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What can I do with a Psychology degree? Should I get a graduate degree overseas?


humanitarian-jobs-200Kayla from Wisconsin-La Crosse had two questions:  

I’m currently a sophomore majoring in Psychology and wish to do humanitarian type work after college.  Are there any jobs in that field that pay decently?

Also,  I’ve been thinking that I would like to go to graduate school in the UK.  Would it then be possible to work in the U.S. with that degree? Or would it only be valid there?

Hi Kayla –

There are a lot of aspects to your questions. I’ll do my best to address them.

First, you ask if there are any jobs in humanitarian fields that pay decently.  That depends upon on you define the word “decently” as it applies to compensation.

People don’t go into helping professions to make a lot of money

They do so to make a difference.  For some people, an entry-level  job with a salary in the mid- $20s to mid-$30s pays decently; for others, it is far too low.  For some, an entry-level job with salary in the mid-$50s to mid-$60 pay decently; for others it is far too low. It is all a matter of perspective.

If you want to go into a helping profession (social work, non-profit work, education, social services), do not expect to make a lot of money.  If you do, you will be disappointed.

Employers won’t pay you what you think you deserve, they will pay what the market will bear

As you explore and consider your career options, you have to take your lifestyle expectations into account.

You aren’t going to work in a helping profession and drive a fancy car, live in a big house and take expensive vacations unless you marry well, have a trust fund or win the lottery!

The NACE Salary Calculator is a good tool for helping you understand the earning potential in a variety of career areas.  I strongly recommend you spend some time using it to do some salary research.

To your second question about studying overseas . . .

I am a big proponent of study abroad programs!  I just responded to another question about study abroad a short time ago:  Does studying abroad give you an edge in the job market?

That said, your question contains one big question with a lot of very important sub-questions:

Should you get a graduate degree at all? And if so . . .
In what field?
What universities offer that field of study?
Are any of those universities in the U.K.?
What graduate degrees do these universities award?
What do graduates with these degrees do after they graduate?

More educated does not necessary mean more qualified or more marketable.

Read my response to the question: Will getting an MBA help me advance in my field?

Degrees from accredited and recognized universities outside the US are typically recognized by employers in the US (and vice-versa), but as you can see – it is not just about the degree, it’s about what the degree qualifies you to do.

It is very good that you are thinking about all of these things this early in your college career!  I commend you for that.  Keep asking questions and keep exploring your options, and you will do well regardless of the career path you end up taking.

Good luck,




  1. […] What can I do with a Psychology degree? Should I get a graduate degree overseas? […]

  2. gstroop60054 says:

    In response to Kayla’s question, the answer is actually yes, she should get a graduate degree. In psychology, just as in law or medicine, one must have a graduate degree to be able to work in the field in a professional capacity. She is not considered a psychologist until she has the doctoral degree and is licensed. It’s really not an option. If she is serious about becoming a psychologist here in the USA, she should earn her graduate degree here. There are specific program requirements set forward by the APA, which might not be fulfilled by a degree earned abroad.

    • mattberndt says:

      Thanks for the comment and advice. It does, however, assume that Kayla wishes to go into psychology. If she does wish to be a Psychologist, she will – in fact – need the graduate degree. If she is pursuing a psychology degree but does not intend to work in the field (a very real possibility), she she not just jump into a graduate program. In a world where two-thirds of people with college degrees are working in fields not related to their undergraduate major, I try not to define students by their major. In short, students need to ask a lot of questions and get a lot of input and then make the right decisions for their unique circumstances.

      Thanks for following the blog – the more advice the better, I say!

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