It would be difficult not to feel nervous when interviewing for a job, especially in the early stages of your career. For candidates with a psychology degree, being able to answer the question of why you chose this field can help you feel more confident going in and ultimately help you ace the interview. Psychology majors pursuing non-psychology jobs should focus on showing prospective employers the value of their educational background, while those interested in working as psychologists need to highlight their clinical experience and be familiar with the licensing process.
Whether the job you are interviewing for is a psychologist role or one of any number of roles in other industries, be prepared to answer the question of why you chose to major in psychology. Generally, the more you can tailor your answer to fit the description of the job you are trying to attain, the better.
If you are applying for a psychologist job, then you should be able to give a compelling reason for why you chose the specializations or concentrations you did and what psychological research you have been involved in or found most fascinating. Because your prospective employers in this career field are very familiar with the field of psychology, you will need a more in-depth answer that establishes your qualifications in the specific area of psychology that best relates to the job. If you originally started out with an interest in school psychology but ultimately decided to become a clinical psychologist, it might be wiser to focus your answer on your interest and experience in the area of clinical psychology that match the job description.
For psychology majors who go on to work in other fields, the question of why you chose to study psychology is still common, but your answer will likely be different. You probably won’t want to get into the specifics of well-known psychological experiments or the nuances of psychological theories. Instead, you might focus on the personal interests and strengths that align with both your college major and the qualities desired for the position. Psychology majors develop skills in listening, communicating, observing, critical-thinking and problem-solving.
You should use your observation and critical-thinking skills to gauge your interviewer’s level of interest in why you studied psychology. Some interviewers ask out of mere curiosity and would be happy with a brief answer, while for others, an in-depth answer is preferred.
Persuading an Employer That Your Degree Is an Asset
In any job interview, you need to make a compelling case for why an employer should hire you instead of the other candidates. However, when your degree is in psychology and the job isn’t necessarily a psychologist role, you need to sell your interviewer on the value of your education as well as your own worth as a potential employer.
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Many candidates who earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology go on to work in business administration, management, sales, marketing and employment training. What all of these career fields have in common – and what makes them such a good fit for workers with a psychology background – is that they closely involve working with and influencing the behavior of others. In sales and marketing, you’re looking primarily at influencing consumer behavior by persuading customers to purchase your product or service. On the business administration, management and employment relations side, getting the most productivity out of your employees is a common goal. Having a good understanding of human needs, human thought processes and human behaviors helps you succeed in roles of this nature by figuring out how to motivate or reward employees and understanding the negative consequences of ill-advised disciplinary measures.
Other career paths that can start with a bachelor’s in psychology might include teacher, nurse or doctor. Some workers who have an undergraduate degree in psychology work in mental health in a different role as a counselor or clinical social worker.
Draw From Clinical Experience
For aspiring psychologists, especially, it’s important to draw from your experience outside the classroom as you answer questions and build a rapport with your interviewer. Fortunately, by the time you have finished graduate school in psychology, you will have gained plenty of supervised work experience meeting your program’s internship and practicum requirements. Don’t be shocked if the person interviewing you wants to know your greatest strengths (and weaknesses) in clinical or counseling capacities, and use this clinical experience you gained as a student to provide answers of substance.
Doctoral programs in clinical, counseling and school psychology often include a yearlong internship, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which means graduates seeking their first psychology roles outside school have experience to draw from.
Know the Licensing Requirements for Your State and Areas of Psychology
If you haven’t yet become a licensed psychologist or if you are looking for work in a state in which you aren’t currently licensed, it’s important to understand licensing requirements and the process. Is your prospective employer expecting you to already have a license for this role? What do you need to acquire this license? This is a matter you may need to discuss with your interviewer during the hiring process, but if it’s a point of concern, you should strive to be as knowledgeable about the situation as possible.
The BLS reports that state licensing boards typically require one to two years of supervised work experience beyond the internship level to become a licensed psychologist, so there are certainly job opportunities available for candidates still working toward their licenses.