James Madison University
Miller Hall

Applying for Jobs with a Bachelor's Degree

Psychology Majors are equipped with a rich and diverse portfolio, which lends them a variety of forms of expertise. This variety is found in few other disciplines and prepares Psychology Majors to undertake many different types of work. Psychology integrates areas of knowledge that spans fields of communication, social science and natural science. In the process it provides students with a liberal education, as well as a particularly wide range of practical and professional skills.

Academic Advising and Career Development

JMU's Career and Academic Planning provides a variety of services that are helpful for JMU students seeking employment after college. For example, there are computerized career guidance programs as well as workshops conducted by career counselors. Resume writing clinics and interview preparation workshops are offered to all JMU students and mock interviews may be requested. Academic Advising and Career Development sponsors both a Graduate/Professional Fair and a Career Fair, annually. Appointments can be made by contacting Academic Advising and Career Development at (540) 568-6555. Academic Advising and Career Development is located in Wilson Hall, Room 301, and walk-ins are welcome. Academic Advising and Career Development manages a computerized database of more than 200 individual internship listings, which are accessible through the Academic Advising and Career Development website. On-campus interviews for internships with select business organizations are held throughout the year Academic Advising and Career Development also hosts workshops to help familiarize students with internship resources and how to apply for internships.

Recruit-A-Duke.  Did you know that there are currently thousands of jobs currently listed with the keyword “psychology” in the SimplyHired network, a position listing service available to JMU students and alumni through Recruit-A-Duke.  Many of these positions are available to graduates with a bachelor’s degree.  Recruit-A-Duke is a service of Academic Advising and Career Development provides students with many opportunities to identify career objectives, develop resumes and interviewing skills, and make connections with potential internship and employment recruiters. 

Developing a Resume

A resume is a kind of communication. It is a brief summary of your background and skills that will be used to attempt to match you to a job description that is probably already determined.

Expect to revise your resume several times before having a polished product suitable for submission. You will want to create several versions of your resume, each focusing on different strengths and therefore appropriate for different types of jobs. Your resume must stimulate interest in meeting you. Chances are your resume will not be read, but instead, scanned. You may only have the time it takes for a screener to glance over your resume, to impress him or her and secure an interview. For this reason your resume must fit the situation and do exactly what it is you want it to do.

Highlight your skills

Though you have been a major in psychology, after you receive your bachelor's degree you won't be applying for jobs as a psychologist. Psychology Majors, as well as psychologists themselves, often fail to recognize what skills they actually have, or find it difficult to articulate these skills. Yet to secure a job, it is vital to clearly describe your strengths within your resume and during job interviews.

This list was adapted from: Hayes, N. (1996). The distinctive skills of a Psychology graduate: Securing a good job requires knowing what skills you have to offer. European Psychologist, 130-134.

The following list identifies 13 different types of skills or knowledge that a Psychology Major is likely to acquire by graduation. Consider this list as you think about the skills you can bring to a potential employer.

Literacy. Psychology graduates are highly literate and, moreover, have been trained to write in more than one format. Psychology majors are familiar with the techniques of concise writing within a pre-set format.

Numeracy. Psychology graduates are highly numerate. They are trained to interpret data summaries and to understand probability statements, and they become familiar with a wide range of statistical procedures and processes.

Computer Literacy. Psychology graduates are generally computer literate. They are familiar with using computers, and can select and learn relevant software packages.

Information Seeking Skills. It is sometimes more useful to know where information can be found than to have memorized that information, particularly in areas that are developing and rapidly changing. Psychology Majors are frequently quite skilled in information retrieval.

Research Skills. Psychology students are explicitly trained in research methods, and this training spans a range of different techniques.

Measurement Skills. Psychology students can operationalize the measurement of complex processes.

Environmental Awareness. Knowing how someone's environment can influence their behavior helps us to understand people at work, at home, in education and at leisure.

Interpersonal Awareness. Psychology Majors also learn about the mechanisms of social communication and the potential sources of interpersonal conflict. Such awareness can make a considerable difference to someone dealing with everyday interpersonal problems. Being aware of sources of conflict or misunderstanding can sometimes result in the ability to perceive ways through difficulties that would not be readily apparent without such knowledge. These skills can contribute to the Psychology Major’s ability to work collaboratively.

Problem-Solving Skills. Psychology graduates are systematically trained in problem solving. Students learn how to apply different strategies and approaches to understanding problems, and how to identify the practical steps to implement a solution.

Critical Evaluation. Psychology Majors are explicitly trained in critical evaluation. Students are expected to appraise whether evidence for a phenomenon is really what it appears to be; to evaluate, critically, the quality of an argument; to identify the shortcomings and pitfalls of a particular line of action; and to anticipate problems or difficulties.

Perspectives. Psychology Majors practice examining issues from multiple points of view and explore phenomena using different schools of thought. The ability to identify different ideologies or paradigms can clarify social issues and give a better awareness of the implications of particular arguments or positions.

Higher Order Analysis. Psychology graduates are skilled at spotting recurrent patterns in human activity, or noticing similarities between situations that seem, on the surface, to be quite different. This type of higher-order analysis involves being able to extract general principles rather than becoming bogged down with the details of the immediate situation.

Pragmatism. The Psychology graduate has a pragmatic approach to work and problem solving. For example, it does not take much exposure to psychological methodology for Psychology students to realize they are never going to achieve the perfect experiment, and that they will simply have to do the best they can with what is practical.