graduate school.
Another way to increase your chances for the future is to take Graduate Records Examine (GRE) prep courses and retake it (Martin, 2012). Retaking it may increase your chances and practicing makes you better. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t do well the first time. The prep courses may give you a new way of understanding the concepts. Psi Chi offers great preparation workshops covering viable information about the GRE and graduate school admissions processes as well as provides tips on how to get letters of recommendations, write personal statements, and how to apply for graduate school. These GRE and Graduate School Preparation workshops are led by Shannon Johnson (the Vice President of Graduation Preparation) of Psi Chi here at Stephen F. Austin State University. This will be a good opportunity to gain some important insight into graduate school.
The final way to increase your chances is to take additional classes that may be needed for graduate school. Some graduate programs may require or recommend additional classes to get in. Taking these classes may put you above others on the same playing field (Martin, 2012).
In conclusion, there are plenty of alternatives if you don’t get into graduate school. There are plenty of people that have not gotten into graduate school and have gone on to do great things. You can look at entry level jobs with a bachelor’s in psychology, look at different jobs that use skills learned in psychology, or work and gain more experience. You can always reapply in the years to come.
So remember, breathe and try to relax.
Churchward, B. (2009). Stages of discipline. www.honorlevel.com.
Cherry, K. (2012). Career options with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. About.com.
Lorenz, K. (2010). Does a college degree really matter? Careerbuilder.com.
Martin, D. (2012). Don’t let grades, Test scores keep you from graduate school. U.S.News & World Report.
Swazey, K. (2008). Traversing islands of experience: How undergraduate research helped me navigate through graduate school and beyond. Inquiry Journal.