Majoring in Psychology
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Majoring in Psychology

Achieving Your Educational and Career Goals

Jeffrey L. Helms, Daniel T. Rogers

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eBook - ePub

Majoring in Psychology

Achieving Your Educational and Career Goals

Jeffrey L. Helms, Daniel T. Rogers

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About This Book

Updated to reflect the latest data in the field, the second edition of Majoring in Psychology: Achieving Your Educational and Career Goals remains the most comprehensive and accessible text for psychology majors available today.

  • The new edition incorporates the most up-to-date research, as well asrecent changes to the GRE
  • Reveals the benefits of pursuing a psychology degree and shows students how to prepare for a career or to continue with graduate study in the field
  • Features a wide range of supplemental exercises and materials plus topical contributions written by national and internationalfigures in their respective psychology subfields
  • Online support materials for instructors include Powerpoint slides and test banks to support each chapter
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Part I
Majoring in Psychology

Chapter One
Why Major in Psychology?


Psychology is a fascinating and diverse field of study. It attracts students with varied backgrounds, interests, and abilities, all of whom are hoping that psychology will be a good fit for them. In addition to simply pursuing topics that they find compelling, these students stand to benefit from devoting themselves to the study of such a broad field. Psychology’s breadth is what makes it possible for students to acquire a wide range of knowledge and skills that are applicable to a variety of careers. In other words, psychology offers many different things to many different types of individuals. Although this is a strength of the field, it also can make it difficult to determine if psychology is the best fit for you. Consider for a moment three students, all undergraduates who have come to think that majoring in psychology is what is best for them.


Valerie is 19 years old and always knew she would go to college. Since middle school she had planned to become a teacher, so she first chose education as her major. After taking several introductory courses and talking with faculty members in the education department, Valerie decided that teaching was not for her. She next considered majoring in nursing, but the admission standards for local nursing programs are highly competitive. Valerie feared that the grades she earned in several courses required by nursing programs would make her acceptance unlikely. One day last semester, Valerie’s roommate described an interesting demonstration her psychology professor had presented in class. This reminded Valerie of her interest in psychology in high school, and she decided to take a course to see what psychology was like at the college level. Valerie enjoyed the course and performed well. As a result, she decided to change her major to psychology. When she recently mentioned the change to her parents, they were not especially positive. They asked probing questions about what she could do with a psychology degree and how her career options would compare to those of education or nursing majors. Valerie was unsure how to answer their questions. She had not thought much about what she can or will do with her degree. But, she figures that if so many other people major in psychology, there must be employment options out there.


Ajay is 37 years old and has attended college at several points in the past at two different institutions. Most recently he stopped attending after his first child was born. Between working full-time and raising children, he was unsure if he would ever return to school to complete his degree. Now that Ajay’s children are older and his financial status is more secure, he has decided to return to college part-time in order to get back into the academic routine. Ever since he was young, Ajay has had a desire to become a clinical psychologist. He was involved in family therapy as a child and individual therapy as an adolescent. He has fond memories of the psychologists he interacted with and the benefits of these treatments. His interests have prompted him to read psychological theory and some of the latest research in the field. Now that he is returning to school again, Ajay has committed himself to taking his education seriously and staying focused on his career goal. He knows meeting this goal will require completing a doctoral degree. Although Ajay is excited to begin moving forward along this path, he is also concerned that the road ahead seems long.


Katrina is 25 years old. She began college 2 years ago after working for several years in her family’s business. Katrina’s first major was computer science, an area of interest for her since high school. Her teachers, family, and friends encouraged her to pursue this major given her talents and technological skills. She enjoyed the courses at first but later realized that she did not feel passionate about the topics or the prospects of future careers in the field. Due to her growing apathy, and her working 30–40 hours a week, Katrina’s grades suffered. Then she took a psychology course and started a dialogue about her interests with the professor. As a result, Katrina decided to switch majors to psychology. Since that time she has invested herself in her coursework and excelled academically. After serving as a research assistant in one of her professor’s labs over the past year, Katrina is now planning to pursue a research career in cognitive psychology. She intends to merge her computer science skills with her developing interest in human memory. Although changing majors extended her graduation date for another year, Katrina now knows exactly what it is she wants to do in her career and has worked diligently to learn about the field, improve her academic skills, and gain valuable experience.
Valerie, Ajay, and Katrina represent typical undergraduate psychology majors. Many of you will identify with one or more aspects of their histories and experiences. Some of you may not see parts of yourself in these particular students, but there are still several things you all have in common. Each of you has decided to major in psychology, or is seriously considering it, as a result of intertwining experiences and life circumstances. Each of you has found something intrinsically interesting within the field. And each of you is hoping that this major will be the one that satisfies your interests and allows you to accomplish your goals. In essence, each of you hopes that you have found a home in psychology.
As professors of psychology, we have taught, advised, supervised, and mentored thousands of undergraduate students in all areas of their academic and career pursuits. Among them have been students like Valerie, Ajay, and Katrina. Although every student’s context is somewhat unique, chances are we have also worked with students who have a lot in common with you. Our focus is on helping these students succeed in the ways that best match their goals, and we find this work to be incredibly rewarding. Perhaps the least satisfying aspect of this work is encountering students who could have benefited significantly from having key questions answered and guidance provided when they were first navigating the psychology major. Instead, these students find themselves playing catch-up, and they often feel confused and frustrated about their education and potential careers. Our focus on student success, coupled with our awareness of students’ needs for information and guidance, prompted us to write this book. It is our hope that you find elements of it informative and instructive in pursuing your academic and career goals.
In this opening chapter, we first offer some brief suggestions on how to use the book effectively. The remainder of the chapter considers a question that may be looming large in many of your minds – why psychology? Regardless of whether you have already firmly committed to the major or are still trying to make a decision, this section will help all students formulate and explore their specific interests in the field.

How to Use this Book

This book seeks to cov...

Table of contents

Citation styles for Majoring in Psychology
APA 6 Citation
Helms, J., & Rogers, D. (2015). Majoring in Psychology (2nd ed.). Wiley. Retrieved from (Original work published 2015)
Chicago Citation
Helms, Jeffrey, and Daniel Rogers. (2015) 2015. Majoring in Psychology. 2nd ed. Wiley.
Harvard Citation
Helms, J. and Rogers, D. (2015) Majoring in Psychology. 2nd edn. Wiley. Available at: (Accessed: 14 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
Helms, Jeffrey, and Daniel Rogers. Majoring in Psychology. 2nd ed. Wiley, 2015. Web. 14 Oct. 2022.